It might not seem like it given his lack of appearances, but Bryan Reynolds has already been a part of Roma since February 1st. Roma’s American Bryan joined the Giallorossi a bit more than nine months ago on a €7 million loan-to-buy deal as one of Dan Friedkin’s first purchases with the club, making him the second player Roma has signed from the United States. At the time, we were cautiously optimistic about the signing; after all, we had beaten Juventus to signing Reynolds, and all signs from his performances at the MLS level suggested that he was “big, fast, and technical; the stuff coaches dream of.”
Unfortunately, the combination of Paulo Fonseca clearly being at the end of his time in Rome and José Mourinho not having much inclination to rotate has meant that Reynolds has rarely seen the pitch in his short time at the Olimpico. The 20-year-old has clocked a smidge over 90 minutes this season in all competitions, with the bulk of those minutes coming in Roma’s ignominious defeat to Bodø/Glimt. This lack of playing time in the first half of the season (and Mourinho’s tendency to complain about having only Reynolds as a backup right-back) has made it clear that if Roma’s investment is going to pay off, the American is going to need a chance to get first-team minutes somewhere other than Rome.
Of course, the way things are going there’s still a chance that Reynolds might leave permanently in January; his move from Dallas to Rome certainly hasn’t turned him into an overnight superstar at the Olimpico, despite Rick Karsdorp’s sometimes-shaky performances. Some sources have suggested Reynolds might move permanently to a smaller Serie A side or to the Bundesliga (where many an American international develops into a superstar), but if you ask me, a loan would be far more beneficial for both Reynolds and Roma at this stage in his career.
Reynolds certainly has the innate talent to one day be a starter for a club like the Giallorossi, and I would argue that if Roma didn’t have Riccardo Calafiori, Romanisti would view Reynolds as the unquestionably most intriguing prospect in the organization. The fact that Calafiori exists and is Roman, though, makes it a lot harder for Reynolds to convince fans that he’s the real deal. Fans naturally give the Roman-born academy products more rope than any American import will ever get, and Reynolds’ price tag automatically raises the stakes for him to a much higher level than the expectations for Primavera players like Felix Afena-Gyan or Nicola Zalewski.
So, where could Reynolds go for a six-month reprieve from José Mourinho and a chance to prove he has what it takes to The Special One? Here are a couple options.
Option One: Show Your Stuff at Sassuolo
Roma and Sassuolo have had a strong relationship since the Emilia-Romagna club became a fixture in Serie A. In fact, sometimes it seems like the Neroverdi are a junior affiliate for the Giallorossi, with Roma’s best prospects (including current captain Lorenzo Pellegrini) often spending a couple of seasons with Sassuolo when they’re too good for Roma’s Primavera side but not experienced enough to garner a starting place at the Olimpico. Why not send Reynolds on a six-month excursion to play for Alessio Dionisi’s men?
Sassuolo are currently standing in fifteenth place and sure seem like they could use some help at right-back. Jeremy Toljan, Sassuolo’s most frequent choice at right-back, has been quite disappointing to start the season; he has a 6.3 WhoScored rating on average, making him the second-lowest-rated starter for his club. Dionisi’s other options at right-back haven’t impressed either, with Turkish fullback Mürt Muldur earning the same 6.3 average rating, so this sure seems like an ideal opportunity for Reynolds to come in, assert himself as the best right-back in the squad, and get a high volume of Serie A minutes for the next six months.
Option Two: Join Another American In Venice
If Roma don’t send Reynolds to Sassuolo, Venezia may be a great short-term landing spot for the American international. Granted, Venezia’s recent victory over the Giallorossi might make some Romanisti less than eager to further strengthen Gli Arancioneroverdi, but there are some good reasons to give Reynolds a chance to play for Paolo Zanetti’s men.
First and foremost, it certainly wouldn’t hurt for Reynolds to play with another young American prospect, which Venezia have in Gianluca Busio. Busio is around the same age as Reynolds, and there’s every reason to believe that training with the former Sporting Kansas City man might help Reynolds better adjust to Serie A and Italy. Venezia also aren’t exactly deep at right-back either, with Pasquale Mazzocchi being... fine, but certainly not a major roadblock in Reynolds’ way if he moved to Venezia looking for starter’s minutes.
Option Three: A Bundesliga Loan For Bryan?
Let’s say Roma don’t want to send Reynolds anywhere in Serie A, or there aren’t any suitors who will promise the American enough playing time to make the loan worth the Giallorossi’s time. In that case, I’d suggest that a move to the Bundesliga might be in the cards for Bryan, albeit on a temporary basis. Everyone knows that the Bundesliga seems to have a knack for turning American prospects into superstars; just ask Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna. If Reynolds was moved to the right Bundesliga club, he might get the time he needs to develop before returning to the lion’s den that is Trigoria.
One specific destination that might work out beautifully for all involved is Borussia Mönchengladbach. Roma are reportedly in negotiations with Mönchengladbach over the potential transfer of Denis Zakaria; if Tiago Pinto is able sweeten the deal by sending Reynolds over on loan, it could be a win-win for both clubs and both players. Zakaria gets a chance to train with the Special One and push for Champions League football, while Reynolds gets a break from the Special One slamming him in post-match press conferences and gets to develop alongside players like Matthias Ginter, Florian Neuhaus, and more.
The biggest issue with this hare-brained scheme is that Mönchengladbach already have their own American right-back prospect, 18-year-old Joe Scally. However, the number of cards Scally seems to pick up whenever he plays combined with the fact that no right-back has been impressing for Mönchengladbach so far this season suggests that there might still be room for Reynolds with Die Fohlen. It’d certainly be harder for Reynolds to cement himself as a starting-caliber right-back with Mönchengladbach than with Venezia or Sassuolo, but the rewards might be even sweeter.
Option Four: When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going
Reynolds and Roma do have one other option for the second half of the season: they could just keep him in Rome. The Giallorossi certainly don’t have the depth to send Reynolds out on loan without bringing in another right-back who can at least act as an emergency backup to Rick Karsdorp. Although Roma have been linked to a wide variety of right-backs for the January window, it would no doubt take some time for any new signing to learn the ropes of José Mourinho’s tactics.
Given that, one has to wonder if it might make sense to keep Reynolds around and transform him into the full-back that José Mourinho wants in his back-up to Karsdorp, even if Tiago Pinto brings in another right-back. Karsdorp has done well with injuries so far this season, but the Dutchman’s prior history doesn’t inspire confidence that he will suddenly become an iron man any time soon. If Karsdorp goes down for the eight count, wouldn’t it make sense to have both a new signing at right-back and Bryan Reynolds in the fold?
Reynolds said in a recent interview that he’s hoping that he can use the rest of the season to show Mourinho that he has what it takes to be relied upon as a squad player with Roma for the long-term. It’s admirable that he seems to want to tough it out and prove his worth at the club; it shows a level of mental fortitude that others like Gonzalo Villar don’t seem to have.
The question is if he’ll be better served on that quest by going out on loan or by staying in Rome. The right loan could have the same effect on Reynolds as Alessio Romagnoli’s loan to Sampdoria or Lorenzo Pellegrini’s half-loan, half-transfer to Sassuolo, but the wrong loan could result in little to no growth for the American. Compared to the wrong loan, where Reynolds just sits on the pine in a different city, it would certainly help him to continue training with Mourinho and maybe (just maybe) get more playing time in the spring. It certainly isn’t unheard of for prospects to get more time later on in the season, after all.
It’s important to remember that Reynolds is still quite young; he turns 21 in June, and outside of Riccardo Calafiori he’s the youngest player in Rome who’s not splitting time between the Primavera and the senior squad. There’s still plenty of time for Reynolds to turn into a star fullback for club and country, but it’s unreasonable to expect him to be that before he can legally buy a drink in his home nation. Hopefully Tiago Pinto and José Mourinho can recognize that Reynolds still has the ability to become a long-term fixture at the Olimpico; if they do that, and send him on a loan where he can develop a bit further away from the insanity of the Roman media, they might have something truly special on their hands.
What should Roma do with Bryan Reynolds this January?
This poll is closed
Loan him to Sassuolo; Roman prospects do well there.
Loan him to Venezia (or another small Serie A side); he needs the minutes, and it wouldn’t hurt to be around another American.
Loan him to the Bundesliga, maybe even as part of a Denis Zakaria transfer.
Keep him in Rome. Roma isn’t deep enough at right-back, and trial by fire can turn players into stars.