When it comes to sporting directors in football,Ramón Rodríguez Verdejo, more commonly known as Monchi, is at the top of the list, having used his resources and acumen to discover a host of talented youngsters from the academy as well as finding bargains all across the world. His work brought Sevilla plenty of success, which was why clubs across Europe were scrambling for his signature when he chose to leave the Andalusian club. AS Roma won that battle, and given their penchant for smart deals prior to Monchi’s arrival, it seems like a marriage made in heaven.
While Milan have set the bar high for a frenetic transfer window so far, with eleven new signings, including the big capture of Leonardo Bonucci, Roma’s business has gone relatively unnoticed, which must be the way Monchi prefers it to be. Uncovering young gems and bringing in experienced guns for cheap has been the Monchi way, yet he is never afraid to spend money when required. The seven deals completed so far signal a bright start to Monchi’s time in Rome. Eusebio di Francesco, formerly of Sassuolo, was also announced as the new manager this season: it’s a new era in Rome, especially with Totti leaving, and so far the focus has been on functional players.
The talk this summer has mainly revolved around the three main departures: Mohamed Salah, Antonio Rudiger and Leandro Paredes, all of whom were key members of the squad. Salah was the dynamite winger, finally flourishing after failing at Chelsea, while Antonio Rudiger established himself as a quality defender at Roma despite his ACL injury that had ruled him out of Euro 2016.
Leandro Paredes made the more baffling move of the trio, moving to Zenit in Russia despite his obvious potential. His spell at Empoli put him on most scout’s notebooks, yet he found consistency a hard thing to come by while at Roma, Still, he was never expected to move out of a big five league, disappointing a number of fans that he could go down the Axel Witsel path. Paredes is only 23 however, which means he can use Zenit as a platform for a bigger move in the future.
Kostas Manolas’s non-move may end up being the most significant out of all their dealings. While it may seem a Greek could never fit in Mancini’s Argentine revolution in Russia, his collapsed transfer was said to be because of a dispute in the currency of payment. Whatever be the reason, keeping Manolas was pivotal in selling Rudiger- it is highly doubtful Monchi would have sold both of his centre-backs in the same window.
Monchi had claimed that Roma was not a super-market; a claim that most fans felt his actions were contradicting, but the buy cheap, sell high model is in place for a reason. With large profits made from the sale of the aforementioned trio, it fits within the model and allows for greater investment spread across the side. Does it cause a decrease in quality in the side? Not necessarily so, even if the new names will be put under the microscope from the word ‘go’.
Three of the six new acquisitions are defensive reinforcements, targeting the weak spot of the side. The Eredivisie was the first focus of Monchi as he sought to strengthen the defence through Hector Moreno and Rick Karsdorp. At €5M Moreno is a real bargain: an experienced defender whom Monchi has targeted previously at Sevilla to no avail. He is a clear functional buy who adds depth to the squad while also being a potential partner to Manolas.
Karsdorp on the other hand cost more, but at 22 has his best days ahead of him. A right-back who possesses a different skill-set to that of Bruno Peres, his purchase should allow Florenzi to shift back into midfield. Finally, in Aleksandar Kolarov, Roma have a left-back that provides quality and experience on a left-flank, attributes that will be sorely needed with Emerson’s ACL injury and Mario Rui’s departure to Napoli. Though by no means a signing to get the heartbeats racing (especially given his history at Lazio), he represents the functionality in Monchi’s style of business.
Rick Karsdorp of Feyenoord with the tropheeduring Feyenoord Rotterdam honored Eredivisie champions at the Coolsingel on May 15, 2017 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands(Photo by VI Images via Getty Images)
Moving forward, Roma found another potential bargain in Maxime Gonalons, Lyon’s former captain, who admittedly had a sub-par season last year, but has the quality to cut it in Roma’s midfield. He provides quality in depth in a midfield that contains a number of illustrious names. At €5M, Monchi has picked out another player with a squad function similar to that of Moreno and Kolarov.
Lorenzo Pellegrini, however, should have a bright future at the club. He moved from Roma to Sassuolo in 2015, spending two years under the new Roma manager, giving him two advantages: his new manager knows him well, having given him chances to shine, while he is also a Roma graduate and knows how the systems work. Adjusting to his new environment will not be difficult.
Lastly, in the attack, Monchi unearthed what could be the best buy of Roma’s summer: Cengiz Ünder, the so-called Turkish Dybala, from Basaksehir. He will certainly be eased in as a replacement for Salah so as to not put pressure on him, but the Turk is used to dealing with pressure from a young footballing age. A highly confident player who’s adept at taking shots, if he’s under-rated now, he won’t be for long. But Roma have also brought in Gregoire Defrel from Sassuolo on a loan deal with an obligation to buy: another deal pushed through by di Francesco who knows the player well and at 26, has his best days ahead of him. He looks like a great back-up for Edin Dzeko.
With a month to go for the window to close, it doesn’t seem like Monchi has any major work left to do now apart from a couple of depth players, unless there are departures. But of those there seem to be no major ones left, with the main man, Nainggolan, renewing his contract. Roma have a bad history for ACL injuries, which means that there can never be enough depth, but Monchi will be keen to have at least two options for every position which he has now. Szcsesny’s departure to Juventus via Arsenal has opened up a spot for fellow Pole Skorupski who impressed at Empoli last season- he will thus battle with Alisson for the starting spot.
It doesn’t have to be a supermarket if you don’t want it to. It’s all in the mindset. Monchi has begun to leave his mark on Roma, and under di Francesco, you’d expect them to have a great season. Their social media team has done an exemplary job with the transfer announcements so far; it’ll be a shame if the team don’t live up to that. I Giallorossii are on their way.