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Van Gaal, United After Strootman & Pjanic?

Luis Van Gaal, reportedly days away from taking over at Manchester United, has apparently set his sights on two of Roma's best and brightest, Miralem Pjanic and Kevin Strootman. We discuss this and the days other headlines in this rumor roundup.

Valerio Pennicino

Sassuolo and Juventus don't kick off for another 24 hours, give or take, so, in order to keep our minds engaged and our nerves intact, let's take a trip through Sunday's headlines, some pleasant, some not so much. In addition to the usual pining for Pjanic, Roma was forced to contend with some hot air from Antonio Conte, while Mario Balotelli's charades may have opened the door for a couple of Roman to assert themselves on the international stage.

So, without further adieu, lets see what the world has to say about Roma..

Van Gaal Sets Sights on Strootman

Let's do the math on this one, shall we? Manchester United, eager to reestablish their suddenly loose footing among Europe's elite, is reportedly on the verge of appointing Luis Van Gaal, who is, perhaps, the most renowned Dutch manager in the world. Now, given how much controversy there was around Moyes' squad selections, one can presume that the bigwigs at United have promised Van Gaal free rein in that regard.

Now, if you're Van Gaal, you take a look at your new squad and you notice one glaring omission; you need someone to connect the back to the front, someone to do all the dirty work that makes total football possible in the first place. And, fancy that,  it just so happens that this someone is right in your own presumably Tulip filled backyard, Kevin Strootman; a man whose unique combination of talents would be, to borrow a phrase from The Dude, the rug that tied the room together for nearly any club in the world.

And while United may be temporarily lacking in acclaim, they certainly aren't lacking in funds, so the full court financial press is sure to commence this summer. Really, the moment Van Gaal's name became connected to the United job, this rumor became inevitable, and honestly, Roma's only saving grace may be the severity of Strootman's injury, which may keep him off the pitch until early 2015.

But, if they have to wait another year to steal Strootman from Roma, they can always shift their attention to...

List of Pjanic Suitors Grows

With his highlight worthy goal on Friday, Pjanic didn't do the nerves of Roma fans any favor; its not as if his profile among the world's elite was low to begin with, but in addition to the longstanding PSG and Barcelona connections, Pjanic has reportedly caught the eye of Bayern Munich and  Manchester United.

You know the drill on this one, in order for Roma to keep his name off these lists, they have to pony up and offer him a suitable contract extension, which, to date, hasn't approached the realm of possibility.  Sure, Pjanic has had a few intermittent down moments this season, but Friday's display against Milan was an indication of what this young man may be capable of week-in-week-out in the not too distant future.

Ranking the Top 30 Kits in World Football in the 2013/14 Season

Full credit to the folks in the comment section for finding this one, though I'm not quite sure what the methodology was behind it was, it certainly wasn't sweat wicking ability, that's for sure. Despite their tendency to bleed sweat moments after kickoff, Roma's uncredited and unsponsored kits nabbed the top spot in this rather yellow-soaked countdown of the worlds Top 30 Kits.

Roma edged out both PSG's home and away strips for the top spot in this year's countdown. PSG's kits are, of course, manufactured by Nike, Roma's threadmaker starting next season, one of the many reasons to be amped up for 2014-2015.

Incidentally, I have been able to bend my American mind around saying 'football' instead of 'soccer' and 'transfer' instead of 'trade', but there is just something about the word 'kit' that hits my Yankee ears wrong; its a jersey, or, at the very least, a uniform. A kit? What is that?

But I digress, whatever you prefer to call them, just be sure to prepare your wallets for a deluge of new merchandise next season.

Balotelli saga prompts Italy Plan B?

While the FIGC's famous, or infamous, depending on one's perspective, code of ethics isn't explicitly at play here, the implication is clear: Cesare Prandelli don't take no mess.

In the wake of his latest tirade, Mario Balotelli might find himself on the outside looking in this summer, at least in terms of his place in Italy's starting XI, as Prandelli is reportedly drawing up a Plan B that revolves around Antonio Cassano doing his best Francesco Totti false nine impression. While this is an enticing twist, beyond Alessio Cerci, it's hard to imagine who would occupy the other flank in that setup; Ciro Immobile is a pure center forward, while Giuseppe Rossi and Stephan El Shaarawy, both certainly capable of flanking Cassano, remain injured.

Balotelli's antics, which, if you ask me, were rather tame in this instance, actually creates some Roman implications for the national setup. Let's suppose Prandelli is true to his word, keeping Super Mario on the sidelines, or, worse, at home, and indeed opts for a false-nine 4-3-3 formation. With Cassano taking the lead role in that setup, flanked by a healthy and prodigious Alessio Cerci, Alessandro Florenzi might be Prandelli's best and/or only healthy option on the other flank. Has Florenzi already ascended to the rank of one of Italy's best XI players yet? Maybe, maybe not, but one thing is for certain, he'd do whatever is asked of him in that role.

Now, of course, the other glaring implication of Balotelli's petulance is the possible return of Mattia Destro into Prandelli's good graces. While Destro will fall well short of Ciro Immobile's gross haul this year, his per match and per 90 minute numbers are second to none, so he may actually be Italy's best option outside of Balotelli.

I suspect this will ultimately prove futile, as even Prandelli isn't foolish enough to leave someone as talented as Mario on the bench for too long; the World Cup is often settled by moments of fleeting brilliance, of which Balotelli is certainly capable.

Azzurri interlude over...

Conte slams 'provincial' Garcia

I was honestly surprised by Garcia’s comments, as I found them very provincial and going back, if added to the ‘help’ I can catalogue them in the folder marked ‘bar talk.’ I don’t think Serie A needed Garcia to bring new motivation to teams facing Juventus. Don’t forget that for many years any Italian side that faces Juve plays the game of a lifetime.

I also find it a huge lack of respect for the Coaches, players and clubs, but also the fans, as I don’t think supporters would think their team comes to the Juventus Stadium and doesn’t try hard. I thought it completely unnecessary."

Antonio Conte responds to Rudi Garcia's rather innocuous, boilerplate plead for Sassuolo to step their game up on Monday by making a mountain out of a molehill. Garcia's comments were rather blase and, quite frankly, something we hear from managers in nearly every sport. It's the nature of the beast; Rudi Garcia has no input over tomorrow's match. So, all he, or anyone in his situation can do, is hope for help; to hope that Sassuolo is as motivated as Roma is hopeful for Juventus' downfall.

Honestly, I wouldn't fault Conte for his reaction had this occurred anywhere but Italy, which doesn't exactly have a spotless record in terms of sporting fraud.

De Rossi: 'Roma can beat anyone'

Unfortunately, even if they don’t win on Monday it will be very difficult to catch them. We will continue like this to the end and enjoy ourselves. After all, the tournament is almost finished and there were 50,000 people in the stadium. We’ve got to respect these fans and give them the joy they’ve been lacking in recent years. We have become a team and you can see that. We prepare the games with great effort, have fun and are happy around each other. None of that is a coincidence.  This side has become very strong and we know we can beat anyone. We’re aware of our talents and our enthusiasm continues, so we’re all starved for victory next season too.

We'll end this one with Daniele De Rossi's sentiments, which, win, lose or draw, put a nice bow on the season. Scudetto or not, what Rudi Garcia has managed to do, simultaneously erasing the frustrations of successive failed experiments while providing hope not seen in Roma for nearly a decade, is nothing short of astounding.

Roma does have every reason to hope and expect better things next season. And. who knows, this time next year maybe Conte will be the one pleading for help.