When it comes to transfer market operations, Roma has tried literally every strategy imaginable: they've spent big money on young players coming off career years (Schick, Iturbe), they've unearthed hidden gems (Marquinhos, Ibañez), they've paid top dollar for proven veterans (Dzeko, Nainggolan) and they've made enormous profits off relatively cheap signings (Alisson, Lamela, Pjanic).
None of these tactics are exactly new—all teams do them in varying combinations every year—and they've each produced their share of hits and misses, but there is one market inefficiency Roma has exploited with great success lately: gambling on aging Premiership players.
The self-proclaimed best league in the world also happens to be the most lucrative league in the world, which, while great for everyone involved, tends to shorten the leash for players past their prime. The Premiership may be long on money, but they're incredibly short on patience if you've lost a step or two.
And nearly every summer, otherwise useful veterans find themselves cast out from the Premiership due to age, injury or simply falling out of favor. While this can be quite a shock to the player's system, it presents a unique opportunity for clubs like Roma, who are always on the hunt for a bargain.
The club's first trip down this path (Ashley Cole) was an unmitigated disaster, but over the past several years the likes of Edin Dzeko, Aleksandar Kolarov, Chris Smalling, Pedro and Henrikh Mkhitaran have found new life in the Eternal City.
New Roma GM Tiago Pinto and his staff will have to explore every avenue to improve the team, but given how incredibly successful they've been with aging Premiership players, they might as well keep going to that well, right?
With that in mind, here are a few options that might tempt Pinto this summer. Each of these Premiership players are at least 28 to 30-years-old (or will be by next season) and have seen their roles with their respective clubs diminish. Some remain under contract while others are impending free agents, but we've tried to keep it somewhat realistic, so as much as Roma could use someone like Kyle Walker, he's just a bit too expensive.
Giving Premiership castoffs a new lease on life isn't exactly on par with Billy Beane's paradigm shifting work in baseball in the early 2000s, but it's proving to be a simple, pragmatic and effective way to round out and improve Roma's squad.
So, with that in mind, let's take a look a few names who might trade the gloomy British skies for the sun kissed hills of Rome ahead of next season.
Club: Arsenal | Position: CB | Contract: June 2021
Way, way, way back in 2014, yours truly beat the drum for Roma to sign Mustafi, who was fresh off a stellar two-year run with Sampdoria. Valencia beat Roma to the punch, signing the then 22-year-old German defender for a cool €8 million. Mustafi turned in two more solid seasons in La Liga before signing with Arsenal in the summer of 2016 for €41 million.
And it's best that we don't discuss anything after that date. Thanks to a litany of injuries and some spotty play, Mustafi has been a bit of a disappointment to the Gunners faithful. Despite drawing the ire of Arsenal fans, Mustafi has actually had a decent run with the London-based club, tallying well over 100 appearances in all competitions.
But, thanks to those injuries and ever-present transfer rumors, not to mention his expiring contract and lack of traction on a new deal, Mustafi might be ripe for the plucking this summer. At only 28, he's likely to have plenty of suitors, so it wouldn't be an easy negotiation, but with Roger Ibañez likely to be courted heavily this summer, Mustafi could slot right in alongside Gianluca Mancini, Chris Smalling and Marash Kumbulla to maintain Roma’s strong defensive record.
Club: Manchester City | Position: F/AM | Contract: June 2021
With over 200 goals and over 50 assists in all competitions, it's safe to say that City's €40 million purchase from the summer of 2011 has paid off handsomely. But Father Time waits for no man, and believe it or not, El Kun will be 33-years-old next summer and has seen his minutes decrease over the past two years.
Despite a drop in playing time and some minor injury issues, Agüero has been good for 0.91 goals per 90 minutes in Premier League play over the past three seasons. He'll likely never be more than a part time player at this point in his career, but some Kun is better than no Kun and Agüero could slot in nicely as an option behind Dzeko up top or even spell Mkhitaryan in attacking midfield.
The prospect of adding Agüero likely depends on whether or not Roma exercise Borja Mayoral's option next summer, but coming on a free, you could do a lot worse for a utility forward than a 33-year-old Agüero.
Club: Tottenham | Position: CB | Contract: June 2023
He's been connected with Roma so many times over the past few summers, he's destined to make the switch sooner or later. While he suffered an injury over the weekend, Alderweireld has been a mainstay for Spurs over the past several years, logging over 30 appearances in three of the past four seasons.
Soon to be 32-years-old and with only two years remaining on his deal, Alderweireld might finally fall into Roma's price range. Should Roma part with one of their young center-backs, or even if they dare to make Mancini a midfielder, Alderweireld would make a solid addition to the club's back line. Plus, Roma are always better with a Belgian, right?
Club: Manchester United | Position: DM | Contract: June 2023
While signing Matic won't exactly move the needle, as an experienced defensive midfielder, he fills an area of immediate need. Once a lock for 25 to 30 appearances, Matic has seen his playing time drop precipitously over the past few years, reaching a nadir of only 1,581 minutes last year; his lowest mark since 2013-2014 with Chelsea, his first season in the Premiership.
Despite seeing less of the pitch, Matic remains what he's always been: a solid and steadying presence in midfield. While he isn't exactly turning the game on its head, he'll still complete roughly 89% of his passes and dispossess roughly 30% of would be dribblers, so he'd give Fonseca another option to close out matches.
Club: Chelsea | Position: FB | Contract: June 2022
While Azpilicueta remains an integral part of Chelsea's plans—3,000 minutes played in each of the past five seasons—at 31-years-old (32 by next season) and with only one year remaining on his deal following the ‘20-’21 season, Chelsea might be amenable to selling their Spanish full-back.
Azpilicueta has played left and right back during his days at Stamford Bridge, not to mention central defense and even midfield, so he's a remarkably versatile player. More than his ability to move all over the pitch, Azpilicueta remains an effective player, scoring 7 goals and chipping in 21 assists across all competitions over the past three years.
Roma would definitely be getting him on the down swing of his career, but even at 32, Azpilicueta would arguably be the best right-back the club has seen since a healthy and motivated Maicon came to town in 2014.
Club: Crystal Palace | Position: F | Contract: June 2022
The youngest player on this list (he'll be 28 by next season), Batshuayi is no stranger to the Roma rumor mill, having popped up in these spaces as far back as 2016 when he was fresh off a 17 goal and 9 assist performance with Marseilles. With almost as many transfers as goals since then (Marseilles to Chelsea, Chelsea to Dortmund, Dortmund to Crystal Palace, Crystal Palace to Valencia, Valencia back to Chelsea and Chelsea back to Crystal Palace), Batshuayi hasn't exactly lived up to his once enormous potential.
But with time on his side and a change of scenery, perhaps Roma can unlock that dormant potential? With Dzeko in tow, Batshuayi wouldn't face the pressure of being “the man” and could bide his time adjusting to a new league and hopefully rediscover the player he once was.
There isn't really much foundation for these hopes, but Batshuayi has always tantalized with his athleticism, explosiveness, and yes, his potential. If he's not a buy-low candidate, I don't know who is.
With Roma in the thick of the top four race, everything in the Romaverse is hunky-dory at the moment, but take one look at Roma's recent financial reports and you're met with a stark reality: the club are in dire financial straits. And as such, every penny counts. Roma won't be in a position to compete for young top tier talent any time soon, so capitalizing on the impatience of English clubs will remain a viable path to improving the squad.
So, what do you think: can any of these names repeat the success of Chris Smalling or Henrikh Mkhitaryan?