We'll delve into the particulars in due time, but this coming transfer window may be like few others in recent memory. With the Financial Fair Play rules relaxed for the 2021 season and the top of the table potentially up for grabs—not to mention log jams at spots three through nine and even at the bottom of the standings—we may see more moves and more spending than January typically offers.
And for a club like Roma, who remain in the thick of a five or six-team battle for Italy's final two Champions League places, and who desperately need that European revenue to move the project forward, the moves made (or not made) over the next month could make all the difference.
So, to set the stage for the January transfer market, the CdT crew assembled to discuss the potential comings and goings for what is sure to be an intriguing month ahead.
1. Before we dive into the winter market, which of Roma’s summer signings has impressed you most thus far, and which one can have an even greater impact in the second half of the season?
JonAS: Simone Farelli, the steady unbreakable force between Roma’s posts! In all seriousness, there wasn’t really a lot of action in our recent Summer mercato, guys like Smalling, Villar, Veretout and Mikhi were already in Rome before Summer. So I’ll go for Marash Kumbulla. A very smart piece of business by Roma. People tend to forget he’s only 20 years old but has already quite some Serie A games under his belt. He’ll only get better and alongside Ibanez and Mancini, Roma suddenly has Italy’s most promising and talented defence. We’ve come a long way indeed. Simone Loria, anyone?
Bren: yeah, it was a pretty quiet summer, especially compared to the past few, but I’m going to say that Pedro has been the most impressive new signing. Despite his resume, I wasn’t terribly familiar with his style of play, but from the minute he stepped on the pitch, it was like “Okay, now I get it.” He’s so intelligent and moves so intuitively, he just makes everyone around him better. He's slowed down a bit for sure, but he was awfully impressive to start the season.
As far as which summer signing can have the biggest impact in the spring of 2021, it’s gotta be Borja. He’s making incremental progress bit by bit and seems like he might even make a case for regular Serie A minutes.
dallagente: I think it was Steven who made the point a while back, and I agree with him and Jonas that Kumbulla was a smart piece of business that lets the defence get some continuity, even in the worst-case scenario where we end up selling someone like Ibanez this year. But my pick is Mkhitaryan, simply because he has to be one of the best Roma free transfers in recent memory.
ssciavillo: While I agree with dalla that Mikhi with have the greatest impact, but since he was already in the capital last season I’ll look elsewhere. I like Kumbulla’s game but still think when everyone is fit he’s the fourth choice, so I’m going to agree with bren and go with Borja. I just see his role growing throughout the season, plus a striker tends to have more opportunities off the bench than a center back.
Jimmy: If we’re counting Mkhitaryan as a summer signing, he definitely is the answer. He’s created more goals so far this season than his former club, for Totti’s sake. Outside of the Armenian, I’m most excited by Kumbulla. He’s got a calming presence on the field that reminds me of peak Roma Fazio, but he’s only 20.
dallagente: I like to think of Kumbulla as a young Solid Snake, and Fazio as Big Boss.
2. Winter is typically about fleshing out the roster for the stretch run, but can you see Roma making any sales this month? If so, who?
JonAS: I must say Fonseca’s rotation system impressed me. Even Santon, Jesus, and Fazio were at one point important pieces and had some decent displays. Since there are Coppa games and of course the next round of Europa League coming up, I’m not so eager to sell a lot, if any players. You never know when Corona or the ACL ghost strikes again. Perhaps loan out Boer, Milanese, or Providence? No wait, getting rid of Pastore might actually be higher on my wish list. And that saddens me cause I was once a huge fan of Javier…
Bren: Yeah, you bring up a great point about the pandemic; we’ve certainly lost a few players for long stretches already. I think the obvious answer is Pau Lopez, but that’s a tough ask for the winter market; you’d need a club desperate for a keeper change mid-season and one willing to take on that salary or give Roma somewhere around €15 to €20 million. I’d also keep an eye on guys like Milanese; there is no Primavera season at the moment, so maybe a loan would be in order?
JonAS: We can loan him to Milan if they give us Romagnoli? Ba dum tss!
dallagente: I can’t think of anyone I’d want to sell, even if putting an end to Pastore and Pau Lopez would be ideal for all parties involved. So I’ll just hope that Rennes put their Champions League money to good use and decide to make Nzonzi permanent, six months early.
ssciavillo: I can’t really see us selling anyone. Even the most expendable players on the roster like Juan Jesus, Fazio, and Santon have been useful at times this season. And I can’t really see anyone making a serious offer for one of them. I also think moving on from Pau would be tough mid-season unless they have another keeper up their sleeve. There’d be no real option in the event Mirante gets injured.
Jimmy: I think we’re probably going to look to sell a right-back and maybe Pau. If the Bryan Reynolds rumors are true, I doubt we need him, Karsdorp, and Peres in the squad; meanwhile, Pau just seems extraneous even though we only really have Mirante as a serviceable starter beyond him.
3. Roma isn’t typically a busy team during the winter transfer window, but we saw several key pieces come to the capital last January. Given the state of the team, the finances, and the table, what sort of transfer window are you expecting: big signings? No signings? Something in between?
JonAS: I expect only one player incoming: The Pharaoh. He’s the missing piece, really. We’re stuffed at the back, in midfield and thanks to the resurgence of Peres and Karsdorp + the rise of Calafiori and Spinazzola we don’t actually need to buy a fullback this time! God, is this really AS Roma we’re talking about? SES will be hyper-motivated for Euro 2021 while he always had a soft spot for Rome and the club. Fans will welcome him with open arms so it’s a win-win for everybody in this case.
Bren: Come on, Jonas. Roma will always need full-backs. I think finding depth behind Pedro will be the most likely area of focus, though we can’t count out central defenders if they part ways with either Fazio or Jesus.
dallagente: I expect Roma to sound out any opportunity to get a strong, physical right-back who can give Karsdorp competition. That’s no disrespect to Bruno Peres, who’s done well but simply isn’t that type of player. We’re looking for the Zaniolo of right backs, essentially. I remember there was a bid put Lille’s Celik back in August, maybe they will sound him out again.
ssciavillo: I don’t expect many moves, but I’d be shocked if they don’t make a move for SES. He’d be a perfect fit to add quality depth to go along with Mikhi and Pedro. Couple him with the eventual return of Zaniolo and Roma could be set up for the stretch run to make a serious top 4 challenge. Goalkeeper has probably overtaken RB as the next biggest position of need, but I think it’d be difficult to move for a quality keeper in January. So, other than SES, I could see a move for a RWB with potential on an affordable deal with Bruno Peres’ contract set to expire in June.
Jimmy: I’m expecting a couple tweaks to the roster. Nothing earth-shattering, but maybe some smart depth moves a la Ibanez and Villar that could pay off in the long term.
4. Okay, don’t give us any names just yet, but which position(s) does Roma need to address during the January transfer window?
JonAS: Well damn, I just blew it all up with question 3, didn’t I? Okay, ignore my previous answer. Hmmm, tough question! Well, maybe…. Uhhh…. Someone…. Errrrrr, I don’t know. Perhapssss… A guy up front to rotate with Pedro and Mikhi? Might be useful.
Bren: Shit, I kind of just answered it, too! I’m not expecting any HUGE signings, but a forward capable of playing out wide or in one of the inside forward positions (depending on the formation) seems like the safe bet. Though, as I just said, look out for any possible veteran CBs.
JonAS: Left-footed, preferably. Does anyone have Gabriel Heinze’s number?
dallagente: Yeah I’ve been wanting a left-footed CB at the club for years. We saw what a difference playing Kolarov in the middle did for our attack last year, but I can only see the club needing to strengthen at right-back, or doing a goalkeeper swap if Lopez is sent packing.
Ssciavillo: Like mentioned above, I’d say another forward/attacking midfielder type like some guy who left for China a couple of summers ago. Other than that a developmental option behind Karsdorp could be an option.
Jimmy: Everyone else took my thunder with the forward suggestion, and I’ll add that a right-back is definitely needed. Neither Karsdorp nor Peres impress me.
5. Based on what you just said, are there any internal options for those positions that could save Roma from dipping into the transfer market?
JonAS: Milanese looks promising. People are praising Providence and Zalewski too. Maybe they can take the leap? Zaniolo will need time so I’m counting on him for next season. Who knows, maybe Pastore performs a ‘Jezus’ and arises from the dead like a fenix to score 10 goals in the second half of the season as one of the CAM’s in Fonseca’s 3-4-2-1?
Bren: Yeah, as crazy as it might sound, I think we’re sort of forgetting that we might be getting Zaniolo back in March; that’d be a huge boost, needless to say. I suppose if Fonseca really sees something in Providence or Zalewski or someone of that ilk, we may not need a new attacker. And, of course, Pastore could fill a lot of holes if he could actually suit up.
dallagente: I can only think of Riccardo Ciervo. He’s built to be tall yet mobile, so he’s an intriguing prospect.
ssciavillo: Some of the Primavera prospects are certainly intriguing and seem very talented. Milanese has been impressive in EL action but doesn’t really fill a position of need. Also, I think it could be risky for Roma to rely on a young kid behind Mikhi and Pedro if they could reel in SES on an affordable deal. Zaniolo, as I’ve mentioned on Across the Romaverse, could be the X factor down the stretch even if it’s in 15-20 minute spurts off the bench.
Jimmy: There’s this kid named Nicolo who I’m hoping can get some minutes this spring at the attacking midfielder position. Beyond that, Milanese seems quite promising, but I don’t think he’d fit as a rotation option in the attacking midfielder role. He seems more comfortable paired with a Veretout or a Diawara.
6. Talk about Stephan El Shaarawy for a minute. He was nearly back over the summer but the timing didn’t quite work out, can (or should) Roma fans assume SES will return in January? If so, how do you see him fitting in Fonseca’s rotation?
JonAS: It’s too good to be true but there are already reports linking him to AS Roma so I think a deal shouldn’t be too hard. Roma wants it, Stephan wants it. There simply wasn’t enough time back in the Summer, mainly due to Perotti’s late transfer. He can be useful to take some pressure off Pedro and Mikhi, who are on the wrong side of 30. He can even play as a forward instead of or next to Dzeko. SES can play anywhere up front and that’s why Roma should move for him. Versatility. The only downside is he could pry away valuable minutes from Borja which could harm the Spaniard’s development.
Bren: It’s always dangerous to assume, but if Roma pulled off that Perotti sale sooner, El Shaarawy might already be here, but it does feel like it’s going to happen; that it has to happen. He’s spent most of the year in Rome anyway, and I don’t really buy all these other links (Fiorentina, for example) I think he’ll be the lone winter purchase actually.
dallagente: I think it’s as close to a certainty as you can get that SES will be signed in January. But I’ll be real, I can’t see what problem we’re solving by bringing him in. Maybe when we need a spectacular goal out of nothing, SES will come good on that front. But we’ve got goals.
ssciavillo: I think it will happen if all the reports are to be believed. I think it will give us some much-needed depth in the attacking midfield/forward role. You don’t want to burn Mikhi and Pedro out so that they’re running on fumes down the stretch.
Jimmy: To quote a wise man (Jack Klugman in The Odd Couple), assumptions make an ass out of you and me. Given that, adding SES will make it a lot easier to slowly reintroduce Zaniolo to the first team, and hell, I definitely miss Stephan. At the very least he’s going to make Pedro’s life a bit easier - I think the reason he’s struggled recently is just because he’s not used to playing this much!
7. Okay, go crazy: give us a couple of names Roma would be wise to pursue this winter.
JonAS: How cool would it be to bring in both Faraoni AND Stephan ‘Pharaoh’ El Shaarawy? Faraoni looks like a more than decent player and might come in quite cheap. He could turn into a Cassetti/Tonetto/Taddei type of deal. Gollini from Atalanta if Pau suddenly decides to leave Rome. Tomiyasu from Bologna if one of Fazio or Jesus leaves. And if the deal with SES falls through, why not go for Berardi or Boga?
Bren: El Shaarawy makes a ton of sense for a variety of reasons, so I think that’s the most likely move, but you know I’d love to see Fabien Centonze from Metz or, depending on what happens with the defense, maybe Armando Izzo.
JonAS: Enough with the Fabien Centonze idolization, Bren!
dallagente: Find any loophole possible in Juan Musso’s contract.
ssciavillo: If we’re playing fantasy football without money constraints then find a way to sign Musso or Alessio Cragno. We can’t have Pau cost us the top 4 the way Olsen did two seasons ago.
Jimmy: I’m here for the El Sha reunion, and I would love it if Roma signed Gianluca Scamacca, even if they just loaned him back for the rest of the season. Roma’s attacking experience is a gift right now, but very soon it could become a liability. That worries me.
8. Is Papu Gomez a legitimate possibility, or is he destined for one of the Milan clubs? How would he fit in with this current Roma side?
Bren: Well, I think he’s probably more likely heading to one of those clubs, but he’d be a hell of an addition and would give Fonseca so many more options in attack alongside Pellegrini, Mkhitaryan, and Pedro. You find a way to add a guy that talented, regardless of what position he may play—he’s just too good.
JonAS: Yeah, always been a fan of Papu. He’s the type of player Roma really needs to take it to the next level (top 4 finish, Coppa or Europa League finals). I really wanted him in Rome but that was some time ago. He’s almost 33 and we already have Pedro, Dzeko and Mikhi up front. We’re not a retirement home. I think he might end up at Inter, Argentinians have a special bond with that club it seems. That said: Pellegrini, Veretout, Mikhi, Papu and Dzeko all on the field at once, that would really give some fireworks. And you can always sub in Pedro. And don’t forget Zaniolo! Oh damn, why not, c’mon make it happen Fienga!
dallagente: I have a lot of respect for Papu’s game and how he’s turned into a great number 10 over the last few seasons, but I wouldn’t sign him. We have Mkhitaryan. And if Gomez proclaims he loves the Atalanta fans as much as he does, he wouldn’t risk ticking them off by moving to Roma.
ssciavillo: I think it’s more likely he ends up in Milan if he stays in Serie A. He would be another quality addition into the attack next to Mikhi or Pedro, but he’d be another older player at almost 33. So, I don’t see it happening or really want it to happen unless it’s on a bargain of a deal.
Jimmy: As Jonas said, I think Papu would’ve been great in Rome a couple years ago, but I don’t think he’s a fit at this point. I already said I want more youth in attack; bringing in Papu would make that way more unlikely.
9. Jimmy gave us a breakdown of Roma's recent winter mercatos, but who is your favorite Roma winter purchase of all time?
Bren: My heart is torn between Luca Toni and El Shaarawy, but I’ll lean towards Toni because that felt like a game-changer the minute they signed him. Remember, El Shaarawy was a bit of a reclamation project at that point after bottoming out with Monaco. I’m still at a loss why Roma let Toni walk after those six months, but he was a dream pairing with Totti and for the first time during that era, it really felt like Roma were making big moves.
JonAS: Radja Nainggolan, obviously. Belgium 4 Life. And let’s not forget the amazing Christian Wilhelmsson as well.
dallagente: Those are all good shouts, especially Nainggolan, but I’ll go old-school for the sake of it and say Zago. He was a really bad defender, but managed to be a cult hero all the same. I still get nostalgic whenever I read his name on the web.
Ssciavillo: Oh man, all great shouts. I love SES and Radja, but I think I’ll have to go with Toni just because of how close that move brought us to a Scudetto.
Jimmy: SES was the bigger name, but the signing of Diego Perotti that same mercato arguably had the bigger long-term impact on Roma. He turned Totti’s last game into a victory, and did the same with DDR. For that, I’ll always be grateful, and for that, he’ll always be my favorite winter signing.
Bren: Too bad Roma never signed Davide Moscardelli, that dude was built for winter.
JonAS: I read somewhere there are approx. 21 bird species living inside his beard.