While Euro 2020 has pushed the transfer rumor mill to the back pages, there has been a steady undercurrent of stories linking Roma to a host of players, including a young and lanky striker, a bleach blonde defensive midfielder, and a rather famous veteran center-back. That’s just a quick sampling but in-between the end of the Serie A season and the start of the European Championships, Roma was connected to a litany of players at those positions. The same cannot be said, however, for goalkeeper, where Wolverhampton's Portuguese portieri, Rui Patricio, has dominated the headlines.
The 33-year-old isn't short on experience, but his statistical profile shows a keeper on the decline—a steep decline. And with some whispers that Roma are cooling on Patricio, possibly looking to Atalanta netminder Pierluigi Gollini, I thought it might be interesting to look at a few less-heralded keepers that might tickle Roma GM Tiago Pinto's fancy.
For each keeper, we're going to focus on stats that illuminate their shot-stopping ability and command of the area. Since Mourinho doesn't really need a sweeper-keeper or someone who can drop dimes into the attacking third a la Alisson Becker, we're not going to concern ourselves with actions outside of the penalty area or the length and accuracy of goal kicks, though those are certainly worthwhile factors when analyzing goalkeepers. Furthermore, given the club's financial resources, most of these names skew on the more affordable side of the transfer spectrum.
While most of these keepers ply their trade abroad, we’re going to start with a familiar name to most Serie A fans, one who quietly put together an excellent season.
Club: Genoa (on loan from Juventus)
Market Value: €7 million
Contract: June 2022
The way Juventus collects players, particularly Italian players, reminds me a bit of former late-night host Jay Leno and his famous collection of classic cars, which reportedly numbers close to 300. I mean, he can only drive one at a time, so there are hundreds that just sit neglected in his garage, which has to be the size of a small airplane hanger.
Rather than being driven by people who would truly appreciate and cherish them, they just sit there collecting dust, kind of like the hordes of talented players who move to Juventus only to see their playing careers flounder due to the Old Lady's deep roster and even deeper pockets.
Such was the case with Mattia Perin, who moved to Juventus in the summer of 2018, only to play second fiddle to Wojciech Szczesny. Perin netted a nice paycheck of course, but the opportunity cost saw him piddle away one of the prime years of an already injury-marred career.
Sensing the futility of this move, Perin soon made his way back to Genoa and just put the finishing touches on one of the finest seasons of his career.
Stats & Ranks
- 8 clean-sheets (5th in Serie A),
- 3.74 saves per 90 minutes (2nd in Serie A, 10th in Europe's top five leagues)
- 76% save percentage (2nd in Serie A)
- 12 punches (6th in Serie A)
- 18 high claims (6th in Serie A)
- 5.2 PSxG +/- (1st in Serie A, 5th in Europe's top five leagues)
Perin didn't fare quite as well with his handling and/or claiming of crosses and he’s practically useless as a sweeper-keeper, but as a pure shot-stopper, he's arguably one of Europe's best and brightest. With Wojciech Szczesny signed through 2024, Perin will likely never see the light of day with Juventus, but the Old Lady's overlooked asset could be just what Roma needs as they transition to life under José Mourinho.
Perin's comeback has been a pleasant albeit under-publicized story, so what better way for him to bask in the limelight than to hitch his wagon to José Mourinho and the new look Roma?
Club: Fulham (on loan from PSG)
Market Value: €17 million
Contract: June 2023
Another name familiar to Roma fans, the Giallorossi have been intermittently connected to Areola over the past several years. Areola, much like Perin, had the misfortune of signing with a mega-club that viewed him as more a luxury than a necessity. As a result, Areola has spent loan stretches with clubs as varied as Bastia, Villarreal, Real Madrid (which seems really strange), and, most recently, Fulham.
While the 28-year-old Parisian couldn't help the Cottagers avoid the drop, he was sensational for Fulham in 2020-2021. In 36 league appearances, Areola put up stats on par with some of the best in the business.
Stats & Ranks
- 9 clean-sheets (tied for 7th in the Premiership)
- 3.22 saves per 90 (7th in the Premiership)
- 73% save percentage (7th in the Premiership, 16th in Europe's top five leagues)
- 9.8% crosses stopped (4th in the Premiership, 12th in Europe's top five leagues)
- 26 punches (1st in the Premiership)
- 22 high claims (tied for 4th in the Premiership)
- 7.6 PSxG +/- (1st in the Premiership, 2nd in Europe's top five leagues)
While Areola's performance likely didn't go unnoticed across Europe, with only two years remaining on his deal and PSG set to acquire Gianluigi Donnarumma, it's safe to say that his career with his hometown club is all but done. Furthermore, with Fulham relegated for the 2021-2022 season, Areola is bound for greener pastures than Craven Cottage.
Areola has the size, shot-stopping ability, and the command of the penalty area that will play in any league under any tactician, and at only 28-years-old, he’s just entering his prime years. He won't come cheap, but he could be the steal of this summer's transfer market.
Market Value: €2.5 million
Contract: June 2023
We're reaching deep on this one, but you know we're fans of overlooked Metz players around here. Oukidja, a 32-year-old Algerian, has spent nearly his entire career in France, bouncing between the top two tiers with Strasbourg and Metz over the past several years, but has seemingly finally figured out this goalkeeper thing and looks like your classic late bloomer come to life.
Stats & Ranks
- 8 clean-sheets (tied for 7th in Ligue 1)
- 2.56 saves per 90 (10th in Ligue 1)
- 74% save percentage (3rd in Ligue 1)
- 11.8% crosses stopped (1st in Ligue 1, 2nd in Europe's top five leagues)
- 15 punches (tied for 2nd in Ligue 1)
- 35 high claims (1st in Ligue 1)
- 3.5 PSxG +/- (3rd in Ligue 1, 16th in Europe's top five leagues)
Make no mistake, at 32-years-old, Oukidja would be a short-term solution, but Roma would be catching this guy at the absolute apex of his career. Despite standing just a shade over six feet tall, Oukidja has tremendous command of the area, as evidenced by his ability to stop crosses and execute punches and high claims, while his shot-stopping prowess (the PSxG) was better than Juan Musso, Alessio Cragno, and even Donnarumma.
Metz may not be keen to let him go, but at only €2.5 million, Roma could bowl over their French counterparts with an offer twice that amount and not bat an eye.
Market Value: €6 million
Contract: June 2023
Herrera, a 28-year-old Spaniard, took a tremendous step forward in only his second season in the Spanish top flight. At 6’3” and three years shy of his 30th birthday, Herrera is the perfect size and the perfect age for a Roma team looking to usher in a new era of success. After learning the ropes with Huesca, Herrera moved to Osasuna and helped the club gain promotion to La Liga, though he missed significant time during the club's promotion campaign in 2017-2018 with...drum roll, please...an ACL tear, so he may already be the ideal Roma keeper.
Stats & Ranks
- 10 clean-sheets (tied for 6th in La Liga)
- 2.71 saves per 90 (tied for 5th in La Liga)
- 70.5% save percentage (5th in La Liga)
- 9.1% crosses stopped (7th in La Liga, 16th in Europe's top five leagues)
- 18 punches (1st in La Liga)
- 26 high claims (1st in La Liga)
- 6.2 PSxG +/- (2nd in La Liga, 4th in Europe's top five leagues)
Herrera may only be valued at €6 million per Transfermarkt, but based on his performance this season, don't expect that bargain-basement price to last much longer. With numbers that rival some of the best keepers in Spain, including Atletico's Jan Oblak, Herrera could be in line for a big move before too long. While he has some serious knee injuries on his CV, as Mattia Perin has proved, those scars don't really hold keepers back to the same extent as their outfield counterparts.
Club: Freiburg (on loan from Mainz 05)
Market Value: €8 million
Contract: June 2022
Müller, a 23-year-old German from Saarlouis on the French-German border, started his professional career at the tender age of 17 in the German third division with Mainz 05, where he spent five seasons, eventually helping the club gain promotion to the top flight before being loaned to Freiburg for the 2020-2021 season. Thanks to Müller's steady hand, Freiburg finished six points ahead of Mainz (Müller's parent club) on the Bundesliga table—sweet revenge, no doubt.
Stats & Ranks
- 6 clean-sheets (tied for 7th in the Bundesliga)
- 3.65 saves per 90 (3rd in the Bundesliga)
- 71% save percentage (3rd in the Bundesliga)
- 4.9% crosses stopped (13th in the Bundesliga)
- 8 punches (tied for 6th in the Bundesliga)
- 3 high claims (13th in the Bundesliga)
- 3.1 PSxG +/- (1st in the Bundesliga, 18th in Europe's top five leagues)
As you can see, Müller wasn't quite as adept at plucking balls out of the air as some of the other names on this list, but his shot-stopping abilities are beyond reproach, particularly for a kid his age. At only 23-years-old, Müller has ample time and room to grow into the position, and when you consider his frame (nearly 6’4”), his aerial command should improve with further coaching and experience.
With several spectacular saves in Roma's Europa League campaign and steady improvement in 2021 from Pau Lopez, and despite even the flashes shown by young Daniel Fuzato down the stretch, the club seems intent on finding an upgrade in goal. The problem is that, based on the statistics over the past two seasons, Rui Patricio isn't an upgrade over Lopez, and may actually be a downgrade over the 26-year-old Spanish keeper.
As with all things Friedkin-related, we have to take the rumors and hearsay at face value. Just because the Roman press continues to connect Patricio to Roma doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen, nor does it mean they've even considered the 33-year-old Wolves keeper. Given his age, experience, and shared nationality with Mourinho, the rumors do make a certain amount of sense—especially if Mourinho simply wants an experienced keeper to mind the shop during his three-year stint with Roma. But as we just outlined, there are younger, cheaper and, let's face it, better options than Patricio.
Without genuinely knowing how much money Tiago Pinto has to play with this summer, we can’t definitively pick a favorite out of this list, but if you value age, size, aggression, and shot-stopping ability, Areola could be the most promising name on this list. And, quite frankly, he may be the best option full stop.
After years of being shunned by PSG and shipped all over Western Europe, Areola seems ready to find a club and job to call his own, and Roma may be just the outfit to help the Frenchman fulfill his vast potential. If his recent performances are any indication, he may soon be one of the better keepers in all of Europe, and at only 28-years-old, he could be a building block for Roma as they progress into what is hopefully an unprecedented era of sustained success in the 2020s and beyond.
If, however, Roma is scared off by a price tag that is sure to climb north of €20 million, the remaining names on this list are all suitable solutions, but what's wrong with the status quo?
There is the possibility, however remote it may be, that Roma decides their limited resources are best spent elsewhere, resulting in an open competition between Lopez and Daniel Fuzato this summer. Lopez showed marked improvements in 2021 and could benefit from Mourinho's more defensive posture, while Fuzato has all the physical tools one craves from a modern keeper—he just needs a chance to play consistently.
Football clubs can succeed with average keepers, but in order to truly establish and maintain a winning project, you need that extra level of assurance between the sticks. Roma has been chasing the ghosts of Szczesny and Alisson for several years now, having swung and missed on multiple replacements every summer since selling the Brazilian Don Draper.
With the club's debts mounting and the league itself becoming more condensed at the top of the table, Roma can ill afford another misfire in goal. They have to get this decision correct.