If there are no matches on the books and the transfer window is still open, it can only mean one thing: bring on the transfer rumors! For much of the winter window, and the weeks that preceded it, Roma's rumors focused largely on shoring up the defense and getting some depth behind Steven Nzonzi and Bryan Cristante in the double pivot. However, Gianluca Di Marzio (via Corriere dello Sport) dropped an interesting nugget late last week, one which appears to be gaining traction around the league.
Rodrigo De Paul is the new Antonio Di Natale, insofar as he's the only reason one would willingly watch Udinese. All kidding aside, the 24-year-old trequartista has shown steady improvement in his two-and-a-half seasons with the Zebras, racking up 16 goals and 12 assists in league play since the beginning of the 2016-2017 season; not exactly mind blowing numbers, but considering the context (age and the general quality of the team), they're pretty solid.
However, De Paul has taken a leap forward this season. In 18 appearances, De Paul has notched six goals and three assists in league play while averaging over two key passes, two shots, two dribbles and two fouls drawn per match. For reference, no one on Roma has stuffed those stats quite like De Paul. In a word, he's the beginning, middle and end of Udinese's offense, and that combination of skills hasn't gone unnoticed across the league.
It's been several days since that Tweet, and in that time Di Marzio's employer, Sky Sport, seems to have picked up on and/or advanced the rumor themselves, tying in AC Milan and Inter Milan into the De Paul sweepstakes as well.
While no figures were mentioned in the story, Transfermarkt has De Paul listed at €18 million, though we can safely assume that would simply be the starting point for negotiations, with the final price likely settling north of €20 million, if indeed Udinese are willing to sell—his contract runs through 2023.
Can Roma afford that figure right now? I have no idea, but the more important question to ask is, naturally, where would this kid fit in with the current squad? As a trequartista, De Paul is undoubtedly talented, but is he an upgrade over Lorenzo Pellegrini, and would you risk stunting Nicolo Zaniolo's development to find minutes for De Paul? Given how important those two have been to Roma's success this year, I'm not sure you'd mess with that chemistry.
However, we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss this potential addition. De Paul, much like his countryman Alejandro Gomez, is capable of playing all over the final third of the pitch. During his first season in Udinese, De Paul featured largely as a right winger before falling back to a right-sided midfielder last season, so it's not as if he is solely a trequartista, he can play practically anywhere in attack.
Gol de Rodrigo De Paul, en la victoria de Udinese 1-0 ante Roma... pic.twitter.com/HzL1sbhuQo— AcademiaDeEmociones (@AkdEmociones) November 24, 2018
If we read between the lines, De Paul, who does have seven league appearances on the left flank this year, both as a forward and midfielder, profiles as...drum roll please...a Diego Perotti replacement. And yes, last week we cautioned that, given his past couple of performances, Roma shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Perotti, but if he's intent or at least interested in leaving for more playing time, De Paul would be an incredible replacement and possible upgrade over Perotti.
If Roma view De Paul as anything other than a pure trequartista, this move makes a lot of sense. Not only could he replace Perotti's current role, he provides cover in the event Roma sells one of her coveted young wingers.
I don't think this should be Roma's top priority this winter, but neither was Papu Gomez a few years ago, but can you honestly tell me Roma would have been worse off adding Gomez to that 2016-2017 squad?
There are a lot of parallels between the two players and the two situations, and we all know how much Luciano Spalletti has lusted after Papu Gomez all these years, so what better way to ring in the New Year than denying him the next best thing?