Despite the metaphoric ringing of the bell to signal the end of the transfer window, Roma’s real mercato is only just starting.
Read also: Updated squad lists and contract information
After a turbulent summer where young stars Marquinhos and Erik Lamela were shipped off to PSG and Tottenham respectively, the club’s biggest piece of business is still yet to be done. A whole host of Roma contracts are in need of attention, whether it be extensions, expirations, wage increases or wage decreases General Manager Mauro Baldissoni and Sporting Director Walter Sabatini have their work cut out for them.
Contracts in need of renewal:
Arguably the most important contract situation at Roma this season will be that of Francesco Totti. As the club Captain entered into his 22nd season with the club there was much doubt over whether or not the Roman would be handed an extension. Roma fans were sent into borderline hysterics when Totti announced at the unveiling of the new jersey that this would be the last Roma jersey he wears. In hindsight, this was probably a clever ploy to secure a new contract…a ploy that has seemingly worked. About two weeks ago Baldissoni announced that it was the intention of the club’s management to keep Totti “with us for as long as possible.” Of course in order for an extension to be agreed upon Totti will have to take a cut in salary and it has been reported that the cut is as large as €5.1million as the club legend prepares to lower his annual salary from €8.6 million (gross) to around €3.5 million, a sacrifice the current Roma management will no doubt be very appreciative of. Totti’s desire for the extension to be until the end of the 2015-16 season, a request not initially shared by the management, has apparently also been agreed upon and will surely delight the fans.
After the Totti extension is officially agreed upon and approved, the next set of business will be that of a certain, Miralem Pjanic. Those who do not appreciate the Bosnian playmaker may feel that a new contract is simply a knee jerk reaction after a brilliant start to the campaign (1 goal, 1 assist and 5 other chances created) but Pjanic’s ability has never been in question. Rudi Garcia is putting faith in Pjanic to deliver this season (the same sort of faith that was non-existent during Zdenek Zeman’s second spell) and is, in many ways, building this Roma side around Pjanic. Although the Bosnian’s contract only ends in the summer of 2015, it is imperative that a new contract is agreed upon (at least in principle) so as to avoid losing him for cheap at the end of this season. Pjanic “only” earns €4.3million (gross) at the moment and would surely look for an extension that would leave him earning around €5.5million, a salary increase he surely deserves. Despite having little to no faith shown in his abilities last season, the former Lyon playmaker still created 56 chances and scored three goals (including an incredible 50m chipped free kick in the derby against Lazio) and a failure to ensure Pjanic’s long term future in the capital would undo all the hard work done earlier this summer in trying to build a competitive, long term project.
Francesco Totti and Miralem Pjanic’s contract extensions are pretty obvious requirements for the management to take care of over the next six months but there lurks a more interesting contract dilemma on the horizon. The failure to offload Marco Borriello on the final day of the transfer window has now left Roma with a conundrum. Either Borriello will be frozen out of the squad so as to make him more likely to accept a transfer (and wage cut) when the winter transfer window opens or he will be incorporated back into the team and offered a contract extension as Roma look to cut his astronomical wages that were so generously donated during the Sensi ownership. Borriello is currently set to earn a gross salary of €5.4 million over the next two seasons (€10.8million in total) and would have to agree to a three year contract worth €3million a season (€9million in total) to make the deal worth Roma’s time. The rationale behind offering Borriello an extension is primarily based on the fear that the Roma management have of not being able to find a club willing to pay his wages in full or to buy him completely. This is a legitimate fear that I share as well, despite Borriello having scored 12 goals and created 29 chances last season, he’s somewhat of a luxury. He lacks the movement, versatility and perhaps even the footballing intelligence to be a hit in Rudi Garcia’s fluid 4-3-3 and although he may be a decent option off the bench, at the moment his wages are burning a hole right through his seat. If Borriello does not accept a new contract with a smaller salary, Roma will find themselves in between a rock and an exceptionally hard place.
If (and it’s a big if) Roma can deal with the aforementioned contracts, then there isn’t much else to worry about, though, there are a few contract situations that the management should keep in their peripherals. Alessandro Florenzi, Michael Bradley, Leandro Castan and Tin Jedvaj all have contracts that expire in 2016 and each player has their own role to play within this squad. Florenzi (22) is the face of the new Roma and while his fellow Romans (Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi) enter into their final years, Florenzi is just at the beginning of his career and it is important that he is offered a long term deal that would line him up as the next “Capitano Futuro.” Michael Bradley is of course expected to play a pivotal role in opening up Roma’s brand presence in the United States and his footballing abilities are often overlooked because of his nationality and “brand potential.” Bradley offers Roma depth and is in many ways a like for like replacement for either Kevin Strootman or Daniele De Rossi and is therefore crucial to the future success and longevity of the Roma project (on and off the field). Leandro Castan is one of the most underrated centre backs in Serie A and having used last year to adapt to Italian football is poised to have his breakout year. Castan will be 29 going on 30 when his contract expires in 2016 and may warrant a one or two year extension in the summer of 2015, depending on his performance although I do feel he will become one of the great Roma defenders, who we look back upon and reminisce. This leads us to the last player, Tin Jedvaj. The young Croatian (17) signed for Roma for €5million earlier this season (a sizable investment for one so young) and although it remains to be seen whether he can become the next Marquinhos, the early signs are positive and there is already speak of him edging in front of Nicolas Burdisso in the pecking order for centre back.
It is with Nicolas Burdisso that we move on to the players who should not be given contract extensions. The 32 year old Argentine centre back in now entering his 5th and surely his final season with Roma. The experienced defender’s contract expires next summer and is widely expected to make a return to his beloved Boca Juniors. Burdisso earns €4.5million (gross) per annum and his departure is a necessary one with Roma looking to improve it’s financial health. Another player expected to be leaving with Burdisso is fellow South American Rodrigo Taddei, whose contract will also wind down at the end of this season and thankfully so. Taddei earns a gross salary of around €2.8million and although at first glance that may not seem very high, consider that Taddei only featured in 4 games the whole of last season (two of those were substitute appearances).
At the end of the 2014-15 season, the likes of Morgan De Sanctis, Federico Balzaretti and Maicon’s contracts will also have expired and none are expected to be handed renewals.
Vasilis Torosidis’ contract will also expire in the summer of 2015 although it is hard to gauge whether or not the Greek international will be in line to receive a new deal. To a degree, one wonders whether Torosidis will even at the club by the end of January later this season as he may struggle to find match time in a crucial season for his development as he aims to make the Greek national team’s squad for the 2014 World Cup (should they qualify).
By the end of this season, Roma could potentially shave off €14.8million a season in wages (by reducing both Totti and Borriello’s salaries and releasing Taddei and Burdisso at the end of their contracts). This would allow a realistic and affordable way for the management to offer Miralem Pjanic an increase that would keep the formidable midfielder happy in Rome.
But perhaps the most important contract situation of the year does not concern Totti or Pjanic but rather Walter Sabatini. The Sporting Director has done an incredible job since being given full reigns of the club’s sporting dealings (after the departure of Franco Baldini to Tottenham) but his contract is set to expire at the end of this season, with former Fiorentina Director Panatleo Corvino rumoured to be the leading candidate to replace Sabatini. The rumours of Sabatini’s departure are seemingly based on his apparent dissatisfaction at the sale of Erik Lamela, but this is surely unsubstantiated. Walter Sabatini was no doubt given the brief in around March (when it began to look like Roma might miss out on Champions League Qualification) that this summer would involve an overhaul of the squad, with the best players sold to raise money in an effort to combat some of the debt incurred by going two seasons without European football. The current Roma management understand that they need a character like Sabatini in the build-up to a new stadium, a conservative character who is able to build teams while at the same time generating profits from sales.
Perhaps the only thing in the way of an extension to Sabatini’s contract, is Sabatini himself. The Umbrian Sporting Director is not really known to stick around in one place for too long and at 58 years of age, perhaps he feels he has one more “project” in him before retiring. I highly doubt this, but you never really know in football, do you?