Since the arrival of Jim Pallotta and his American ownership consortium, Roma has never found consistency between the sticks. Roma’s had the good (Alisson Becker, Wojciech Szczęsny, Morgan De Sanctis), the bad (Robin Olsen, Maarten Stekelenburg), and the ugly (Mauro Goicoechea), but no matter what the quality of the keeper, the owner of the #1 kit has not been consistent. Roma’s most recent experiment at starting goalkeeper, Robin Olsen, can accurately be described as a failure for Roma for a variety of reasons. First, Olsen has reportedly still not learned Italian, leading to a lack of communication between the Swede and his defense. Second, his form was poor enough last season to warrant fellow new signing Antonio Mirante take over the starting goalkeeper spot - not what you want to happen when you drop €12 million on an attempted replacement for Alisson.
In any event, it’s long seemed evident that Roma would be looking for a new starting goalkeeper via the transfer market this summer. At age 35, Mirante was never going to be anything beyond a short-term solution, and while Daniel Fuzato has impressed at the Primavera level, he still has some way to go until he can fight for the first-string spot in the senior side.
Enter new DS Gianluca Petrachi, and with him, Pau Lopez. The 24-year-old Lopez started his career at Espanyol, but moved to Betis on a free transfer in 2018. Other than a one-year loan stint at Tottenham Hotspur, Lopez has only played in Spain’s La Liga and Segunda Division (for Espanyol’s B team), and one of the recurring themes of his career so far is coach’s praising his mentality. Former coach Manolo Marquez once told El Pais that “Pau once made a horrendous blunder, and it usually takes goalkeepers a few minutes to recover, but he just continued as usual.” Considering the mentality issues that have plagued the Giallorossi for what feels like forever, signing a goalie who can keep a cool head in bad situations will be a wonderful antidote for the Robin Olsen experience.
I’m not an expert on goalkeeping in any sport (when I played football, I was a forward; other than that, I’ve rowed crew and played as an outfielder in Little League, and neither of those sports have much in common with goalkeeping), but Bren’s recent commentary on Lopez’s highlight reel makes sense to me:
Like I said, I can’t really hid(e) my ignorance; I had never heard of this guy prior to a few week ago, but if we use YouTube highlights as our first impression, then Roma might be onto something here. The first thing I noticed, as a former hockey goalie myself, was his lateral quickness, how quickly he can get to the ground to snuff out a shot, and the reckless abandon with which he plays, and I mean that in a good way. Notice how he pounces on crosses or through balls without a second thought; to be sure that’s a fine line to tread, but passivity in net didn’t get Roma anywhere last season.
Unfortunately, it appears that the price tag for Lopez has gone up since Bren’s article on the Spaniard. Where the rumored price was once €18 million, the price has now shot up to €20 million and the remaining half of the rights to Tonny Sanabria, valued at around €7 million. My first reaction? I’ve always hoped that Sanabria could find space in Rome, but with this move, I have a feeling that Tonny will ply his wares in Spain for the rest of his career. Considering that Sky is saying that Lopez’s medical will be on Monday, I have a feeling this will indeed be the final price for the goalie, and although it’s not a high price in today’s crazy transfer market, it’s still nearly €15 million more than what Roma reportedly paid for Olsen. Despite having avoided the wrath of Financial Fair Play, i Lupi are still on financial thin ice; dropping this much on a goalkeeper means that goalkeeper better be successful (or at least earn the club a nice profit).
It remains to be seen if Roma has found an adequate goalkeeper in Lopez, but the signs on this transfer look positive to me. If Lopez turns out poorly, though, it would be a major blight on Petrachi’s brand-new reputation with the Giallorossi.