There's no need to mince words here, Livorno is a terrible football club, at least by current Serie A standards. After 35 weeks, the Amaranto are rooted in 19th place with only 25 points; three points and a curious amalgam of tie breakers away from escaping the drop zone. With fixtures against Udinese, Fiorentina and Parma remaining, Livorno's ticket to Serie B is all but punched.
Given their spot on the table, it's really no surprise that by most metrics and standards, they're among the league's worst sides; be it possession, passing, or shots on goal, Livorno still languishes among the lower rung. For the league's second-to-worst side, there are very few saving graces.
So, the prospect of plucking any fruit from this rotten tree is bound to disappoint even the most ardent transfer rumor enthusiast, unless you're jonesing for a reunion with the woebegone Leandro Greco, or the "oh, he did play here, didn't he?" Paolo Castellini. Even the most intriguing names on Livorno's roster--Ishak Beldofil and Marco Benassi, to name two--are Inter products, so they're not likely to make a move to a larger club, especially not Roma.
There is, however, one rather ubiquitous Brazilian name worth discussing, Paulinho--Livorno's leading scorer and quasi Pablo Osvaldo doppelganger.
Follow me and we'll dive right into how Paulinho might help next year's Roma squad.
The Paulinho Particulars
Paulo Sérgio Betanin has been walkin' around this earth since 1986, and presumably kicking a ball around since, oh, let's say, 1991. So, at this point in his life, at least in footballing terms, he is what hes; an effective, albeit slightly inefficient, goal scorer. Paulinho checks in at a shade over 5'9" and maybe 150lbs...maybe. So, this isn't exactly the rebirth of Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink we're talking about here, but despite his lack of mass, Paulinho would bring a slightly different dynamic to Roma's forward rotation as either a center forward or second striker, as he possesses a little more swiftness than Mattia Destro, while being more familiar with the central role than any of Roma's current reserve forwards; let's call him a happy medium of all the skills presented by Roma's current forwards.
In terms of actual counting statistics (goals and assists), Paulinho's record in the minor leagues is pretty impressive. In 124 Serie B matches, Paulinho has 35 goals and 23 assists, and was particularly effective in Livorno's Serie B playoff last season, scoring three in four matches, propelling them back to the big leagues this season.
Speaking of which, through 33 appearances, Paulinho has maintained his scoring touch, though his playmaking, at least in terms of assists, hasn't quite carried over from Italy's lower leagues, though Livorno's pathetic offense probably contributes somewhat to that decline; Livorno's second leading scorer has only five goals, so it's not as if he's blessed with talented teammates. To that point, when discussing his performance this season, it is worth noting that he represents an inordinate amount of Livorno's offense, but, again, they're flippin' terrible at football, so it's understandable.
Nevertheless, Paulinho's 13 goals and 2.8 shots per match are both in the league's top 20, ranking ahead of German Denis, Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale, among others. However, when we use some more nuanced measurements, Paulinho's inefficiencies begin to show. While his 20% conversion rate isn't terrible, Livorno's talisman only puts 45% of his shots on target, which is some 15-20% worse than the league's remaining top ten scorers. Paluinho's 0.41 goals per 90 minute does rank among the league's top ten mark for forwards, so he's got that going for him, which is nice. (stats calculated through week 34)
But, therein lies the rub. Pauliho's numbers, for better or worse, are byproducts of his environment (I learned that in freshman psych). Quite naturally, he wouldn't score 13 goals for Roma, but he wouldn't come anywhere near the 2.8 shots per match he's turning in this season, either. So, it is plausible that, given a lesser burden to shoulder, not mention better teammates, he could see a slight uptick in his precision and efficiency.
If nothing else, Paulinho has shown that he isn't merely a Serie B standout; he's got what it takes to make it in the top fight of Italian football, at least as the focal point of an attack on a lesser side, but how and where would he fit on what is now a Champions League club?
The Paulinho Probability
Well, first things first. He wouldn't be playing the midweek matches in Madrid, he won't be spending Tuesday evenings in Istanbul, and certainly he won't be grinding corner flags with Destro in Denmark. This is a move for the days when Roma has a midweek European fixture, followed by a weekend league match, all buttressed against another midweek cup match. Paulinho, or any player of his ilk, would be saved for the Catania's, the Chievo's or the, well, Livorno's, of next season's Serie A schedule.
The point is that Roma's roster, as currently constituted, doesn't have a nominal center forward behind Mattia Destro. There is no Marco Borriello (well, there might be next year) and, yes, perhaps Garcia's offense doesn't need a traditional number 9, but the presence of Paulinho would be a boon to the times when Francesco Totti is given his age appropriate rest, or when Gervinho has run his knees off, or simply when Destro has stripped his way to suspension.
Paulinho is a decent enough option to fall behind those names, one who, despite his shortcomings, might flourish in a reserve role, particularly when surrounded by an eminently superior support system. Paulinho can pass, he can move, and he is comfortable in the center of an attack, so, in that light, he fits the bill.
And, sure, even in a reserve role, he may not be the best option, but depending on how Walter Sabatini applies his new funds this summer, Paulinho might just prove to be the right fit at the right cost.