It’s easy to forget how much of an unknown Roger Ibañez was before moving to Rome in January 2020. Anyone who’s noticed by the Fluminense youth scouts typically has some talent, but the sheer lack of playing time Ibañez received at Atalanta and the low fee Roma paid for his services sure made it seem like the center-back would be a long-term prospect, or maybe a backup on a good day. Instead, Ibañez quickly became a sensation at the Stadio Olimpico, earning our awards for Young Player of the Year and Breakout Player of the Year for the 2020 calendar year. Here’s how bren described him leading into this season when he earned the #2 spot on our Youth Countdown despite obviously being much more than a prospect:
Despite being two months shy of his 23rd birthday, Ibañez is already the total package. Showcasing the intelligence, anticipation, and aggression of a player 10 years his senior, Ibañez has been among the best and most complete center-backs in Europe since arriving in Rome.
Now, if you believe Corriere Dello Sport (via Football Italia for those of you who only speak English), it’s not only bren who thinks that Ibañez is the bee’s knees; Roberto Mancini might be joining the Roger Ibañez Fan Club in the very near future.
#ASRoma centre-back Roger Ibanez could end up playing for #Italy one day, as the #Azzurri CT Roberto Mancini reportedly considers calling up the Brazilian. https://t.co/JMmBCeVgJv#SerieA #Giallorossi #Ibanez #SerieATIM— footballitalia (@footballitalia) October 14, 2021
The Italian newspaper’s report suggests that Ibañez’s multiple passports might result in a bit of a tug-of-war for his services in Qatar, with Italy, Brazil, and Uruguay all having the chance to select him if they so desire. The former Atalanta man admitted recently that it’s his dream to play for Brazil’s Seleçao, but given Brazil’s depth at center-back and comparing it to Italy’s aging backline, it’s far more likely that Roberto Mancini will call him up to the senior side before the World Cup.
If Ibañez does join up with the Azzurri, he certainly won’t be the first nominal Brazilian in the side. Even beyond Chelsea superstar midfielder Jorginho, Roberto Mancini has used Rafael Toloi and Emerson Palmieri intermittently over the past few seasons, and Ibañez mentioned his friendship with Toloi, in particular, being one reason he could see himself on the Italian National Team. With Jorginho contending for the Ballon d’Or, it’s unlikely that the Azzurri will lose its Brazilian flavor any time soon, and from the perspective of an Italy fan, it certainly won’t hurt to have another center-back in the fold with the ability to spell either Leonardo Bonucci or Giorgio Chiellini.
Despite the guaranteed net positive Ibañez would bring to the Italian National Team, it’s a little more complicated for Giallorossi supporters than “he’s great, so he’ll be a good addition to the Azzurri side.” It’s no secret that Roma fans have a love-hate relationship with international duty, particularly with the Italian National Team. Players like Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi, and Simone Perrotta have been icons for club and country, and it certainly seems like Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicoló Zaniolo, Gianluca Mancini, and Leonardo Spinazzola could join their ranks as national team heroes. Nevertheless, playing for the Azzurri has resulted in major injuries for both Zaniolo and Spinazzola, causing Romanisti everywhere to have a sense of unease during each and every international break until every Roma player is back at Trigoria.
No fan or manager would ever begrudge a player the chance at international glory, but it’s been nice to have Ibañez play at world-class levels for the club without having to worry about international injuries. If he decides to join up with the Azzurri, it would certainly bolster their chances of following up their Euros win with a deep run at the World Cup. Let’s just hope an Ibañez recruitment doesn’t end up hurting Roma’s long-term chances at silverware by inciting yet another injury for a wolf in the Azzurri kit.