We've talked a lot about Roma’s vaunted youth system over the years (and have a deep looking coming up later this week), and while the Giallorossi rank favorably compared to their peers in terms of giving U21 talents their professional debuts, there is one area in which they've failed tremendously: up top. Whether it's the now erstwhile Ezequiel Ponce, Umar Sadiq, Marco Tumminello, Edoardo Soleri or Antonio Sanabria, Roma just can't seem to nail down the combo of developing and keeping a young striker.
And when you can't grow your own crops, what do you do? You hit up the grocery store. While he's come under a bit of scrutiny lately, Roma bagged a sweet piece of produce when they landed Edin Dzeko from Manchester City several years ago. With nearly 90 goals in all competitions since arriving in the summer of 2015, Edin Dzeko has been worth every penny.
But we live in a what have you don't for me lately world, and lately Dzeko hasn't been quite up to snuff, mustering only nine league goals this past season. And with his returns diminishing, and with a new manager and director in tow, it's not surprising that Dzeko is being connected with a move away from Roma.
By nearly any statistical measure, Dzeko stands as one of Roma's greatest forwards, using his size, strength, and still under-appreciated build-up play to (at times) transform Roma's offense from a wing oriented orchestra into a more forward-driven approach.
Considering his function in the offense and his performance over the years, Roma won't easily replace Dzeko, but as the old adage goes, it's better to lose a player a year too early than a year too late.
The problem, as I'm sure you're well aware, is that Roma's options behind Dzeko are rather slim, to put it mildly. You have the expensive and largely unproven Patrik Schick, who may be on his last legs with Roma, and then...well, nothing. Zan Celar, Roma's 20-year-old Slovenian striker, tore up the Primavera last year but seems headed to Serie B outfit Cittadella for some seasoning, and unless Paulo Fonseca is going to deploy a false nine with his bevvy of wide players, that's really about it.
So, with no appealing options on the bench, it appears as through Roma will be forced to go to the well once more, mining the depths for a late 20s/early 30s striker looking for one last run in a top league.
Enter El Pipita, Gonzalo Higuain. Once the flourish at the end of Juventus’ impressive mid 2010s attacking machine, Higuain eventually found himself on the outside looking in at the Allianz Stadium, losing playing time to everyone from Mario Mandzukic to Paulo Dybala. Higuain's brief Juve career reached its nadir last season, when he was sent out on not one but two loans, splitting time between AC MIlan and later Chelsea.
While Higuain managed five goals in 14 Premiership appearances, and 13 goals between Italy and England, he is increasingly a man without a club. With the Old Lady reportedly informing Higuain that he’s surplus to requirements, Gonzalo may soon find himself with another Italian club.
Just don't tell that to his brother-agent, who claims Higuain, should he remain in Italy, will remain with Juventus. Presumably, this is just posturing from an agent trying to create or maintain his waning leverage, but at 31-years-old, his bro-client only has a few good years left, so it wouldn't make sense to spend those riding the pine for Juventus.
With Higuain in need of a new club and Roma likely in need of a new striker (though that Dzeko to Inter transfer is draggggginnnng so he may just stick around), it didn't take long for folks to connect these dots, going so far as to suggest that Juve will pay a portion of his wages to grease Roma's wheels.
To be sure, this would be a controversial move, as Higuain has fallen off some since his prodigious days with Napoli, but let me throw a video at you...
When this story first started making the rounds I'm sure my reaction wasn't too dissimilar from many of you: No way, he's fat/lazy/unmotivated and moves like Garfield on a Monday, but watch those clips as objectively as you possibly can. He's not fat (he's actually pretty svelte), he's not immobile and he's not simply cherry picking goals; he was working one-twos, picking the ball up well outside the area, and serving as an outlet for his teammates. In a word, he was playing almost exactly like Dzeko, a smaller and quicker Dzeko.
Make no mistake, this would be a gamble, but if Juve are willing to foot a portion of the bill, could a Higuain with a chip on his shoulder push Roma back into the top four?
Barring some surreptitious move for Andrea Belotti, El Pipita might be Roma's best bet, shocking as that might be.