During yesterday’s discussion regarding Roma’s perceived need to sell (in the wake of several new signings) the discussion indirectly revolved around Radja Nainggolan, one of Roma’s favorite adopted sons. While he wasn’t born within the city limits, and didn’t even come up through the club academy, few players have endeared themselves to the fanbase quite like Nainggolan. Through his heart, hustle and hatred of Juventus, he’s become a Roman by proxy and the thought of selling him to the highest bidder is sure to stir controversy.
Now, take all that hostility and multiply it by the exponent of your choice, throw in some Roman blood and a tuft of curly hair and you’ve got Alessandro Florenzi, the new Capitano Futuro, the kid who scored from midfield against Barcelona in the Champions League, the same kid who twice came back from knee injuries and the same kid who ran into the stands to kiss his Nonna after a goal.
If you think the notion of selling Nainggolan will generate heat, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Much like the Roman heroes before him—Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi—Florenzi has shaped and shifted his game to suit the needs of his boyhood club, subverting his ego in the process. Florenzi has dutifully moved from midfield to wing to fullback to wingback and back to wing throughout his seven seasons in the City of Seven Hills with nary a complaint.
And now, so his thinking presumably goes, it’s time to get his—at 27-years-old, Florenzi is at the peak of his career, and as such likely only has one mega-payday left. Throughout the season we’ve talked about Florenzi’s quest for €4 million paycheck, a figure that would more than double his current €1.5 million wage packet, and with every flubbed cross and missed tackle cries of derision would rain down from the highest reaches of the Olimpico, but surely a soldier as loyal as Florenzi deserves something.
Odds are Florenzi’s €4 million claim was just the starting point in negotiations, but with only 12 months remaining on his deal, the vultures are starting to circle overhead. Multiple reports in Italy and England would see Chelsea and Juventus each tracking Florenzi’s contract negotiations, hoping for the tiniest crack to exploit in the Roma-Florenzi bond, and while it would be interesting to see how he’d fair with a regular role, your heart can’t stand the thought of seeing him in stripes.
Florenzi’s future will be yet another litmus test for your Roma fandom: do you value the bond and the romance of AS Roma above all else, or are you more pragmatic?
If the past few seasons have taught us anything it’s that our dear Ale is, and always shall be, a makeshift right back; he’s done a remarkable impression of one over the past few years, but it’s not the cloth from which he’s cut and dyed. And with each passing summer, Roma has added to their midfield and forward stock, relegating Florenzi to his awkward but happily assumed role.
So, yeah, Roma can and should probably find a real right back—it’s what's best for the club—but in an oh-so-Roma twist, Florenzi’s willingness to sacrifice the prime of his career playing out of position is the very thing that has led many of us to love him so dearly—so what’s a club to do?
If ever there were a player worthy of a, let’s call it a loyalty raise, it’s Florenzi—he’s done whatever he’s been asked whenever he’s been asked—but the cold hearted rationalist in me says that, as a right back (which is assuredly his role on this club as presently constituted), he’s not a €4 million player.
Of course, if Italian clubs could pay more to their players this wouldn’t be an issue, but that’s neither here nor there. If I was running the club, I’d hash out a €3 million or so deal with Florenzi’s people—his versatility, not to mention his emotional value to the club, is well worth it—but nothing associate with this club is that cut and dry, so this could be a potential mindfield.
Ale has always done what was asked of him, and now he’s simply trying to get what he’s earned, and who among us can take issue with that?