Roma fans find themselves in a strange place at the moment. Not only is the club tied for first place (on points, at least), but Tiago Pinto pulled off the club’s most impressive transfer market since the turn of the century. What was first a slow drip of solid under-the-radar signings (Zeki Celik, Nemanja Matic) soon became a deluge of top-tier talent when Pinto convinced free agents Paulo Dybala and Andrea Belotti to join the club. Add a dash of Georginio Wijnaldum sprinkled in between those moves, and Pinto cobbled together a deep and talented squad, all while spending a mere €7 million on transfer fees.
Now that the dust has settled on the 2022 summer transfer market, we assembled most of the CdT crew to assess Pinto’s masterstroke.
Paulo Dybala was the main summer attraction, so let’s start there. Through his first four matches, what’s impressed you most about him? What kind of impact can he have on the squad going forward?
Bren: Well, they say a rising tide lifts all boats, and I think we’re seeing that aphorism play out in real-time. His touch, vision, and tactical intelligence instantly make everyone around him better simply because he puts them in better and more advantageous positions, playing better balls and putting himself in better receiving positions. And then there are the things we can’t quantify, like the effect of having someone as incredibly talented as he is in the locker room, on the training pitch, and, of course, in the games–he’s bound to rub off on younger players.
As far as his talents are concerned, how many Roma players over the past 10 years could have scored his first goal against Monza last weekend? That was just pure class from start to finish.
ssciavillo: Bren hit the nail on the head. The talent level of this guy is up there with the best of them. He’s the classiest player we’ve had in the squad since Totti retired, and when you have a player of that quality, it raises the level of the entire squad. He makes everyone around him better and can pull magic out of his hat in the blink of an eye. This is a signing that can take Roma to the next level.
JonAS: Uh oh, it seems someone is forgetting the touch, vision, brilliance, and class of a certain Nzonzi. In all seriousness, having a player like Dybala shifts Roma a little more towards the big boys like Inter and Juve. On and off the pitch. More hype, media coverage, shirt sales–There’s a lot more positivity and euphoria around Rome nowadays. Something’s in the air, and if Roma is still up there after New Year, it will only get bigger and better.
Just pray to Baby Jezus Paulo stays fit.
Jimmy Miotto: I think that it’s been incredibly impressive that within the first month of play, Dybala has so smoothly fit into Roma’s attacking system. One of my biggest “concerns” about Roma’s attack going into the season was that there would be growing pains – how do you make sure that Tammy Abraham, Paulo Dybala, Lorenzo Pellegrini, and Nicolò Zaniolo all get touches and show impact on and off the ball? I’ll admit that Zaniolo’s shoulder injury has made it easier for the question of the division of labor to avoid controversy for a while, but even when Zaniolo was playing, the attack just worked. A lot of that comes from the sheer talent levels Dybala has, as everyone else has mentioned. He works to improve others while showing his talent in unique ways, and I agree with Steven – this is the closest to Totti we’ve had since Totti.
With free agents comprising the bulk of Roma’s transfer business this summer, should fans be concerned with the club’s hesitance to spend money in actual club-to-club transactions? In other words, is there something going on here, or was this just an anomaly?
Note: This was written before this week’s FFP sanctions were announced
Bren: I hope it was an anomaly because you won’t find Dybalas or Belottis on the free agent market too often. Economics was never my strong suit, but I have to imagine there was some reason they were so restrained on the actual transfer market, making only one permanent transfer for a paltry €7 million. Now that Pinto has removed nearly all of Monchi’s Misfits, I hope he’ll have more money to dedicate towards transfers going forward. Imagine if he could have spent €60 million on a CB and a DM to round out all his shrewd free transfers–we’d be sitting pretty then.
ssciavillo: I think it was a combination of top-quality free agents being available (which we’re starting to see more of than in the past), and Roma still needs to get the books in order. Roma acquired seven players while sending away 25. So, this market was effectively a continuation of last summer’s, where Pinto had to clear out the rest of the Monchi Misfits while bringing in players that could improve the team’s overall quality. Most importantly, Pinto didn’t sell any important player off the squad. Zaniolo is still here. Ibanez is still here. So, I’m not worried. In the past, Roma would’ve sold a player like that for big money and never would’ve landed a player of Dybala’s quality. If that had happened without spending, then I would’ve been concerned. But, Pinto brought in top-quality talent without spending big on transfers. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Is this a long-term plan? I don’t think so. I believe these sales will give Pinto the financial means to be more aggressive with purchases in the future. That being said, if there are opportunities for free agents on the level of Dybala or Belotti in the future, you can bet that Roma will be in play with how the club is now run.
JonAS: I want to believe this was just an anomaly. This is the first Summer in a long time in which Roma didn’t sell big players but kept all their prized assets, even adding a star like Dybala. Zaniolo, Ibanez, Abraham, and Pellegrini stayed while we cut the dead wood.
I think Pinto’s plan from the start was to keep the core, hunt for interesting free agents, and buy one necessary player (a right back as vice Karsdorp). Reducing the wages, and being greedy, was his primary job. And Belotti and Dybala just happened to be free and ideal for Roma’s project, and don”t underestimate Mourinho’s persuasiveness too.
Next summer, there will be interesting free agents again, but I reckon Pinto will have more financial wiggle room than this year. Besides, we already know one name who will arrive on a free (Solbakken).
Jimmy: With Financial Fair Play knocking on Roma’s door recently, I wouldn’t be shocked if Tiago Pinto kept looking for low-cost, high-reward options in each transfer window; the potential free signing of Ola Solbakken this January makes me think that Roma won’t turn into a Chelsea-type spender with the flip of a switch.
It’s important to remember that even the massive signing of Tammy Abraham had payment plans spread out over the course of several years; while the overall fee for Tammy was one of the highest Roma has ever handed out, the year-to-year impact was relatively minimal. I hope that FFP doesn’t ruin Roma’s chances to develop the squad through more expensive transfers; I’m still a sucker for a South American wonderkid signing, and we haven’t had one of those pan out since the Sabatini Era.
Outside of Dybala, what new addition excites you most and why?
Bren: Honestly, I’m going to say Nemanja Matic. If Mourinho can manage his minutes well enough, I think he can be a latter-day Seydou Keita, an unheralded but significant addition to a competitive team. We already saw how crucial he could be in the transition game last weekend against Monza. When you factor in his experience, familiarity with Mourinho, and size, he could have a tremendous impact this season.
ssciavillo: I have to go with Belotti. I’ve been clamoring for Belotti for years. I wanted him in a Roma shirt when the club was looking for a long-term replacement for Dzeko. Getting him as a vice-Tammy on a free is just a coup. He gives Mourinho so many options. He can provide energy and goals off the bench, allow Tammy some rest as the lone striker, or even pair with Tammy at times in a two-striker look, something he often did at Torino with Zaza and Sanabria. His attitude, work ethic, and goalscoring will be a perfect fit for this Roma side, and at 28, he’s still got some good years in him.
JonAS: Yes, Dybala is a joy to watch, and Matic is an impressive force of nature, but I’m also going for Belotti. His goals will help Roma return to the CL. We desperately needed a strong striker who could come off the bench or give José the ability to play with two strikers when things are rough.
Also, keep an eye out for Celik; this can turn into a Cassetti/Tonetto type of move. A steady, reliable fullback for 5-6 years on a cheap.
Jimmy: My original answer would have been Georginio Wijnaldum, but obviously, his injury means we won’t see him back on the pitch until after the winter break. Given that, I’ll have to go with Belotti as well. He’s the best backup striker Roma has had since I started following the club seriously, and the level of rotation José Mourinho can now enact up front when all attackers are healthy will ultimately be necessary if Roma wants to go deep into the Europa League knockout rounds and push for a Champions League spot. Give Belotti a couple weeks of training with the club, and who knows, maybe Mourinho will have to entertain a two-striker system for some matches.
Although it took a while, Roma finally made a few sales this week but is there any chance the club will miss the likes of Diawara, Calafiori, or Felix, among others?
Bren: Out of those names, the Calafiori sale still puzzles me, especially when we consider how precipitously Matías Viña has fallen out of favor. Keeping Calafiori would have been extra insurance behind Spinazzola. With Zalewski likely to see major minutes in multiple roles, it could have given Mourinho more license to play Zalewski in an actual attacking role.
ssciavillo: I honestly don’t think any of them will be missed this season. I’m a bit disappointed about the way things have turned out for Calafiori. Still, he didn’t capitalize on his opportunity before Zalewski broke out last season, so I’m not sure how much he could’ve really helped a team with Roma’s ambitions. Felix has some potential but needs seasoning. I’m not going to complain about selling a speculative prospect like him to bring in a proven player like Belotti.
JonAS: Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. Next question, please.
Jimmy: The only one I could see the club “missing” at all is Felix, and considering Roma’s depth at forward, I highly doubt that will happen. Roma has many intriguing young players still in and around the senior squad, like Cristian Volpato, Nicola Zalewski, Edoardo Bove, and Mile Svilar. It’s far better that we sold Felix to bring in Belotti than the alternative of hoping Felix could score more than two goals this season. As for the other sales… there’s no way we’ll miss them. Sorry, Amadou. I had high hopes for you when you signed!
Mady Camara was an emergency addition, arriving on an initial loan to help cover Wijnaldum’s absence. So what is he: a long-term sub or a genuine piece of the puzzle?
Bren: As intrigued as I am by Camara, I think this is a short-term solution, depending on the terms of the loan, of course. Between him, Matic and Wijnaldum, Roma kinda MacGyver’d their defensive midfielder problem, finding creative short-term answers to the problem, but I suspect we’ll be in the market for a long-term option this summer.
ssciavillo: I think this is one of those buy-low opportunities for a player whose star has fallen a bit in the last year. Given that it’s a loan with a reasonable option, this is probably one of those transfers where you can use him as a long-term sub and then decide later. If he comes good, he can be a piece of the puzzle next season for just €12 million, which could be a bargain. If he doesn’t work out, then see ya later, a la Oliveira.
JonAS: This is a shiny new toy for Mourinho to investigate. If he likes it, it will stay. If other toys are available, we will return them to the store without any risk or loss of cash. Roma can only win from this situation.
Although I would have loved a last-minute move for Zakaria, I think Mady will be useful until Wijnaldum returns. And if Roma is still in the hunt for the Coppa and EL after New Year, then there will be plenty of minutes left for everyone. If both parties are happy with how things are going, he could remain after 2023.
Jimmy: I think if he’s impressive enough, he could become part of Roma’s long-term solution at midfield. I agree with Steven; he’s a buy-low opportunity who was available as a quick alternative to Gini. That doesn’t mean he will stay forever; it doesn’t mean he’s gone at the end of the season. My guess is that of the Matić, Wijnaldum, and Camara trio, one will remain after this season, and Tiago Pinto will go back and nab Davide Frattesi from Sassuolo for real this time. Until then, Camara has the time to prove himself.
Give us one or two names Roma may regret passing and/or missing out on.
Bren: I know it wouldn’t have garnered many headlines, but I can’t help but think that Isco would have fit in perfectly with Roma’s attack. On versatility alone, he could have plugged so many holes and allowed many of our most important players to get rest when the going got tough, so I was a bit disappointed to see that rumor disappear. And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Marcel Sabizter…ugh. I just…I can’t. He would have been so fucking good for Mourinho.
ssciavillo: I’m going to go with Davide Frattesi. I wanted him back home. I know Roma wasn’t willing to spend the money that Sassuolo was asking for, but he looks like a legit box-to-box midfielder that Roma could’ve built the midfield around long term. And having quality, homegrown Romans in the squad is always a plus. I think he’s still an option next summer if the club is more flush with cash, but his price tag will certainly only go up.
JonAS: Yeah, Frattesi hurts because he was so close, according to the media (well, take that with a grain of salt). He was a long-term solution; Gini is 32 soon. Then again, we mustn’t exaggerate with the whole ‘Roman prodigy’ thing. €30 million is simply too much for him after one good season in the top flight.
Another quality defender like Bremer, Bereszynski, or Ndicka would have been welcome, especially if something happened to Smalling or Ibanez. My boy Jan Vertonghen just went to Anderlecht FOR FREE.
Maybe Tripi or Keramitsis will turn into Zalewski 2.0 this season. But like we said, Pinto had several restrictions this summer, so he did a mighty good job with the funds at his disposal.
Jimmy: The only answer here is Davide Frattesi, even if I think we’re likely to sign him next summer. I still say that Pinto was smart not to cave to Sassuolo CEO Giovanni Carnevali’s reported price tag for Frattesi; that would have been an overpay, and Roma’s market this window shows that management is committed to avoiding overpays at all costs. Still, I’m a massive romantic, and any time we can bring an exciting Roman back home, I’m 100% on board. Let’s just hope one more year allows Frattesi to continue developing into a star for club and country.
And finally, look ahead to the January window. Are there any lingering areas of need the club should address?
Bren: Hmm, it has to be CB, right? Mourinho said as much after Camara was brought in as an emergency midfield replacement. I’m still in Kumbulla’s corner, but he seems to be perpetually overlooked, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Pinto added a new defender in January.
ssciavillo: I think it has to be a CB. If Roma is going to continue to start three CBs, then you need to have five on the roster to cover for injuries and fatigue. I know Dan-Axel Zagadou continues to be linked on a free, so he could arrive immediately. If that doesn’t happen, then that becomes a priority for January.
JonAS: CB, it is. I don’t think there are any glaring holes in the squad right now, apart from CB. And perhaps a fast, agile forward like Solbakken to replace SES after this season. But seriously, let Pinto finally have some rest first! The man deserves it.
Jimmy: Yeah, assuming Tripi or Keramitsis don’t become a full-time senior player before January, I have to assume that the main reinforcement Roma will look for in the winter mercato is a center-back. Of course, this summer mercato was incredibly surprising, so I won’t be shocked if Tiago Pinto pulls another rabbit out of his hat in January and brings in more exciting players. What a good time to be a Roma fan.
Well, you’ve heard our say, now give us your thoughts. What was Pinto’s most impressive move this summer? What should he do come January?
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The Great Roma Questionnaire Extraordinaire: Transfer Market Recap
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