It just wouldn't be a Roma summer if they didn't commit virtual hari kari by selling a key member of the first team. In years past it's been everyone from Marquinhos to Erik Lamela to Mohamed Salah to Emerson to Antonio Rudiger to Alisson, you get the picture; Roma aren't experts at many things, but when it comes to tearing a successful team apart limb from limb they're top of the class.
And now that the Champions League final is in the books and June is about to give way to July, it’s once again selling season. For much of the past 18 to 24 months we operated under the assumption that another of Roma's key players would follow that well worn path out of Rome, but we weren't exactly sure who it would be, though we had a pretty good idea, as did you:
Who will Roma sell next summer?— Chiesa di Totti (@chiesaditotti) July 18, 2018
That Tweet has been pinned on our account since last July, and while Ünder was the leader in the clubhouse after the first few rounds, it looks like Kostas Manolas might take the honors this summer, especially if you believe the stories pumped out over the past 48 hours or so.
Leading the charge has been the Gazzetta dello Sport:
Il #Napoli ha offerto un quinquennale da 4 milioni netti a stagione a Kostas #Manolas. In settimana summit con #Raiola per provare a chiudere. De Laurentiis pronto a pagare la clausola da 36 milioni per strapparlo alla #Roma. #calciomercato https://t.co/AT1ckHi0pN— Nicolò Schira (@NicoSchira) June 16, 2019
Led by Nicolo Schira, the GdS has been at the forefront of this story, reporting that Napoli are prepared to meet Manolas’ €36 million release clause, which was included in his most recent contract extension penned in late 2017. In addition to paying that fee, Napoli will reportedly gift Manolas with a fat new deal, one that will pay him €4 million per season.
Earlier versions of this story saw Napoli including either Dries Mertens or Amadou Diawara as possible make weights/price reductions in the deal, but those wrinkles have since disappeared and it appears that this still will be straight cash, and might be concluded this week.
For a player connected to everyone from Arsenal to Juventus and even Barcelona over the years, moving to Napoli is a bit of a shocker, but pairing Manolas with Kalidou Koulibaly is an incredibly intriguing proposition.
Given that this is a release clause scenario, we can't harangue Roma too much, but it doesn't necessarily paint the Giallorossi in the best light. Manolas isn't a perfect defender by any means, but he’s been the club's most talented defender throughout his tenure here, not mention one who seems to really love his life in Rome, so if nothing else this is further evidence of Roma low-balling their best players. Manolas’ €2.7 million salary barely puts him above the likes of Federico Fazio, Juan Jesus and Patrik Schick on Roma's payroll, and with Napoli prepared to bump that up to four million, you can't really blame Manolas for moving south.
Under prior directors or sport, Roma has never had issues recruiting central defenders (remember, we went from Marquinhos to Mehdi Benatia to Kostas Manolas) but this move, if nothing else, really speaks to Roma's current standing in the game—they're producers of talent but seldom the keepers of it.
Roma may aspire to be the next Barca or PSG, but a more reasonable and sustainable model has always been Napoli. So to see them spinning off key players to Napoli is quite depressing indeed.
The CdS published a mini-update to this story after I started the original article, but in sum they're reporting that, while Napoli will pay the full €36 million for Manolas, Roma has opened a "parallel channel” to acquire Mertens and Diawara independent of the Manolas deal, and when taken with the new rumors of Barca keeper Jasper Cillessen, Roma could net a trio of new players before the window officially opens.
It's only June 16th, the pace of these rumors is about to get nuts. Brace yourself.