At this point, I’ve pontificated upon the meaning of the transfer rumor cycle too many times to count, most recently comparing it to an old wooden roller coaster. I have no idea what prompted that comparison—it made sense yesterday morning—but seeking meaning in this part of modern football is most definitely a fool’s errand. But...here we are, another day and another rumor.
While we were busy sleeping or seeking out early Black Friday “doorbusters”, it seems as though Monchi was working on some night moves. According to a few sources, most notably the Corriere dello Sport, Monchi is already hedging his bets ahead of a possible Kostas Manolas sale. And by “possible” I mean definite...you know, because they already tried to sell him to Zenit a couple of summers ago.
Following that line of reasoning, and indeed in keeping with his own admission that a DS must always have alternative options, Monchi reportedly met with the agent of defender Daniele Rugani, Juventus’ 24-year-old center back. Fearing that someone will pounce on Manolas’ €36 million release clause, Monchi seemingly considers Rugani Roma’s next best option.
Sitting behind the likes of Andrea Barzagli, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci for several seasons, it seemed like only a matter of time before Rugani’s day in the sun came. After all, as great as BBC has been, they’re not immune to the damages of time; sooner or later they’d make way for Rugani, and when Bonucci was sold to AC Milan last year (remember that?), it seemed like his time had arrived.
And indeed it had. With 22 starts and nearly 2,000 minutes logged during the 2017-2018 season, one in which he scored two goals and chipped in two assists for good measure, it seemed like Rugani had taken the first step towards being the next Maldini, as every young Italian defender is seemingly destined to be.
But then something unthinkable happened—Bonucci returned. Juve going back to her ex has completely halted Rugani’s upward arch. Planted firmly behind Bonucci, Chiellini and Mehdi Benatia, Rugani has been on the outside looking in, garnering only 181 minutes of action in all competitions.
This has, naturally, led to speculation about his future. In addition to Monchi weighing up a move, Arsenal and Chelsea are reportedly keen on Rugani’s signature as well. With Rugani’s estimated value at €22 to €25 million he would seem well within Roma’s wheelhouse, but when Premiership cash comes into play, prices tend to sky rocket out of Roma’s grasp.
So, then, what is this rumor—a speculative play in and of itself, one Roma would make regardless of Manolas’ future, or a signal of selling intent? If Roma do indeed land €36 million for Manolas, far and away their best defender of the American era, it would stand to reason they’d reinvest a portion of that in another defender, right? If, however, Chelsea are prepared to launch another bid for Rugani, you can rest assured €36 million won’t be nearly enough to land Rugani, so, despite this wonderful alternative, Roma may still be left holding the bag.
I know it’s a crazy notion, but why not hang onto the 27-year-old superstar defender you already have rather than selling the farm for a 24-year-old kid who, though he has a lot of promise, is nowhere near as polished.
This move won’t happen—I can practically guarantee that—but these rumors may be a way of softening the blow for an eventual sale this summer.
Whether it’s Manolas, Cengiz Under or Lorenzo Pellegrini, someone is being sacrificed this summer, so while it’s wise to have alternatives, I’m not sure Rugani is a realistic one anyway.