As Roma fans it's probably hard for us to conceptualize just how ludicrously big a team like Real Madrid is. First, there's the small matter of their 13 Champions League titles, then there's their 33 La Liga titles collecting dust on the shelves, not to mention their 19 Copa del Rey titles, oh and there's the small matter of their approximate value: $4.088 billion according to a 2018 list tabulated by Forbes, a figure that made them the third most valuable sports franchise in the world after only the Dallas Cowboys (fml) and Manchester United.
When you can count on silverware nearly every season, when kids in every corner of the globe wear your shirt, and when you can practically print your own money, the players tend to flock to your training grounds. And for every Raul or Roberto Carlos or Iker Casillas, there is an incredibly talented player who never managed to crack the rotation at the Bernabeau; players who, had they signed with an even slightly smaller club, might have had drastically different careers.
And inevitably those slightly less than world class players realize their fortunes rest outside of the Spanish capital with a slightly less glamorous club. More often or not these sorts of players get connected to Roma, whether in rumor or reality. While Cicinho and Julio Baptista made the leap in the early 2000s, the likes of Nacho, Keylor Navas, and Lucas Vazquez have filled the Roma rumor rags nearly every summer for the past several seasons.
With Roma frustratingly torn between the want away Edin Dzeko and the reluctant Gonzalo Higuain, it appears as though the Giallorossi are shopping the Galactico's clearance rack once again, this time checking Mariano Diaz's seams for signs of wear.
Diaz, a 25-year-old striker with roots in Spain and the Dominican Republic, has been a Madrid hopeful since signing on with the Castilian club in 2012. After rising through Madrid's youth ranks, Diaz made his senior team debut during the 2016-2017, logging eight league appearances and scoring one goal.
With a definitive lack of first team opportunities ahead of him, Madrid sent Diaz on loan to Lyon for the 2017-2018 season, which proved to be a stroke of genius. Across all competitions that season, Diaz scored 21 goals in 45 appearances.
Sensing that budding talent, Madrid paid €23 million to bring Diaz back into his good graces, giving him Cristiano Ronaldo's now free number seven shirt too boot. Diaz would make his re-debut in September in the Champions League against, you guessed it, us...
I mean, wow, what a strike! And now that he's gone, we can safely blame Kostas Manolas for that one! I kid, I kid. With that stunning strike in the planet's premiere competition, Mariano obviously went on to have a stellar season in Spain, right?
Well, if by stunning you mean three goals in 441 league minutes, then yes, completely stunning. With Karim Benzema, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asencio and now Luka Jovic and even Eden Hazard ahead of him, Mariano may have to move abroad once again.
Enter Roma. According to Gianluca Di Marzio, Roma have joined a queue consisting of Milan and Spurs for Mariano's services. The sticking point for Roma, as is so often the case, is Mariano's salary, believed to be roughly €6 million. Further complicating matters is Madrid's desire to take Diaz off their books in one fell swoop, meaning a loan + an option wont be, well, an option.
Nevertheless, if Roma are going to invest north of thirty million (transfer + wages) in a striker, a 25-year-old looking to make a name for himself in a top league is a better long-term investment than sinking it into a sometime sully and aging striker.
If his time in Lyon was any indication, Mariano Diaz could be a hidden gem, one Roma might be wise to unearth.