The winter transfer market is typically a dull affair for Roma. For every Luca Toni or Stephan El Shaarawy-infused adrenaline hit, many January transfer windows pass by without note—unless you were particularly excited about the Ainsley Maitland-Niles or Bryan Reynolds of the worlds. While time will ultimately tell where this winter's haul falls on that spectrum, Tiago Pinto went out with a bang, finding new homes for three rapidly depreciating assets while landing one of Italy's best prospects in under 72 hours.
In signing Tommaso Baldanzi from Empoli, Pinto finished his tenure as Roma's General Manager with a flourish, landing arguably the best U-23 attacking talent Italy has to offer. Pinto rounded out Roma's winter shopping by acquiring Spanish full-back Angeliño on loan from RB Leipzig. When taken with his earlier acquisition of Juventus defender Dean Huijsen, Pinto addressed three areas of need while spending only €10 million, the upfront payment required to sign Baldanzi.
To grease these transfer wheels, Pinto first had to find new homes for Andrea Belotti (loaned to Fiorentina), Marash Kumbulla (loaned to Sassuolo), Ebrima Darboe (loaned to Sampdoria), and Matías Viña (sold to Flamengo); not an easy task considering those players were either underperforming, injured or already struggling on loan.
But the big get here is Baldanzi, the 20-year-old attacking midfielder, who has the potential to reshape Roma's future plans. However, before we venture down that road, we assembled the CdT crew to assess Tiago Pinto's final transfer window in charge of the Giallorossi.
Enjoy, and as always, give us your thoughts in the comment section!
Tomasso Baldanzi was a pleasant surprise to what initially looked like a dull winter market for Roma. What kind of impact can he make over the next four months? Where will he play, and where will he slot into De Rossi’s rotation?
Bren: In the short term, I think his biggest benefit will be providing an alternative to Paulo Dybala, who, as we all know, needs all the rest he can get. I don’t doubt there will be times when they share the pitch–with one of them drifting out wide to a wing position–but as Baldanzi gets his feet wet in Rome, I would imagine he’ll serve primarily as Dybala’s understudy.
ssciavillo: In the short term, I think he’ll be exactly that. He’ll prove to be a more capable vice-Dybala in his style of play than Roma has had over the last season and a half. He can provide plenty of creative spark off the bench in the game and be a rotation starter when Dybala sits.
JonAS: We desperately needed some creativity and flair in the upper midfield. Pellegrini is still looking for his best form, while Dybala can’t do it all by himself. Now I feel more confident if Dybala is out or has to be subbed off. He can slot in perfectly in a 4-3-2-1 or 4-2-3-1. I’m thrilled about the ‘Italian connection’ Mancini-Bove-Pellegrini-Baldanzi-SES.
Just let the kid get used to the team and club for the next five months, so he’ll be 100% ready for 2024-2025. I don’t expect a ton of goals/assists just yet, but another goal vs Juve this season would be nice.
Jimmy Miotto: My guess is that he alternates between being a Dybala alternative and a partner for Dybala up front, behind Romelu Lukaku and ahead of Pellegrini, Bove, and Cristante. You don’t want him to have too much responsibility too quickly, yet simultaneously, there’s a reason why, even at age 20, he cost €15 million. I agree with JonAS; let him get used to the team now so he’s ready for the 2024-2025 season, no matter how the squad looks then. But if he’s ready now... it’ll be that much easier for Roma to fight for a Champions League spot.
Bigger picture: What kind of player did Roma just land? Can he be the centerpiece for the next five years?
Bren: It’s definitely easy to get excited about Baldanzi. Italy has been starved for a real play-making number 10 since Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti retired. At least on the surface, Baldanzi fits that bill, and it’s a role he filled for the Azzurini at the U-20 World Cup last summer, but I think we’d be wise to temper our expectations in the early phases of his Roma career.
We have to remember he’s only 20 years old and has only 2,500 minutes under his belt, so he still has a lot to learn but also a lot of room to grow. Roma was lacking a player like him in the U-23 setup, so this transfer solves a lot of headaches. If everything goes according to plan, he could be the perfect heir to Dybala and, a couple of years from now, maybe one of the best players in the league.
ssciavillo: Roma just landed one of the highest-rated young players of the Azzurri setup and one of Serie A’s top talents. From what I saw of him at the U20 World Cup, he was very impressive. He, along with Chelsea’s Cesare Casadei, were impressive in leading Italy to a second-place finish.
That being said, Bren is right. We do have to temper our expectations in the short term. But, over the long term, he looks to be the type of player that can make up Roma’s core with players like Edoardo Bove and the centerpiece of the Giallorossi attack.
JonAS: I’m excited about this transfer, but then again, for every successful young player in Rome, there are ten others who failed to live up to the expectations. A coach like DDR and the presence of guys like Bove, Pellegrini, Zalewski, and Mancini will help him settle in. I’m glad his transfer fee wasn’t anything like Iturbe, Schick or Abraham’s. This was a steal, so the fans will be more patient, and the pressure on his shoulders will be less than those previously mentioned players.
Jimmy: Steve and I are equally thrilled about this signing. When it came up in the podcast last week as a potential signing, I labeled it as the best possible parting gift Tiago Pinto could provide, and wouldn’t you know it, Roma’s now-former GM delivered. I’m not necessarily expecting a world-beater today, but it bodes so well for Roma going forward that Roma has a true core of young, promising Italian (and Italian-adjacent, like Nicola Zalewski) players.
I think the combination of Bove and Baldanzi can be the centerpiece of Roma’s squad going forward. It will certainly be those two dueling for the #1 spot in our U-23 rankings this summer.
Are you buying the line of thinking that suggests Baldanzi’s arrival will precipitate Dybala’s departure? Why or why not?
Bren: It was only natural for these stories to pop up once this transfer started to pick up steam, but Dybala has another year left on his deal and will be 31 years old in November. Ceding a bit of responsibility and match time to Baldanzi could actually prolong his career a bit. Dybala, at best, plays around 2,000 league minutes in a season, so having Baldanzi in tow will allow Daniele De Rossi (or whoever manages the team next year) to maximize Dybala’s contributions.
I can see why, from an ego perspective, he might want to leave, but he’s been around the block enough to know there are plenty of minutes to go around.
ssciavillo: I think stories like this always pop up when a player finds his heir apparent. Similar to an NFL team that drafts a QB in the first round, it’s assumed that the incumbent will be on the way out. But we can think of Dybala like Aaron Rodgers when the Green Bay Packers drafted Jordan Love in 2020. Rodgers ended up being the starter for three more seasons before he handed the reins over. Baldanzi can be his understudy and, unlike a backup QB, still get plenty of minutes.
If Dybala decides to leave, it will have more to do with the way Roma finishes this season. I think if Roma can find a way to return to the Champions League and there’s a positive feeling around the club then he’ll be more likely to stay. If things go awry and Roma goes into a full-on rebuild, then he probably will look for a place where he has a better chance at silverware.
JonAS: We need to face reality: Dybala can’t play 50+ games a season anymore. We need to use him carefully and wisely. So it helps if we have an understudy/little Dybala like Baldanzi ready. If Roma are fighting in three competitions at once, then there are plenty of minutes to be divided between Paulo and Tommaso. And why not play both of them in a 4-3-2-1 or 3-4-2-1 when necessary? Nah, I’m not worried this will influence Dybala’s situation at all.
Jimmy: I don’t buy it. Dybala’s departure isn’t going to be linked to a Baldanzi signing; it will be linked to Roma’s ability to qualify for the Champions League, and if anything, bringing Baldanzi in helps with Daniele De Rossi’s ability to reach that goal. I also agree with JonAS here that pairing Baldanzi with Dybala up front in a 4-3-2-1 or 3-4-2-1 is one way to make sure both the present and the future are appreciated in equal measure.
While it’s not quite as exciting, Roma’s other winter signing, Angeliño, should assume a large role over the next few months. What can he offer that our current full-backs cannot?
Bren: Well, he can whip a cross in, that’s for sure, and he seems like a pretty efficient playmaker and shot-creator, so the benefits are obvious. What I’m really curious about is how soon he’ll assume a starting role. He plays on the left just like Leonardo Spinazzola, and I’m sure we’re all sick of seeing Kristensen and Celik struggle on the right, so I wonder if Angelino will become a de facto inverted right-back.
Either way, he stands to play a lot over the next few months. I think he can be a sneaky difference-maker.
ssciavillo: The crossing is the most obvious aspect of his game that will be an upgrade. It’s been painful to watch Roma’s fullbacks struggle to whip in any decent service to a striker like Lukaku. He should add some more attacking impetus down Roma’s left wing as well. Too often this season, we’ve seen Roma’s attacks die when they go down the wings. This should allow Roma to threaten opponents in another way.
Like Bren, I’m curious to see if we have matches where he or Spina plays on the right since they are Roma’s two best fullbacks. And I think he can be an under-the-radar signing that could be a big help in Roma’s push for a Champions League place.
JonAS: Yeah, call me an idiot, but I’m actually more enthusiastic about Angelino than Baldanzi—a fast, tenacious LB who can cross. I long for another Tonetto type of guy at LB. And if Spinazzola suddenly decides to release his 2021 version, then boy Roma is going places with these two in a 4-3-3. I truly believe Angelino could reach 8 or 10 assists by the end of this season if Lukaku and Azmoun use their finishing boots.
Jimmy: Um, current ability? I love Leonardo Spinazzola, but he has been downright terrible for Roma this season, and Nicola Zalewski is clearly not yet Roma’s solution at left wing-back (if he ever will be that solution). I’m hopeful that Angeliño will improve Roma’s ability to cross. That’s not a hard thing to do, so I agree with the rest of the guys — as exciting as the Baldanzi move is, the Angeliño move could be more impactful in the short term.
Andrea Belotti and Marash Kumbulla were sent away on dry loans. But is this the end of their Roma journey? Is there any chance either returns next fall and makes an impact on the club?
Bren: Well, they’re both signed through 2025, so technically, they’ll both be back in August. Belotti is whatever. If he’s back, fine; he’s more than a capable backup, but I have no idea what to make of Kumbulla. It feels like we’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for Kumbulla to break through, but thanks to a combination of depth at the position and his recent injuries, he never got a chance. This is his chance. Maybe he hits the ground running, and Roma welcomes him back into the fold, or maybe they simply cash out.
ssciavillo: It seems to me that this is the end of Belotti’s time in Rome. I think he was moved to open up more playing time for Azmoun and Tammy when he hopefully returns from his injury before the end of the season. On Kumbulla, I’m not sure. I do think he needed to leave on loan to get the playing time he requires to refind his form after the ACL surgery. If he refinds his feet, then maybe he’ll be back next season with Llorente and Huijsen both on loan. But I could definitely see Roma using a successful loan spell to recoup some of the money invested in the Albanian.
JonAS: Nah, I think these two loans are specifically done to increase their value, and both will be gone next Summer. Did anyone really miss Kumbulla this season? Ndicka and Mancini are good enough, while Llorente is a fine backup. If Roma can release both Kumbulla and Smalling (wages + transfer fee), that will give us enough funds to find a 4th choice CB somewhere.
As for Belotti, I was a huge fan, but after 1.5 years of disappointments, I’m over my enthusiasm. Just go for a younger profile or keep Azmoun, at least until we know Tammy and Lukaku’s fate.
Jimmy: Part of the reason Kumbulla hasn’t really broken through is that for much of his time in Rome, he’s been behind a murderer’s row of centerbacks: Gianluca Mancini, Roger Ibañez, Chris Smalling, and even Diego Llorente certainly aren’t shmucks. With Ibañez gone and Smalling injured, though, the fact that Kumbulla is being sent out on loan as he attempts to return to the pitch post-ACL tear makes it clear that Roma wants to increase his value at the very least and maybe set Kumbulla up to truly contribute in the future (though I’m growing more and more convinced that that is a pipe dream).
As for Belotti, the depth chart isn’t doing him any favors right now, especially with Sardar Azmoun looking solid and Tammy Abraham on his way back from injury. He’ll be back in the summer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s back in Rome for the long-term if Roma loses Lukaku and/or Abraham to greener pastures.
A few weeks ago, we were told that Roma had less than €2 million to spend this winter, so what do you think drove this sudden change in their transfer strategy?
Bren: Well, I’m sure MouAnon is in a twist, claiming this was part of a vast conspiracy to sink their idol, but I think they just sensed a chance to pounce and went for it. I’m not sure how you go from “Hey, we only have maybe two million to spend” to “Sure, we’ll pay 10 million upfront for Baldanzi,” but to me, this says the Friedkins haven’t given up on the season, and it actually gives me hope that they’ll seriously consider De Rossi beyond June.
If all the big managerial fish are snapped up and if the club is really leaning into a youth movement, why not let DDR develop in kind with players like Baldanzi?
ssciavillo: I think that there’s always a bit of speculation in those kinds of transfer stories. As far as I know, nobody from the club stated that Roma could only spend €2 million. I’m sure the transfer budget was tight, but Roma saw an opportunity that was too good to pass up in Baldanzi. At that point, the Friedkins probably bit the bullet and figured that Baldanzi would be a good long-term investment and also one that, in the short term, could help get the club back to the riches of the Champions League with fourth place up for grabs.
JonAS: Who cares, just sell 300 more Toyota’s and Baldanzi was practically a free agent.
Jimmy: Yeah, I take all of these pronouncements about Roma’s transfer budget with a jumbo-sized Maldon pyramid of salt. Baldanzi has been linked to Roma for a while, even while Mourinho was Roma’s manager, so I don’t think it’s some grand conspiracy to make Mourinho look bad. Being able to snap up Baldanzi for this kind of money is clearly too good of an opportunity to pass up, so Pinto snapped him up. I think that’s all there is to it.
Finally, were there any other areas Roma should have addressed this winter?
Bren: I mean, maybe keeper, but it’s not often you see clubs change keepers in the middle of the season. Another playmaker and full-back were big priorities, so good on Pinto for getting those positions sorted. Besides, we have Azmoun, Aouar, and Ndicka returning from international duty, so those are quasi-transfers, in a way.
ssciavillo: I don’t think so. You’re not going to get the heir apparent to Rui Patricio in January. So, I really think Angeliño covers their biggest need at full-back, while Huijsen and Baldanzi give them quality depth at center-back and attacking midfield.
JonAS: Agreed, the big changeup will be for this Summer anyway; just tweak the squad here and there. That’s what Pinto did with these three smart and cheap deals. Perhaps I would have preferred another option than Huijsen; we’re now breeding one of Juventus’ best youth players for free and sending him back in a giftwrap to them. A cheap 30+ Serie A veteran for six months, for example. But all in all, job well done, Pinto.
Jimmy: The goalkeeper is coming in the summer, particularly as Mile Svilar hasn’t really burned the house down with his cup performances. Beyond that, so much hinges on Roma’s Champions League qualification hopes that making too many moves in the winter always seemed like a long shot. I’m pretty thrilled with the moves we made given how much hangs in the balance; it indicates a willingness to spend and a desire to win on the part of management, and it makes me think that Tiago Pinto won’t be unemployed for long.
Now that you've read our takes, it's your turn: What kind of impact can Baldanzi make this season? And is he the key figure moving forward? What about Angeliño: Can he make a substantial impact in the second half of the season?