Despite the recent loss to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League, the Giallorossi have started off their 2017/2018 season on a very positive note. Barring a complete collapse against Qarabag, Roma look to have made it out of the Champions League group stage, and even with a game in hand, the Serie A table is looking enticing. A huge reason for Roma’s success to date has been rotation; Eusebio Di Francesco is the first Roma manager to regularly shuffle his starting eleven in recent memory, and it’s allowed for the continued development of players such as Lorenzo Pellegrini, Gerson, and Stephan El Shaarawy.
There are certainly many positive signs on the pitch and Di Francesco’s astute press conferences indicating that the squad might not need too many tweaks, but the looming winter mercato (only forty days away!) means that the rumor mill is about to spring back to life. I won’t pretend to be Gianluca Di Marzio or anyone else with actual insider knowledge, but in the spirit of Black Friday and the upcoming Christmas season, here’s the Christmas List I’ll be sending to Monchi on December 24th.
Renewals: Manolas, Florenzi, Pellegrini
Before asking for any shiny new toys from Mr. Verdejo, let’s look towards what Roma already has and hope that they can stay, at least for a little while longer. This squad is one of the most well-balanced that i Lupi have had in years, so retaining players and handing them renewals will be just as important as finding new players to fill in any gaps in the squad.
The first player who immediately comes to mind for a renewal is Kostas Manolas. In his fourth season playing for Roma, he’s logged nearly a thousand minutes in all competitions, performed 5.4 clearances per match, and made 1.2 interceptions per match. In tandem with the rest of Roma’s commanding defense, Manolas has helped lead Roma to the most clean sheets (7) and the fewest goals allowed (8) in Serie A. A unified and consistent defense wins titles, and if Roma truly has aspirations to win titles in the near future, Kostas Manolas should ply his wares at the Olimpico for the long term.
Another player who looks to be in line for a renewal is Roma’s favorite Wolverine cosplayer, Alessandro Florenzi. Although he’s certainly been shuffled from position to position over the past few years, it’s undeniable that he is a key member of the side, both in terms of performance and in heart. As Daniele De Rossi nears retirement, it’s important to have Roman players remain a focal point of the squad; having players as talented as Florenzi come through the youth system and become beloved by the tifosi doesn’t happen every day. His recent performance against Chelsea was emblematic of his importance to the side, particularly in Eusebio Di Francesco’s fullback-intensive tactic. As detailed by ssciavillo, Florenzi combines defensive prowess with a dangerous knack for goal, stifling world-class wingers while forcing all defenses to consider him a potential goalscoring threat. Who wouldn’t want to keep a player like that around for the long term?
Speaking of Romans who should be signing a new contract soon, Lorenzo Pellegrini is one of the most important pieces of the Roman puzzle that must be retained for the long term. Coming into this season, most expected Pellegrini to provide good depth for Di Francesco and maybe earn himself a couple of starts here and there. Instead, Pellegrini has forced himself into the starting eleven on a regular basis, making eight starting appearances across all competitions and racking up three assists and over 700 minutes of playing time. Although he hasn’t scored a goal since his return from Sassuolo, his playmaking, long passes, and sky-high Football IQ hasn’t gone unnoticed, and he’s become a key cog in a world-class midfield. With this, naturally, comes plenty of suitors, and rumors linking Pellegrini to Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Paris Saint Germain are already starting to bubble up. If Monchi, James Pallotta, and Eusebio Di Francesco want to make sure that Roma’s mighty midfield is not a flash in the pan, they must hand Pellegrini a new contract as soon as possible, particularly one without a €25 million release clause that’s looking lower by the day.
Now that I’ve listed the players that deserve a new contract, let’s get into the real fun part of any mercato: who should fly into Fiumicino Airport this January and hold a Roma scarf high in the air?
Bren’s already written on the possibility of Aleix Vidal as an answer to Roma’s lack of fullback depth, but I can’t stress enough how important a player like Vidal could be for Roma’s title aspirations. First, it would ensure that Bruno Peres could see less and less of the pitch as the season goes on, something that I support 100%. Second, a loan of a player like Vidal would give Rick Karsdorp the chance to properly heal over the course of the season; when he was brought back too soon in October, he tore his ACL, and I’d hate to see him tear it again because of a lack of fullback depth.
Unlike loaning or buying Aleix Vidal, buying Pietro Pellegri this winter wouldn’t be to make Roma’s present Scudetto aspirations more of a reality - in fact, if this transfer were to happen, he’d most likely be sent back to Genoa on loan for a while. Instead, buying the 16-year-old striker would be a way for Roma’s management to plan for the future, while showing the rest of Europe their determination to make Roma a premier club. Despite not being old enough to have a mixed drink on the peninsula, Pellegri already has three Serie A goals to his name (and two of them are against Lazio, so that’s another point in his favor). For what seems like an eternity, Juventus has always snapped up the best young talent Italy has to offer, including Federico Bernardeschi, Daniele Rugani, and Stefano Sturaro. For Roma to truly compete with Juventus long-term, they must employ a similar strategy and snap up as much exciting Italian talent as possible. Plus, can’t you just imagine Cristian Totti feeding Pellegri goal after goal?
My final entry on my wish list is a bit of a cheat, but it’s also an indicator of how well-balanced Roma is at the moment. Patrik Schick may have joined Roma this summer for a club-record fee, but considering that he’s only played sixteen minutes for the club to date, he may as well be seen as a winter transfer. Schick will have to fight for minutes in a talented attacking corps: Edin Džeko, Stephan El Shaarawy, Diego Perotti, and even Gerson have been in good form as of late. Yet if there’s a young player who can burst through that depth chart, it’s certainly Schick; his 11-goal, 3-assist campaign for Sampdoria made it clear that if you hand the Czech an opportunity, he will take it. Let’s hope he can get on the field sooner rather than later and start making waves at the Olimpico.
What type of player should Monchi go for this winter?
This poll is closed
A full-back like Aleix Vidal
A wunderkind like Pietro Pellegri
No one, we’re doing pretty well as-is