“We haven’t had any contact from Monchi” and “we haven’t had any offer from Roma” are the most popular catchphrases going around the winter Serie A mercato window so far. The dearth of credible links to Roma transfer targets makes you think Monchi has put a few guns to heads, this January, in his bid to finally outdo the Italian press for secrecy. But Thiago Mendes’ situation at Lille cannot be kept under wraps, and Roma are reportedly pressing for the Brazilian midfielder’s signature among fierce competition.
Everyone has been made aware that Lille are on a tight deadline; the French club need to clear wages and pad up the numbers in time for next summer’s FFP deadline and are openly courting offers for one of their most valuable players in Thiago Mendes.
When asked if Mendes was on the market, Lille’s DS Luis Campos replied: “Anything is possible.”
Mendes’ performances this season effectively read like an alternative Steven Nzonzi, only with more pace and the ability to find the goal with Mendes’ educated right foot.
The Brazilian was first signed in the summer of 2017 for Marcelo Bielsa, going from strength to strength until he given the captain’s armband in his last appearance with Lille before the winter break. I haven’t watched much Ligue 1 outside of PSG myself, but I do like the look of those goals. However, what Roma are seeking is greater protection for the defence that is missing in a DDR-shaped hole and Thiago Mendes can be a bridge over that gap.
The Brazilian’s superior athleticism has allowed him to make more intercepts and blocks in midfield than Nzonzi this 2018/19, while his dribbles won (11) is comparable to Cristante (12) for Roma. Mendes is considered a volante like Nzonzi - a deep lying midfielder who loves to push up field. His pace allows him to get back and prevent attacks too.
Roma are looking at an even longer stretch with Daniele De Rossi - the Roma captain opting to forego surgery on his serious knee injury in favour of natural therapy that could take weeks to months to heal - and a defensive midfield signing is crucial to give Nzonzi some rest. Roma’s French midfielder has logged the most minutes in the capital side of any outfield player, second only to Robin Olsen’s game time this season so far.
What counts against Roma landing Thiago Mendes is Lille inviting a bidding war for their 26 year-old midfielder. The French club are said to have courted Premier League clubs Everton and Chelsea, while sounding at PSG’s need for the “number 6” midfield signing that Tuchel has been asking the Parisian owners to make.
If Lille’s game is successful, they could manage to raise bids for Mendes from anywhere between 15 million to 24 million euros. And that, for a Roma side looking to take a midfielder on loan with option to buy, makes this a tricky negotiation to endure.
In Other News - Malinovskyi, Bennacer, Dendoncker
When Eusebio Di Francesco commented on Bennacer being the Serie A revelation of the season at the end of year coach summit, we took that as licence to report the news that Roma were after the youngster this January.
Since then, however, Empoli’s DS has gone on record with Teleradiostereo to claim Bennacer won’t be leaving Empoli until the summer at earliest.
Headlines are now circling around Monchi hearing our call to go after a Genk midfielder taking the world by storm in the Jupiler League. Yes, Monchi is finally going after Genk’s
Sander Berge Ruslan Malinovskyi.
The Ukrainian midfielder plays on the left side of a midfield three, alongside Berge, and Malinovskyi’s left foot is something beautiful when searching for the through ball and long range pass (what are they putting in the water over there at Genk?). Nonetheless, the same logic problem surrounds a move for the Ukrainian midfielder as it would for Berge: Why would Genk be willing to part ways with a starting player in the midfield of a league-leading season? Despite this, Sky Italia have reported that Genk are asking Roma for 12 million euros to secure the midfielder’s signature even if Sky themselves acknowledge a summer transfer is more realistic.
That just leaves Leander Dendoncker as a possible option for January. The defender-slash-midfielder on loan at Wolves is struggling for game time, even if he started Wolves’ cup victory against Liverpool just this week. Dendoncker’s agent has denied any contact with Roma so far, but stated his phone line is open for Monchi to call if Wolves want to move on from Dendoncker.