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Gianluca Mancini Has Become Roma's Defensive Anchor and Unquestioned Leader

With his feet firmly cemented in José Mourinho's lineup and his disciplinary record improved, Gianluca Mancini has become an anchor for Roma's backline and an unquestioned leader on the pitch.

AS Roma v Servette FC: Group G - UEFA Europa League 2023/24 Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images

Let’s start by throwing some numbers into the mix: Since he joined AS Roma in the summer of 2019, Gianluca Mancini has played 195 official games. That’s 40+ games per season. Last season, he reached a total of 51 matches. This year, Mancini has been ever-present in Mourinho’s side, playing every game in Serie A and Europe so far, finishing all but four matches he started.

There are few players as fit and physically impressive as Gianluca Mancini right now. Only Bryan Cristante comes close. Rui Patricio as well, but since he’s a goalkeeper and hardly has to move (figuratively speaking), we’ll give him a pass. No hard feelings, Rui.

Mancini is a tough, emotional, and aggressive player who rarely gets injured despite his intense and vigorous playing style. He is a unique specimen, made of flesh, blood, and steel, and possesses a great pass and excellent heading skills. Moreover, he can also play as a defensive midfielder when required. Roma and its fans must cherish every second he's on the pitch.

He reminds me of Philippe Mexes, Kostas Manolas, Christian Panucci, and Nicolas Burdisso, former Roma center-backs who became fan favorites thanks to their passionate displays on the pitch. Of course, they were often paired with a calmer partner like Chris Smalling, Juan, Leandro Castan, or Walter Samuel. While these are perfect combos, I always had a soft spot for the, well, ‘crazier’ guys.

AS Roma v Udinese Calcio - Serie A Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images

Mancini has been fit as a fiddle since the Special One arrived in town, anchoring Mourinho’s defense for the past two seasons. With Roger Ibañez gone and Chris Smalling unable to shake off his injury woes, Mancini's stability is even more valuable this season. Everyone (including Mourinho) looks to Manicni to contain the likes of Ciro Immobile, Lautaro Martinez, Olivier Giroud, and Dusan Vlahovic, to name a few.

Even better, Mancini has less of a hothead, decreasing his disciplinary record dramatically over the past two seasons. Mancini now understands his role as a leader and knows he can’t disappoint the team by getting sent off for arguing, bickering, fighting, etc.

With Kumbulla injured since 1895, Smalling going AWOL, Ndicka still not feeling 100% comfortable, and Llorente always at risk of getting injured, Mancini is now truly and undoubtedly the pillar of Roma’s defense. The present and the future. The guy who’s always up for the task, no matter what. In Sassuolo, Helsinki, Prague, Leverkusen, Atalanta, and Salzburg, Mancini is everywhere, doing his job. It’s also one of the reasons why Mancini is vice-captain. A choice few associated with the club now question.

It seems like a perfect situation, but how long will he stay? Gianluca has very few reasons to leave Rome. Unless he wants to compete in the Champions League or get a taste of a foreign league like the Premier League, he’s never left Italy. In any case, I don't see Mancini moving to say Inter or Juve. He’s already too bound to the club and the city. It’s Roma or abroad.

Mancini recently signed a contract extension through 2027, so Roma and Mancini are in no rush to change things. It’s a perfect marriage: both are happy in the current situation, so why blow up everything you have achieved so far? The only danger I see is a club like Chelsea or Liverpool that will pry away Mancini with a big fat contract. His last chance at winning some silverware abroad. One final paycheck. Let’s hope not. My body is not ready to let Mancini go.

At 27, he’s entering his prime, so get ready for some more magical Mancini moments. Gianluca will be 31 when his current contract runs out, but I feel it will be renewed long before that day comes. Which would mean Mancini could retire at Roma.

Hopefully, with a Scudetto or two on his resume, he’ll be remembered as one of Roma’s greatest CBs of all time. Name one player who deserves it more than Mancini. I’ll wait.