Going into the winter transfer market, consensus held that Roma would (or at least should) look to reinforce the back end of their squad. While Kostas Manolas is as good as ever, Federico Fazio has suffered from a bout of the ups and downs; one minute he looks solid, the next he's woefully slow and ineffective. Couple that with their complete and utter lack of faith in Ivan Marcano (that's his name, right?) and that line of thinking makes sense; Roma do need help back there, but what about the midfield?
We touched briefly on Roma's lack of depth in the middle of the park, at least in a defensive capacity, while discussing the seemingly out of left field rumors connecting Roma to Udinese attacker Rodrigo De Paul; in sum, in Daniele De Rossi's absence, Bryan Cristante and Steven Nzonzi are running themselves ragged and need help.
While Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolo Zaniolo are each versatile players, their skill sets are not ideal for the double pivot, while Ante Coric seems lost on the island of misfit toys with Marcano, leading many to speculate Monchi will look to bring in a new midfielder this winter. And if recent history is any indication, that midfielder will be an under the radar type.
Enter Empoli's Ismael Bennacer. The 21-year-old Algerian has been a mainstay in Empoli's midfield this season, logging 1,300 minutes in 19 league appearances this season. While Bennacer hasn't racked up many counting stats (only one assist), his passing and defensive work does compare favorably to both Nzonzi and Cristante. Bennacer has more tackles, interceptions, and blocks per 90 minutes than either of Roma's double pivot members, while he's right there with Nzonzi and Cristante in total passes completed and long passes completed per 90 minutes (<0.2 in some instances).
So, at least on those metrics, he seems like he'd slot in well along and behind Cristante and Nzonzi, and he's valued at only €4.5 million, making him an ideal Roma signing. Although, according to the source of the rumor, Calciomercato, the signing may not happen until the summer.
Nevertheless, this would be an intriguing depth move; not an overwhelming type of signing, but the kind of kid who could, without you even realizing it, paste together a solid eight to ten year run as a rotational piece and fringe starter. And keep in mind, he's done all of this at only 21-years-old, so we may even be selling him short at the moment.
So, while this won't help Roma in the immediate sense, this could be a sneakily good signing several years down the road.