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Relegation Poaching: Who Should Roma Target From Catania?

It's that time of year again, time to poach the unfortunate souls heading down to Serie B. Taking the cue from one of our sister sites, we offer the first in a series of possible poachees, the Elephants of Catania.

Maurizio Lagana

Whether you're aware of it or not, you've most likely been a party to or a victim of crowdsourcing. Maybe your great idea for a group presentation about the parallels between 19th century French Impressionists and 21st century street artists, through the magic of multiple inputs, got morphed into some sort of second rate Marvel vs DC debate, leaving your nerves frayed and your idea in shambles, or perhaps your ingenious idea to increase your firm's market share was put through the wringer, poked and prodded, only to come out the other end essentially unchanged, only you were stripped of proper credit.

Whatever the case may be, to a certain extent, we've all been there, right?

In this instance, I won't even call it crowdsourcing, we're blatantly ripping off our Villa colleagues at 7500 to Holte; call it a benefit of being part of SB Nation. So, I present to you an unoriginal but worthwhile idea, a series we'll call Raiding the Relegated, wherein we'll examine some of Serie A lesser sides, looking for cheap buys and/or overlooked players who Roma might snap up to round out next year's Champions League contending squad.

We'll try and keep this series somewhat plausible by focusing on players who are actually attainable and/or in need of gainful employment next season. So, even though Sassuolo is on the verge of the drop, Juventus probably won't let Domenico Berardi fall into Roma's hands.

So, now that we've established the parameters and made amends for our plagia....err, sampling, let's start with the league's current bottom dwellers, the Elephants of Catania; a side who have only mustered 23 points through 34 matches. As you might expect, given their atrocious performance this season, the pickings are slim, but there may be a few jewels worth examining.

Our Villa counterparts ranked their perspective poachees on a scale of 1-10, gauging the likelihood of the prospective transfer. If there is one thing I've learned in my time here, it's that my guesses, be they educated or haphazard, seldom come true, so, for now, we'll just pick out a few and see where they might fit in with next year's squad, one which will have plenty more minutes to spread around.

The Best Option

Nicolás Spolli

Catania's Argentine centerback is 31-years-old and has been with Gli Elefanti since coming over from Newell's Old Boys in 2009. In the ensuing five seasons, Spolli has made 130 appearances, averaging 1.9 tackles, 2.9 interceptions and 8.6 clearances along the way. While those are solid numbers, peel back a few layers and you'll see that Spolli's statistics have been trending slightly upwards the past two seasons, as he averaged north of two tackles and three interceptions per match.

So, he's an experienced and solid Serie A defender, but what has he done lately?

Having played 1,000 minutes less than Mehdi Benatia and Leandro Castan this season, Spolli's gross numbers won't overwhelm you, but pare them down to per 90 minute figures and Spolli begins to look like a remarkably effective player; one certainly capable of being a solid third or fourth option. In fact, Spolli's per 90 averages in interceptions, clearances, aerial duels won, and percentage of duels won actually bests both Benatia and Castan.

Whether or not he would've have sustained either of those averages over the course of 2,700-3,000 minutes is debatable, but the numbers that we do have at our disposal show that Spolli is a better than average defender. And then there's the matter of simple physics; at 6'4" and nearly 190lbs, Spolli is a fitting Benatia backup in every sense of the word.

Spolli is currently valued between €5m and €6m, so he wouldn't be the cheapest option, but, in terms of additional bulk for the backline, he may be among the best.

The, Hey, Why Not? Option

Pablo Barrientos is a versatile attacking player, one competent enough to fill a variety of role in any managers offense. However, at 29-years-old, he is what he is; a jack of all trades and master of none.

Despite his lack of a speciality, as a speculative reserve on a club as offensively gifted as Roma, Barrientos may have quite a bit to offer, or at least thats what the statistics portend. His per 90 minute playmaking numbers (key passes, assists) put him somewhere in between the Gervinho and Miralem Pjanic neighborhoods, while his scoring numbers--gross, per match and per 90--won't blow you away, he is effective at creating space and putting the ball on target, as both his take-on success rate and shot percentage are each over 50%.

All in all, Barrientos wouldn't be a bad depth move, as he could conceivable spell Gervinho, Totti, Florenzi, and even Pjanic in a pinch; presenting reasonable enough facsimiles of each man's respective skillset.

The Longshot Option

As we mentioned, we'll try to avoid the litany of Next Big Things on loan at smaller clubs, but when discussing Inter Milan youth product Cristiano Biraghi, we must consider the length of that loan. Though he's only 21-years-old, Catania's current leftback is putting the wraps on his third consecutive loan spell, all while failing to make a single league appearance for his parent club; perhaps the bloom has come off this particular nerazzurri rose.

While this is certainly a longshot, each passing loan spell puts him one step away from success at the San Siro, suggesting he is not, in fact, part of Inter Milan's long term plans. But, at only 21-years-old, he's got room to grow, so the intrigue remains.

However, this speculative move was the hallmark of the old regime; Roma 2.0 doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. Besides which, Dodo is starting to look downright passable as a starting left back, nor should we dismiss Roma's current loanee, Luca Antei, who has been nothing short of impressive for Sassuolo this term.

Final Count

Despite defeating Sampdoria over the weekend, Catania has been woeful this season and looks all but assured to slide back to Serie B next season, their first drop since 2005-2006; a pretty respectable run for the small Sicilian side, though. However, Catania's collective misery won't keep the sharks of Serie A from circling their carcass.

While Barrientos' versatility would be beneficial to Roma's aspirations next season, the real prize pig here--or Elephant, I suppose--is Spolli. The advanced statistics, not to mention his sheer size, point towards an ideal third or fourth centerback; one well suited to assist Roma as they attempt to unseat Juventus atop the Serie A throne, chase their 10th Coppa Italia title,and test themselves against Europe's elite.

In the coming weeks, we'll ponder who Roma might pluck from the likes of Sassuolo, Livorno, Bologna and possibly Chievo. While none of these speculative transfers will be perfect fits, nor will they amount to much more than reserves, one thing is for certain; it's better to be on the winning side of this equation.

Merci, Rudi. Merci.

So, what do you think? Is Spolli good enough for Roma, or would his presence hinder the development of Alessio Romagnoli and Rafael Toloi?