It’s been a week where Roma has said goodbye to quite a few players (Alisson aside): Andrea Romagnoli packed his bags to Renate on loan, Elio Capradossi to Spezia on loan, Mirko Antonucci went to go join former Primavera teammate Pepin at Pescara on loan, Ezequiel Ponce could wind up bagging the club some 6 million euros with his loan-with-option to buy move to AEK Athens, and now Fiorentina have signed themselves the kid with the Ballon D’Or clauses in his contract.
But this ain’t no Socrates or Zico, this is Gerson heading to the Artemio Franchi - the site of his best Serie A career moment to date, where he turned up with two marksman goals away to Fiorentina last year. Just about the only other eye-catching thing Gerson has managed to do in his time at Roma is dye his hair white-blonde this summer, so most people would agree a loan move and some fresh air was badly needed.
Sabatini recently described Gerson as lazy, which isn’t the biggest obstacle to overcome in sport (easy for me to say from my reclining chair), and Gerson certainly still has time on his side.
But time on his side... to do what? What is a player like Gerson’s actual position in modern football?
Not explosive enough to be a wide player and yet not showing enough offensively to be considered a legitimate threat as a midfielder, it seems like Spalletti had Gerson pegged all along. For all the accusations the Tuscan coach tried to career-suicide the Brazilian youth, Spalletti did actually try Gerson at defensive midfield for the best part of the Tuscan’s time at the club; a role fitting perfectly with Gerson’s own in-depth account to Ultimo Uomo where he claimed tackling and holding onto the ball were just about the only two things he’s learned to actually enjoy in calcio.
Gerson was also decent-ish at being a link-man in midfield to help move the ball up front, and showed good positional discipline when trusted with a midfield spot under EDF. He also showed himself to be a good communicator on the pitch with the one player he took a big liking to, Radja Nainggolan, during a couple of games where both he and the Belgian constantly swapped roles on the pitch to (try and) evade the opposition.
But that tactic proved ineffective. As did EDF’s gimmick of posting Gerson wide as a tall man to “spoil” the opposition defence. It feels like too many gimmicks have been tried out on utility-youth-player Gerson, at a time in his career where he really needs to find his feet in one position and develop whatever strengths he needs to own that role.
Without absolving Gerson of any sins, I’d put a lot of responsibility on Roma for this one. Signing a player for what turned out to be just south of 20 million euros, then jerking him around so much with ineffective tactical instructions during his development years is why the word “mismanagement” was invented. In retrospect it seems like the player, who was signed for Rudi Garcia and used sparingly by Eusebio Di Francesco, found his best tutor in Spalletti. That is, if you take the sensationalism of his start at the J Stadium out of the picture and look at the wider view.
Now moving on from one of Tuscany’s most notorious coaches to step into the heart of Tuscany itself, Gerson dons the same Viola shirt worn by Dunga and aforementioned Brazilian names above, hoping Stefano Pioli can forge a modern football player out of him for a year.
What will Roma be hoping comes out of this move? A Gerson return in a year’s time as a new man? Or is this really just a goodbye?