Anytime Roma finds themselves missing a key piece or two, particularly a young piece with enormous upside, they do what most football clubs do: look to Ajax. The world's most famous Dutch football club may boast 35 league titles, 20 league cups, and even four Champions League (or its predecessor, the European Cup) on its resumé but there's no escaping their place in the global football ecosystem: they're a feeder club; a glamorous and legendary one, but a feeder club nonetheless.
It wasn't that long ago that we suggested Roma use the Ajax model for their latest rebuild, so nothing you just read was a knock against Ajax but rather a reflection of the current economic realities of the sport.
This brings us to this afternoon's rumor: Roma is reportedly seeking a left-footed center-back and has, according to Il Romanista, pegged Ajax's Lisandro Martinez as their preferred target. While Roma has four center-backs under contract already, with Chris Smalling's continued fitness issues, Il Romanista reasons that GM Tiago Pinto could be in search of some assurance at the position; some left-footed assurance to be exact.
Martinez, a 23-year-old center-back from Gualeguay, Argentina, is a 5’10” southpaw who arrived in Amsterdam in the summer of 2019 after a €7 million transfer from Argentine club Defensa y Justicia. Known for his passing and dribbling, Martinez has scored five goals and provided five assists in 79 appearances in all competitions. While that may not sound terribly impressive at first glance, over the past year, Martinez has ranked in the 70th percentile or higher (among center-backs) in a host of categories, including passes attempted, passes completed, progressive passes, progressive carries, and even dribbles completed. And he’s no slouch defensively either, ranking in the 75th percentile or higher (among center-backs) in pressures, tackles, and interceptions.
Add all that up and you have a young center-back who is not only offensively gifted and tactically astute but carries the added (and valuable) bonus of being a lefty. Of course, as you can see from the “Welcome to Barcelona” title on that video, Martinez is becoming an increasingly sought-after commodity on the transfer market. At his age and with a newly extended Ajax deal (through 2025), Martinez won't come cheap, as Il Romanista speculates the bidding will begin at €25 million.
If Pinto is scared off by, or unable to meet, that price, he may look to Galatasaray's Brazilian center-back (also a lefty) Marcao, who is older and cheaper than Martinez. Il Romanista also adds Feyenoord's Marcos Senesi to the list of possibilities, who falls somewhere in between Martinez and Marcao on the cost scale but holds an Italian passport, which would make the particulars of the transfer theoretically easier.
Adding a left-footed center-back to a shopping list that may already include a defensive midfielder, a right-back, and possibly even another winger should keep Tiago Pinto plenty busy as we approach the holiday shopping season.