Serie A’s Blue & Red Chip Players

Now that the transfer window is (FINALLY) over, we can fully assess the squads for the top Serie A teams. When ranking teams and breaking down their player personnel, I always use a method that NFL general manager Mike Lombardi employed both as an executive and analyst: name the blue and red chip players.

A blue chip player is a true difference maker, an elite player at his position who could start regularly for a title contender. A red chip player on the hand is someone who could be a significant contributor on a team that is competing for a Champions League spot. While putting together this year’s version of this column, I once again avoid putting players new to Serie A in the blue chip category because we don’t know how they will adapt to a new league.

 

So without further due, let’s take a look at how many blue chip and red chip players each top Serie A team has:

 

Juventus 

 

Blue Chip: Szczesny, Chiellini, Ronaldo, Douglas Costa 

Red Chip: De Ligt, Bonucci, Alex Sandro, Pjanic, Khedira, Ramsey, Rabiot, Dybala, Bernardeschi, Matuidi, Mandzukic, Can, Higuain, Buffon

The bianconeri are so deep that their main backups would likely contend for a Champions League spot if they had their own team so it’s not surprising to see a long list of blue chip players which could have also easily featured also Cuadrado and  Demiral. 

Douglas Costa’s speed and dribbling ability make him “fuori categoria” in Serie A (a player that is so unique there’s hardly any comparison in the league). Szczesny has been so good since arriving in Italy that those familiar with Serie A never thought for a second that Buffon was returning to Juventus to be the starter, while Ronaldo and Chiellini are still elite players at their positions despite their age. 

Last year many would have had Pjanic as a blue chip player (not me though), but his value is diminished since he doesn’t take as many free kicks with Ronaldo on the squad. Dybala went from being arguably the most valuable player on the transfer market in all of Serie A to someone who has to compete with Higuain for playing time while Khedira is a blue chip player in the eyes of pretty much any manager he ever had.

 

 

 

Napoli

 

Blue Chip: Koulibaly, Allan, Fabian Ruiz, Callejon

Red Chip: Mertens, Meret, Manolas, Zielinski, MIlik, Insigne, Lozano

Aside from Ronaldo, it’s hard to argue against Fabian Ruiz being the best player who joined Serie A from abroad last season. Napoli were able to hold on to Koulibaly and Allan who just like Fabian Ruiz could be starters on Juventus, while Callejon continues to reinvent himself and add to his game- Ancelotti has already used him a central midfielder during summer friendlies.

Aside from Dino Zoff, you can make a case that Meret has everything needed to be Napoli’s best keeper ever, while Manolas is a more than adequate replacement for Albiol. Milik is coming off a season in which he scored 18 goals in Serie A with no penalties, while Lozano looks like the perfect jolly for Ancelotti to use in different ways to compliment his front line. 

In order for the partenopei to truly contend with Juventus, they’ll need two out of Ghoulam (who was a red chip player before his injury), Malcuit and Di Lorenzo to exceed expectations this season.

 

Inter

 

Blue Chip: Handanovic, Skriniar, De Vrij, Brozovic

Red Chip: Lukaku, Godin, Barella, Sensi, Lautaro Martinez, Politano

Clearly Inter have a blue chip manager who will make players like Candreva look like red chip players most of the time, but let’s try not to be influenced too much by Conte. Inter have been able to won their first two games with Ranocchia and D’Ambrosio starting, but they’ll be even better with De Vrij- a Bosman signing who should get more praise as an incredible addition- and Godin are also starting (he was the one new addition from abroad I wanted to make a blue chip right away).

Brozovic was the nerazzurri’s most important player last season- when he performed well, they almost always won. He’ll now be joined by Sensi and Barella in a midfield with a lot of quality but very little size. Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez are difference makers on their own, but also look to be a duo that compliments each other rather well. Conte insisted on holding on to Politano and he could be quite valuable as both a wing back and a second striker.

 

Milan

 

Blue Chip: Romagnoli, Donnarumma 

Red Chip: Paqueta, Piatek, Bennacer, Suso, Bonaventura 

Say what you will about Galliani but on his watch Milan acquired Romagnoli and launched Donnarumma, two elite players at their respective positions. Since then Fassone, Leonardo and now Massara/Maldini/Boban have acquired young players who have the potential to become blue chippers- especially Paqueta, Piatek and Bennacer. The good news is that new manager Marco Giampaolo has a great track record of taking players to the next level, but doing so at Milan is a bit more complicated than at Sampdoria where there is much more built in patience.

 

Roma

 

Blue Chip: Dzeko

Red Chip: Zaniolo, Pellegrini, Kolarov, Mkhitaryan, Florenzi, Pau Lopez

 

None of the teams mentioned so far lost as many quality players as the giallorossi with Manolas, De Rossi and El Shaarawy departing. Considering he’s coming off a season in which he scored nine goals, it’s probably generous to put Dzeko as a blue chipper, especially when you consider his age, but he does impact matches in many different ways. On the bright side for Roma, Zaniolo has a everything needed to become a top player and while I didn’t list Diawara and Veretout, they have the characteristics to be quite functional in Fonseca’s system plus Pau Lopez already looks like a massive upgrade to Olsen. 

 

Atalanta

 

Blue Chip: Papu Gomez

Red Chip: Freuler, Toloi, Ilicic, Zapata, Muriel, Castagne 

 

In many ways, Gasperini is a poor man’s version of Conte- not just because of the formation they use, but also because of their ability to make average players look like difference makers. Ilicic and Zapata had career seasons at Atalanta last season and it’s very likely Muriel will follow their path. Freuler is one of the most underrated midfielders in Serie A, he’s the player many think Diawara is to this day. Look for Castagne to take a leap this season and it will be interesting to see how the defense adapts to Mancini’s departure- if Kjaer or Palomino perform like red chippers then Atalanta can once again compete for a Champions League spot. 

Lazio

 

Blue Chip: Milinkovic Savic, Acerbi, Lucas Leiva

Red Chip: Immobile, Luis Alberto, Lazzari, Correa

I’ve been known for overrating the biancocelesti, but they have a more impressive core of players than Roma and Milan in my honest opinion. Acerbi made everyone forget how good De Vrij was at Lazio, Milinkovic Savic was able to win award for best midfielder in Serie A In objectively a down season while Immobile already has 3 seasons with 20+ goals in Italy. Lazzari was already devasting at SPAL but now has so much more talent in a system he knows like the back of his hand while Correa can build on his outstanding second half of last season.

 

Miscellaneous teams

 

Blue Chip: Quagliarella, Sirigu

Red Chip: Belotti, Chiesa, Izzo, Nkolou, Cragno, Pavoletti, Pezzela, Milenkovic, Gervinho, Schone   

 

Has Serie A improved after the summer transfer window?

Following Arturo Vidal’s transfer to Bayern Munich back in the summer of 2015, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli described Serie A as a transient league- a place where players improved before they moved on to clubs able to pay them more. 

Since then we have seen some improvements when it comes the Italian clubs being able to keep their best players. Juventus have been able to increase their revenues considerably, Inter now have significantly more financial resources with Suning taking over for Erick Thohir and now no longer have to worry about Financial Fair Play, Fiorentina look much more ambitious under Rocco Comisso, while both of Napoli and Lazio’s presidents have developed a well deserved reputation as tough negotiators.

So with another summer transfer window in the books, has this trend continued? Have Serie A teams been able to increase the overall talent in the league by keeping more top players and attracting new additions that can make a difference? Let’s first take a look at the players that left.

Interestingly two of the biggest players to depart Serie A- Mauro Icardi and Ivan Perisic- did so on loan and there’s a fairly good chance they will return (at least temporarily). Wanda Nara has already made it clear that ultimately she and her husband/client want to go back to Inter and that they see the move to PSG as a the kind of break a couple takes to calm things down, while with Perisic it remains to be seen if Bayern Munich see him as just a short term stop gap.

Juventus and Roma did end up selling two of their top performers to make some needed plusvalenze. Losing a player of Joao Cancelo’s caliber is always painful, but becomes even more problematic when you sell him to a team who has a legitimate chance to win the trophy your fan base is obsessed over and to a manager who can get the most out of him. Stephan El Shaarawy on the other accepted an offer you can’t refuse and moved to China following a great season in Italy’s capital (I have a feeling he’ll be back in a year or two).

It shouldn’t be particularly surprising to see Sampdoria off to a very slow start this season considering they sold two of their five best players in Dennis Praet and Joachim Andersen. While many assumed both would follow Marco Giampaolo, the manager that fully developed them, to Milan they ended up going abroad for significant profits- the Danish center back joined Lyon and the Belgian midfielder headed to Leicester.

We also had two home grown players bring significant profits to Milan and Juventus respectively because they had no amortized value to offset. Patrick Cutrone essentially financed most of Milan’s incoming moves for this fiscal year by joining Wolves, while Moise Kean landed at Everton when he had just one year left on his contract at Juventus.

The other significant outgoing moves outside of Italy involved numerous Monchi rejects at Roma- Coric, NZonzi, Karsdorp and Schick will all try to regain some value on the transfer market and jump start their careers outside of Italy.

So you could look at the fact there weren’t many top players that left as either a sign Italian teams are in a stronger position or that the talent overall in Serie A wasn’t very good last season since only Cancelo, Kean, Praet, Andersen and El Shaarawy fetched significant fees- I tend to think it’s more the former also because we have seen a good amount of players that in previous years would have gone abroad- Manolas, Barella, Bennacer, Mancini, Sensi, Demiral and Lazzari- ended up being transferred to other Serie A, in addition to players like Milinkovic Savic, Chiesa, De Paul, Donnarumma, Izzo and Suso who on paper looked fairly certain to leave just ended up staying at their respective clubs.

But how did Serie A fair on the incoming side overall? Juventus continued to demonstrate their ability with Bosman signings by snagging Rabiot, who was linked to Barcelona for a long time, and Ramsey who left a top Premier League team to come to Italy. But the bianconeri weren’t the only one flexing on the market for players with expiring contracts- Inter added one of the best defenders in the world in Diego Godin while Napoli signed Fernando Llorente to give Ancelotti another option up front.

Interestingly we had quite a few players return to Serie A after a stint abroad (although even the most fervent Calcio cheerleader would have a hard time characterizing other leagues being transient and improving these footballers) including Buffon, Higuain, Darmain, Kalinic, Zappacosta, Rebic, Alexis Sanchez, Obiang, Kjaer, Murillo and Balotelli.

We saw Inter break their transfer record by acquiring Romelu Lukaku, Napoli doing the same with Lozano, Juventus defeat Barcelona and PSG in the race for Mathis De Ligt, Milan landing some intriguing prospects in Leao and Theo Hernandez, Roma acquire their most expensive keeper ever with Pau Lopez, Genoa shock the world by convincing Schone to leave Ajax to play in Liguria and Commisso make a huge splash by signing Ribery. 

In addition to players, we have also seen Serie A bring back two great managers in Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri while Paul Fonseca brought his intriguing offensive mind to Italy. I think it’s safe to say the talent level in Italy has increased this summer, but I’ll let you decide by just listing the names

 

 

 

In- Muriel, Kjaer, Ribery, Ghezzal, Schone, Balotelli, Joronen, Vavro, Nandez, Lukaku, Godin, Lazaro, De Ligt, Ramsey, Rabiot, Higuain, Danilo, Buffon, Jony, Darmian, Smalling, Zappacosta, Mkhitaryan, Kalinic, Pau Lopez, Obiang, Murillo, Lozano, Elmas, Theo Hernandez, Duarte, Rebic, Leao

 

Out- Nagy, Helander, Donsah, Lafont, Kean, Cancelo, Perisic, Icardi, Joao Mario, Praet, Andersen, Nzonzi, El Shaarawy, Karsdorp, Schick

 

Previewing last week of transfer window in Serie A

 

Feels like every time Serie A takes a step forward, it’s immediately followed by a step back. After a successful first season, VAR now tends to create more drama and conspiracies, when it should be in place to accomplish exact opposite. 

The same can also be said about the dates for the transfer window. FIGC’s decision to close it before the first match of the season last summer was met with universal praise, but for an almost inexplicable reason (I can explain on my podcast), the league has gone back to the September 2nd deadline.

But regardless of how you feel about window still being open, the question remains- with a week to go what is on the plate for the top teams? 

 

Juventus

 

Needs: stability, wingback 

Excess players: Rugani, Mandzukic

X Factor: Dybala, Emre Can, Demiral

Right after the De Ligt signing, Juventus were once again seen as the masters of the transfer market- but since then things have gone as well for the bianconeri as it did for the hippies in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” when they showed up at Rick Dalton’s house. The Joao Cancelo and Kean sales followed by Dybala being shopped around made fans of the Old Lady livid. 

The decision to even consider moving three young players with so much talent has little to do with a sporting decision, it’s rather a financial necessity. Cancelo brought in a big plusvalenza and Dybala could fetch another 50 million in capital gains since he has 19 million left in amortized value, and there’s much more pressure to sell him because Juventus is still stuck with the Matuidi, Mandzukic (who is considering an offer from PSG) and Rugani’s off the world. 

Should Neymar not be sold, PSG would almost certainly avoid pursuing Dybala which could force sporting director Paratici to look to make a plusvalenza on someone like Emre Can who has a very low amortized value. By same token, Juventus would much rather sell Rugani, they maybe forced to consider cashing in on Demiral who is linked to Milan.

 

 

 

Napoli

 

Needs: cherry on top of sundae

Excess players:  Verdi, Ounas 

X Factor: James Rodriguez

Following the additions of Di Lorenzo, Manolas, Elmas and Lozano it’s safe to say Napoli are in great shape, especially when you consider the only starter they sold was Albiol who also missed considerable time with injuries last season. While Napoli is still waiting to see if they can sign Icardi or James Rodriguez on bargain deals at the end of the window, their main focus is on moving spare parts with Ounas set to join Nice and Verdi potentially joining Fiorentina.

 

 

Inter

 

Needs: left back

Excess players: Dalbert

X Factor: Icardi, Borja Valero

The nerazzurri have been extremely active recently and thanks to Lokomotiv Moscow picking up Joao Mario’s considerable salary for the season, they were able to slightly increase their contributions to Alexis Sanchez’ wages for this season. The Chilean international will return to Serie A and have the opportunity to get his career back on track playing in the formation that made him into a star at Udinese.

Inter are also set to welcome back Biraghi one of their former youth team products in exchange for Dalbert. Biraghi tailed off after a very strong start to last season that even earned him a selection to the Italian national team and should be a good alternative to Asamoah who can now also play more frequently in the midfield. Inter could also try to move Borja Valero’s considerable salary before the window closes with a return to Fiorentina as a potential solution. Icardi on the other hand will almost certainly stay at least until the January window. 

 

 

 

Lazio

 

Needs: keep what they have 

Excess players: Durmissi

X Factor: Berisha

Lazio were able to keep all of their top players while also finding a way to turn a profit on Milan Badelj a year after signing him on a Bosman deal. At this point the priority is signing Caicedo to an extension so he doesn’t play this season on an expiring deal while potentially cashing in on Durmissi who struggled in his first season in Serie A. Berisha has a better chance to stay, but he could also be expandable with Lazzari’s arrival.

 

Milan

Needs: offense

Excess players: Pepe Reina, Laxalt, Andre Silva

X Factor: Donnarumma

At least Juventus won their first game and already have a great squad, but man it has also been a rather confusing stretch for Milan fans. The rossoneri signed Duarte less than a month ago and are now once again linked to Demiral and Lovren, certainly not a good sign for the Brazilian center back. The inability to move Andre Silva and or Suso has made it harder to pull the trigger on the Angel Correa deal and now Everton Soares is being considered as an alternative (it won’t be any easier to sign him) to the Atletico Madrid striker.

Should PSG sell Neymar, don’t be surprised if they make another push to sign Gigio Donnarumma since they aren’t fully convinced by Areola. Should Donnarumma stay (which is very likely since he’s committed to the club) don’t be surprised if Milan tries hard to shed Pepe Reina’s salary since he’s the highest paid backup keeper in Serie A- Real Madrid could be a good solution should they move Navas.

 

 

Roma

 

Needs: center back, backup striker

Excess Players: Schick, Olsen

X Factor: n/a

Roma had a bad defense last season and then they lost their only above average center back in Manolas. While Gianluca Mancini is a promising player, the giallorossi desperately need another starting caliber defender to partner with Fazio. Mustafi is probably too expensive and Torino are very determined to hold on to Nkolou, leaving Rugani and Lovren (who is still demanding a high salary) as the most realistic alternatives.

Roma will also likely send Schick to the Bundesliga on a loan with option to buy deal while replacing him with Nikola Kalinic, who at least is very familiar with Serie A (I was trying hard to find something nice to say). Sporting director Petrachi has to also find a new home for keeper Olsen.

 

The impact of player wages on transfer market

Thirteen months ago, they both played in the World Cup final and they were expected to carry the positive momentum into the season at their respective clubs. But now both Inter and Roma were so desperate to shed their salaries that they were willing to let them go on a loan deal. I’m talking about Ivan Perisic who earlier this week officially joined Bayern Munich and Steven NZonzi who is on the verge of joining Galatasaray.

But they aren’t the only players who appeared in that match who could join new teams on loan or for a very low transfer fee- in fact Juventus is looking to offload both Blaise Matuidi and Mario Mandzukic as long as someone else is willing to pay their wages (Marko Pjaca is also technically on the market but not because of his wages). We all too often focus on the transfer fee when we look at deals this time of year, but the annual wages that the players agree to, often plays just as significant a role for the buying club’s bottom line down the road.

Once a player’s performances don’t match their salaries, it becomes very hard to move them- especially if they are at a top club where the pay scale is often much higher than the club they are trying to sell to. What often happens with these players is that if you wait a year too long to sell, the difference in the return can be substantial- just think of how much more Perisic was worth on the market the past two years compared to now. 

Inter were determined to rid the team of all distractions with Antonio Conte at the helm. Nainggolan and Icardi were publicly called out by Beppe Marotta and the writing was on the wall for Perisic after his new manager had stated he didn’t view him as a winger in his formation and the club signed Romelu Lukaku. So far Nainggolan and Perisic have been sent out on loan to not only remove distractions in the locker room but especially to remove the enormous cost of their wages before taxes.

Nzonzi is just the latest member of Monchi’s disastrous army of acquisitions at Roma who are on the market. Karsdorp returned to Feyenoord, on you guessed it a loan deal and Marcano returned to Porto. But for Nzonzi his substantial salary is the driver, in fact the giallorossi are so desperate to get him off their books that they are willing to give Galatasaray the option to extend the loan deal into a second deal just to ensure he doesn’t come back to Trigoria.

While we can expect some mistakes at clubs like Roma and Inter, for many years we have heard of how great Juventus is at planning on the transfer market. There’s no doubt the bianconeri have been one chess move ahead of their competitors on numerous occasions in recent years, but recently they have focused more on short term gains and rewarding loyal soldiers.

Mandzukic and Khedira received extensions during the last fiscal year which was as good a plan as the one the stoners who are getting ready to raid Area 51 baked up, while Matuidi now finds himself on the outside looking because of Ramsey and Rabiot’s arrivals as well as Bentancur’s developments. But finding clubs willing to pay the amortized value remaining on these players on top of their lofty wages is nearly impossible.

So next time you read a transfer report or the news of a big name player extending his contract with his current club, pay particular attention to the amount of the wages- that will likely have a more significant long term effect on your favorite team than you realize.

The different approaches Roma, Inter & Milan took to comply with FFP

manolas

In many ways June 30th is an even more significant deadline than the last day of the transfer window since that is when the fiscal year for many clubs ends. For the clubs who also have to meet Financial Fair parameters, or who want to avoid having FFP restrictions in the first place, it’s an especially important deadline to get their houses in order. We have seen Inter, Roma and Milan- three clubs who have FFP restrictions- and Juventus, who want to avoid having parameters set upon them, handle this deadline in very different ways. 

Let’s start with Inter who thanks to their very strong youth system have been able to remain complaint without having to sell any significant starters in recent years. This strategy has worked very well for the nerazzurri since the only time sacrificing a prospect has really come back to haunt them is with Nicolo’ Zaniolo, so despite that setback the club decided to continue with this approach.

This year they sold Andrea Pinamonti to Genoa for 18 million (with a gentleman’s agreement for a buy back), Zinho Vanheudsen to Standard Liege as well as Andrea Adorante to Parma and Marco Sala to Sassuolo as part of the Sensi deal- interesting only the Sala part of the transaction was announced on June 30th for fiscal reasons.

Roma on the other hand continued to sell established players in an effort to comply with Financial Fair Play, since they won’t be able to count on the Champions League revenues after failing to qualify for the next edition, they had even more urgency to shed some of their higher salaries. 

In addition to Kostas Manolas joining Napoli (a deal expected to be announced on June 30th) for his full exit clause and Gerson being sold to Dinamo Moscow for 10 million, the giallorossi also rekindled their relationship with Juventus, which had been rather frosty since the bianconeri exercised Miralem Pjanic’s exit clause a few years ago, with the interesting Leonardo Spinazzola for Luca Pellegrini swap.

Just like with Inter announcing the Sala transaction right before their fiscal year ended, Roma using timing to their advantage. As part of the deal for Manolas, the giallorossi will also acquire Amadou Diawara to replace Daniele De Rossi- but his acquisition for 18 million will be announced after the sale of the Greek defender so they can get the incoming plusvalenza at end of fiscal year 2019 and place the expense to acquire the Napoli midfielder in next year’s.

Gianluigi-Donnarumma

Let’s move on to Milan who recently struck a deal with UEFA to get more time to balance their financial books after the disastrous Chinese era. In exchange for sitting out this edition of the Europa League, the rossoneri have now an extra year to get their balance sheet in order, this will allow them to not have to rush the sale of some players who can bring in some significant plusvalenze, especially goal keeper Gigio Donnarumma, whose departure would also save Milan 24 million in wages before taxes the next two years.

In addition to Donnarumma, new sporting director Massara will work with Maldini and Boban on selling players who failed to live to expectations (Rodriguez, Laxalt, Biglia) and those who can bring in a big plusvalenza like Kessie, Cutrone and Suso (to be clear not all of the players listed in this paragraph will be sold)

While they failed to land promising Turkish defender Kabak, we can expect Milan to continue targeting players with significant upside who also have fairly low salaries like Theo Hernandez, Gianluca Mancini and Dani Ceballos- this will help Milan keep their payroll in check while also landing players who can either be an important part of their future or a candidate to net a big plusvalenza down the road.

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Juventus continue to look for ways to avoid having Financial Fair Play parameters slapped on them to begin with by selling some of the prospects they had acquired in previous years. The end of the co ownership provision a few years ago, started the trend of young players being sold with options to buy and counter options to buy back like in the cases of Emil Audero (whom Sampdoria just kept) and Roberto Mandragora, whom Udinese bought for 20 million while Juventus had right to buy him back for 24 million.

While Juventus didn’t have to sell Dybala and/or Pjanic after acquiring Ronaldo, they ended up paying for the former Real Madrid striker by selling Audero, Mandragora, Orsolini, Cerri and Sturaro- they are starting to make a down payment for their next big addition (likely De Ligt) by selling Spinazzola to Roma- look for Paratici to continue this trend.

 

Which Serie A team could De Rossi join next?

sampdoriaroma

During last Monday’s press conference at the CONI, Francesco Totti certainly didn’t hold back when it came time to explaining why he was leaving Roma. As a matter a fact Er Puppone bombed atomically like Inspectkah Deck on the first verse of “Triumph” when he explained that the Boston based ownership’s master plan was to remove Romans from Roma.

But an unintended consequence of the feud between the players born and raised in Italy’s capital and president Pallotta and his shadow adviser Franco Baldini is that now Daniele De Rossi has reportedly decided to play for another Serie A club rather than go to MLS or Boca Junior. On top of the purely emotional factor of seeing a bandiera like De Rossi play for another team, there’s also the fact that he’s still an above average player at his position as long as you don’t use him for more than 20/25 starts a season.

But where could Daniele De Rossi go next? While we can certainly exclude Lazio (at least let’s hope so), there are numerous options at his disposal:

Juventus- the bianconeri have tried to sign De Rossi numerous times this decade and he could still be a useful player to them in the midfield. But with Gigi Buffon no longer a the club, the Old Lady can’t count on having him as a recruiter, the two are very close as demonstrated by the fact the former Italy keeper attended De Rossi’s last match at the Olimpico. Not sure Chiellini and Bonucci can have the same impact as Buffon when it comes to convincing him to join the dark side.

Inter- the nerazzurri offered De Rossi a multi year deal back in 2017 and Antonio Conte would love repeating the Andrea Pirlo signing at his new club. Inter have agreed to terms with Sassuolo for Stefano Sensi, are determined to keep Roberto Gagliardini and are the overwhelming favorites to sign Niccolo’ Barella- there’s no doubt De Rossi would fit in quite well with this Italian nucleus and would serve as a great mentor to this trio.

Inter can also offer Champions League football to De Rossi, a substantial salary and the former Roma captain has already played for Conte on the Azzurri. If playing on a top team is De Rossi’s priority, Inter certainly checks a lot of boxes.

Napoli- the partenopei are the clear favorites to sign his teammate Kostas Manolas and De Rossi would be an intriguing alternative in the midfield especially if Diawara and Allan are sold. But while the intense rivalry between the clubs is less of a factor for the Greek defender, seeing De Rossi with a Napoli jersey would likely be an extra tough pill to swallow for Roma fans, an entity De Rossi has no beef with unlike the ownership group.

Milan- the rossoneri are looking to shed high wages from their balance sheet and are targeting up and coming players who can either turn into stars. Could they make an exception for De Rossi? He certainly would be a great mentor for Giampaolo’s new squad, but lack of Champions League football and being further along the rebuilding process, could make Inter more appealing should De Rossi want to move to Milano.

Sampdoria- the blucerchiati’s president Ferrero is obsessed with Roma and his dream is to eventually buy the club. But in the meantime, he’s doing all he can to recreate the giallorossi vibe in Liguria. He recently just hired Eusebio Di Francesco to be the manager and has offered Francesco Totti a significant role as a director at the club.

If De Rossi’s main priority isn’t competing for a title or playing for one more season in the Champions League, Sampdoria can offer him a very intriguing destination, one that would also likely upset Roma fans less than say Napoli, Juventus, Inter or Milan.

Atalanta- the Bergamaschi are an intriguing dark horse now that they are in the Champions League. They’ve been pretty ambitious in the early stages of the transfer window by extending Pasalic’s loan and signing Luis Muriel, if that weren’t enough, they even offered Gigi Buffon the opportunity to return to Serie A. At the moment the former Juventus keeper is leaning towards replacing his friend Casillas at Porto, but wouldn’t it be something to see him and his good friend De Rossi playing for Gasperini next season?  

Dzeko at a crossroads, should Roma try to repeat Nainggolan deal?

dzeko

The saying Rome wasn’t built on a day also applies to one of the local football teams. Last summer the giallorossi started an aggressive rebuild project despite making the Champions League, the club’s ownership thought they had the right man to oversee the creation of a young team in Monchi who cashed in on Alisson while also moving Strootman and Nainggolan since they were on the down side of their careers.

While Roma were able to qualify out of their group in the Champions League, they suffered an embarrassing loss in the Coppa Italia against Fiorentina and find themselves in serious jeopardy of not getting back to the Champions League which would be disastrous to the club’s already fragile balance sheet. 

Regardless of where they finish in the Serie A standings, we can expect Roma to continue their rebuild as they look to shed some significant wages- the only difference is they’ll have someone other than Monchi overseeing the project. The new sporting director is likely to however try to repeat the Nainggolan deal with Inter, which turned out to be arguably be the most move Monchi made at the club.

With just one year left on his contract Edin Dzeko is at a cross roads, especially since he’s the giallorossi’s highest paid player at a time where every expense is taken into account. The Bosnian striker hasn’t been as effective as demonstrated by the fact he hadn’t scored at the Olimpico in close to a year, but he’s also a player that can make the difference in big moments and whose value can’t be measured in goals alone. 

Roma will have to make a decision on what to do with Dzeko before he can leave on a Bosman deal- they simply cannot afford to lose a prized asset even if he’s 33. The decision would be easier to make if his heir apparent Patrik Schick hadn’t been such a bust, but while they don’t have a ready replacement on the squad they are likely to move on.

Dzeko has some leverage thanks to an offer from West Ham as well as interest from Germany and Turkey, but probably not enough to convince Roma’s he’s worth his current wages of close to 5 million euro net of taxes on a deal that will take him to his mid 30s. Dzeko however does have an ace up his sleeve since his preference is to stay in Italy- Inter are looking at him as the ideal mentor for their promising attacker Lautaro Martinez- another striker whose value cannot be measured on goals alone.

spalletti

Regardless of who is managing Inter next season, there will almost certainly be someone on their bench who values Dzeko’s skills between his former coach at Roma Luciano Spalletti and his rumored replacement Antonio Conte, who loves strikers who can create space for scoring opportunities from the midfield.

In addition to a manager who values Dzeko, an ownership group with deep pockets who can meet his financial demand, Inter has also a player to offer Roma, who value Dzeko at 20 million euro, to fill a very clear need. Replacing Alisson with Olsen has turned out to be the equivalent of going from Ferguson to Moyes at Manchester United and Roma now find themselves once again on the market for a keeper.

Inter are set at the position with Handanovic for at least the next two seasons so they could offer Andrei Radu who is having an excellent season on loan at Genoa. Radu would be cheap wages wise and would have a lot of upside since he’s 21 in addition to already having at least one season as a starter in Serie A. 

 

While it would be unfair to expect a Zaniolo like impact from Radu, he would certainly be a massive upgrade over Olsen and could learn from Roma’s other keeper Mirante. Roma would also receive cash as part of this deal that could be used to either improve the defense or to partly found the acquisition of a striker, there would of course also be the huge savings on Dzeko’s wages.

Roma are currently going through the process of finding Monchi’s replacement, while the identity of the person is still a mystery, we do know they’ll have to make some important decisions from jump street- trying to repeat the success of the Nainggolan-Zaniolo deal would be a great place to start.