The difference between fairytales and reality is that reality doesn’t tie up every story with a nice bow. The hero doesn’t always get the girl, the villain sometimes wins, and the Roman doesn’t always return home. Sometimes the fairytale ending just isn’t meant to be.
Davide Frattesi’s impending move to Inter Milan is yet another example of reality diverging from the feel-good story we all want; the 30% sell-on fee that Roma will receive from Sassuolo does soften the blow a bit, but I’ll admit the 13 months straight of Frattesi rumors did have me excited to see the Italy international in a Roma kit.
Yet just because Frattesi is most likely not headed towards a reunion with the Romanisti faithful at the Stadio Olimpico doesn’t mean that Roma’s midfield is complete. Even before the deal with Inter became close-to-final, Tiago Pinto had been looking at other alternatives to a Frattesi signing, and if you ask me, some of these signings may be even better for the club on paper than the return of Davide.
The Free Agent Star Signing: Daichi Kamada
Daichi Kamada isn’t a name that’s well-known in Serie A, but ask anyone who’s followed the Bundesliga over the last several seasons about the Japanese midfielder, and you get a knowing nod. Kamada has been plying his wares for Eintracht Frankfurt since 2017, and in the span of his time in Germany, he has become a true star in the midfield.
He possesses excellent technical ability and a natural flair for creating and scoring goals. His dribbling skills, close ball control, and quick feet allow him to navigate through tight spaces and beat defenders with ease. He possesses a good sense of positioning and timing, often finding himself in goal-scoring and assisting positions, as evidenced by his 16 goals and seven assists in all competitions last season.
Kamada is the real deal, just like Davide Frattesi. Transfermarkt values him at €27 million, so it would be quite a coup for Tiago Pinto to bring him in as yet another star free-agent signing. There would, of course, be questions about his ability to translate his game to Serie A after so long in the Bundesliga, but if you ask me, that’s a risk Roma should feel comfortable taking.
On the other hand, if they want to bring in a Serie A-tested midfielder, the Giallorossi may only need to look to Udine...
The Serie A Experienced Signing: Lazar Samardzic
The newest addition to the midfield rumor mill, 21-year-old midfielder Lazar Samardzic represents an interesting middle ground between signing Davide Frattesi and bringing in Daichi Kamada. Both Kamada and Frattesi are bigger names than Samardzic at the moment, and Kamada and Frattesi would boost Roma’s profile in Japan and Italy, respectively, in a way that Samardzic likely won’t. Yet if you look closely at Samardzic’s performances for Udinese last season and you note that his pricetag is reportedly only €18 million, it makes more and more sense that Tiago Pinto is reportedly inquiring about the Serb.
The Berlin-born midfielder made his professional debut with Hertha BSC in 2019 before moving to RB Leipzig in 2020; he didn’t make much impact for the Red Bulls, and so moved to Udinese in 2021 for €3 million. At Udinese, he became more of a mezzala and proved himself to be one of the brightest young talents in Serie A, scoring five and assisting four in 37 appearances.
He may not be a Roman-born prospect, but signing Samardzic would be a statement of intent by Tiago Pinto, indicating that the club is looking to both the present and the future (as opposed to a more present-oriented move like signing Daichi Kamada).
The Youngster With Something to Prove: Giacomo Faticanti
Of course, there are Roman-born prospects still at the club who look likely to have an impact on the first team next season, and out of all of those Primavera players, Giacomo Faticanti seems the most likely to be an in-house fill-in for Davide Frattesi.
Faticanti has slowly but surely worked his way through the Roma youth system, leading to gaining the captaincy of the Primavera side and a consistent role in the Italy national team youth system. The 18-year-old has named Sergio Busquets and Daniele De Rossi as his inspirations for his style of play, and while he’s certainly not anywhere near those players yet, whispers around the club suggest that José Mourinho sees him as a key part of Roma’s future.
There are issues with hoping for too much out of Faticanti now, of course, the most obvious one being that Roma needs to qualify for Champions League football this season and entrusting a key part of your midfield rotation to not one but two recent Primavera graduates in Bove and Faticanti is a risky maneuver.
Still, Roma’s academy has been consistently rated as one of the best in Europe. It’s not a coincidence that the club has been making moves to bring back academy graduates like Gianluca Scamacca and Davide Frattesi this summer - the talent at the academy level is frequently very impressive.
With Frattesi set for Inter Milan, don’t be surprised if Tiago Pinto moves quickly to bring in an alternative midfielder (or decides to prioritize striker or fullback spending instead, giving Edoardo Bove and Giacomo Faticanti the runway to succeed). Be sure to follow along with us as the rumor mill continues to twist and turn.