Less than a week ago, Roma’s midfield, arguably their biggest position of need last season, was complete with star signing Gini Wijnladum joining Lorenzo Pellegrini, Bryan Cristante, Nemanja Matic, and Edoardo Bove. Strengthened with the quality and experience of Wijnaldum and Matic, José Mourinho now had five players for two places in Roma’s current 3-4-2-1 setup.
That was until Saturday when the devastating news of Wijnaldum’s fractured tibia changed everything. With the Dutchman out for the foreseeable future and Nico Zaniolo’s shoulder injury likely forcing Pellegrini to play higher up the pitch, the midfield depth suddenly became very thin, forcing Tiago Pinto to explore the transfer market once again.
Since Wijnaldum went down, Roma has been linked to countless names. From free agents like Florian Grillitsch to old flames like Denis Zakaria and even former Roma players (and fan favorites) like Radja Nainggolan, the Giallorossi have been linked to nearly every midfielder with even the slightest possibility of arriving in the Italian capital.
However, the player most likely to arrive, according to transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio, is one many of us probably have never even heard of.
Classic Tiago Pinto. Let the media run wild with fantasies of Nainggolan reunions while working quietly to find a player nobody saw coming.
Mohamed “Mady” Camara is a 25-year-old Guinean central midfielder for Greek side Olympiacos. Camara has been playing for Olympiacos since the 2018-2019 season when he joined from French side Ajaccio. Despite not playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues over the last four seasons, he does boast a wealth of European experience, having played more than 60 matches between the UEFA Champions League and Europa League in his time with the Greek club.
I can’t claim to be an expert on Olympiacos or a player dubbed a couple of seasons ago as the next N’Golo Kante but Breaking the Lines put together a thorough scouting report on him in the spring of 2021.
He is Olympiacos’s enabler of sorts, the gel which allows a midfield of Mathieu Valbuena and Yann M’Vila to function. In a tactical sense, Camara is a key motivator and benefactor. Pedro Martins’ Olympiacos focuses on attacking width and creating wide overloads that force inopportune defensive rotation. Camara’s role is two-fold: the first phase of his involvement is to provide accurate progressive passes to the wide-men.
If they can navigate the opposition’s fullbacks, Camara is often found charging in late as an external option for those same wide men. In simple terms, the Guinean is the linchpin who enables tactical continuity and quality for Olympiacos. Out of possession, Camara’s impetus is equally pivotal. The Greek side utilises a high press reminiscent of a 4-2-4; Camara is often left to patrol the central areas of the pitch as one of the two in the “defensive” midfielders.
Camara’s defensive responsibility is compounded when you consider the aforementioned tendency of Olympiacos’s fullbacks to get high and wide. Fundamentally Camara is a high-level tradesman familiar with many football trades; his forte is not plumbing or plastering, but instead tackling and passing.
...he operates around the halfway line with an inclination to wander wide but not to the extent to which it blocks a running lane for a teammate. He may start the game on paper in the middle of the 3 in Olympiacos’s 4-3-3, but there is plenty of wiggle-room for the Guinean, as he has been used on occasion on the left of a 5-4-1 or 4-4-2.
Based on the write-up, he seems to fit the bill of the box-to-box midfielder Mourinho reportedly requested to complete his midfield. And with players like Leonardo Spinazzola and Rick Karsdorp pushing the flanks, his game seems like it would translate well to how Roma currently operates.
Now, there’s the small detail of making a deal with Olympiacos. We’ll see if Roma is willing to pony up some cash or if Pinto negotiates some kind of loan with an option. Transfermarkt has Camara valued at €11m.
Keep with us for any updates on the Camara situation, and let us know your thoughts on his potential arrival below.