One of the more unique transfers in recent Roma history, Borja Mayoral arrived in Rome in the summer of 2020 on a two-year loan from Real Madrid with options to buy in each summer: €15 million in 2021 or €20 million in 2022. Brought in as a backup to the firmly entrenched but slightly embattled Edin Dzeko, Mayoral was, in some ways, an ideal transfer for a club undergoing a massive transition.
With nine-figure debts dragging down the balance sheets and Dzeko's always uncertain future in the capital, taking a two-year flier on a player that Zinedine Zidane praised for his finishing ability was a smart play for a club just beginning life under their new ownership group, not to mention dealing with the ravages of a global pandemic.
Mayoral wasn't meant to immediately supplant Dzeko in Roma's plans, but having two full seasons to truly weigh and measure what he brings to the table, and deciding whether or not he's a key part of the club's newest project, was an incredibly shrewd move from the Giallorossi. However, despite banging home 17 goals in all competitions during his first season with the club, Roma opted to remain patient, forgoing the €15 million option last summer. By kicking the decision down the road a year, Roma essentially cost themselves an extra five million euros, but it was a risk worth taking; the peace of mind that comes with having two full seasons to truly evaluate a player was worth the added cost.
That approach, while pragmatic, was nearly rendered moot the minute Roma appointed José Mourinho as the club's newest manager. While Mayoral struck up a good working relationship with Paulo Fonseca, Mourinho had no allegiances to him and when the club dropped €45 million on Tammy Abraham and a further €17.5 million on Eldor Shomurodov, Mayoral's future in Rome was effectively sealed—he was not part of the club's long-term plans.
And while that hasn't really changed, after an impressive spot appearance against CSKA Sofia earlier this week, Mayoral may have found a new lease on life in Rome. Previously penciled in for a winter move to Fiorentina, the Corriere della Sera reports that not only is Mayoral likely to start against Spezia on Monday, but he may stick with the capital club through the end of the season.
Now, given the investment Roma made in Abraham and Shomurodov, it's highly unlikely they exercise their €20 million option on the 24-year-old striker, but Mayoral's greatest strengths—off-the-ball movement and finishing rate (26% conversion rate last season)—are two traits Roma has sorely lacked this season.
Roma has nothing to gain financially by letting Mayoral leave in January, so if he can contribute down the stretch—boosting his transfer profile in the process and taking some of the pressure off Shomurodov in the short term—then all parties stand to benefit.
And how often can we say that?