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Could a Nzonzi Sale Make Way for a Barella Move?

The Frenchman seems to have one foot out the door and the young Italian could be an ideal replacement.

AS Roma v Cagliari - Serie A Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Steven Nzonzi’s move to the Italian capital during the waning of days of last summer’s transfer market was always a bit of a head-scratcher. He was always going to an awkward fit in Eusebio DiFrancesco’s system despite his pedigree as a World Cup winner. As he struggled through his first campaign in giallorosso, the calls for his sale increased throughout the season.

It wasn’t until Claudio Ranieri’s arrival that we began to see the true qualities that Nzonzi could provide as a ball winning midfielder. As the season wound down, calls for his exit cooled and were eventually overshadowed by the potential exit of bigger names like Edin Dzeko and Kostas Manolas.

With the hire of Paulo Fonseca and his free flowing football, Nzonzi again seemed like the square peg trying to fit into the round hole. Still though, transfer speculation remained quiet with the impending moves of Manolas and Dzeko taking up the headlines. That was until yesterday, when Nzonzi failed to show up for his Roma pre-season medical.

With that the transfer speculation was renewed; the likeliest destination for the Frenchman being Lyon. Those reports continued this morning with Football Italia reporting that Lyon would be willing to offer €20 million for a player Roma paid €30 million for less than twelve months ago.

Not great business if it happens, as it would reflect a minusvalenza. However, if Roma really wants to ship out the unwanted Frenchman it might not get a better offer. A Nzonzi exit would then open up a midfield spot for another potential target: Nicolò Barella.

Barella for many Romanisti, myself included, would be a dream signing. The 22-year-old Italian midfielder has been a revelation for both club and country; having ingrained himself in Roberto Mancini’s midfield trio with the Azzurri. However, he looked like a pipe dream just days ago for Roma when it was reported that he had his heart set on Inter.

Yet, Roma have not given up on Barella, and as reported on CdT this morning, this could be the driving force between the stalemate with Inter over the Dzeko deal. The latest report passed along by Football Italia via Sardinian paper L’Unione Sarda, has Roma offering €35 million and either Gregoire Defrel or Gerson in a player plus cash deal.

This would be no small fee for a team like Roma with FFP regulations to abide by and no Champions League revenue to help fill the coffers. Nonetheless, if Roma are able to muscle Inter away from Barella by posturing for more money for Dzeko, then this could too big of a deal to pass up. If Cagliari are willing to take on an unwanted player like Gerson or Defrel in exchange and Roma don’t have to part with Luca Pellegrini (once rumored to be part of an offer) this deal gets even sweeter.

Barella would be an ideal player for Roma as they continue to build around the young Italian core of Lorenzo Pellegrini and Nicolò Zaniolo. There are far greater needs than another midfielder with holes to fill in the back and at keeper, but Barella seems like a superstar in the making.

Barella would give Roma an ideal player to slot into Fonseca’s double pivot. The Cagliari born youngster is a pit bull, ball winning type. Seemingly a perfect pairing with the slick passing Amadou Diawara, who will be on his way to the capital sometime after July 1st. Having this double pivot would allow Pellegrini to play in the trequartista position, a role that brings out his best qualities. This could be a formidable midfield with players that compliment each other nicely, one that could make Fonseca’s football come to life.

There are still hurdles to clear, especially since Barella is said to have already agreed to personal terms with the Nerazzurri. However, if Roma are able to come up with a proposal that is of more interest to Cagliari and President Tommaso Giulini then things could swing in the Giallorossi’s favor. This could be a statement move for Roma. Only time will tell if it’ll be a dream come true or pure fantacalcio, so stay tuned.