The difficulty with the January transfer window is that no one ever comes out of it completely satisfied. Roma’s activity in particular was hamstrung by the managerial changes midway through the month as Luciano Spalletti replaced Rudi Garcia, and Walter Sabatini set about both trying to identify and bring in (available) players that would suit Spalletti and move on other players who had fallen from favour or simply needed to be got rid of.
Juan Manuel Iturbe and Gervinho were the two major players to leave Roma this month. Whether it was down to injuries, the pressure of playing in the intense spotlight of Rome compared to Verona, or a simple lack of talent, Iturbe never lived up to his 2013/14 form with the Giallorossi. This season it was patently clear that he wasn’t going to receive the consistent playing time that he needed to try and rediscover his form (of his 19 appearances, 13 came from the bench), and he was shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
Gervinho though was a different case; like Iturbe, he had been close to leaving last summer but eventually stayed. But Garcia’s departure had a major effect on him, and the money that Hebei Fortune offered both Roma and the player convinced Gervinho to call time on his two and a half years in the capital. His performances throughout his time at Roma were among the best the team had to offer, and he was certainly the Giallorossi’s most consistently effective forward from 2013 until his departure.
The duo were replaced by Stephan El Shaarawy – who has already made an instant impact with a spectacular goal against Frosinone – and Diego Perotti. Both players offer great technical ability and dynamism, but both also have something to prove as well. El Shaarawy has never come close to hitting the heights he achieved in late 2012 but has been given the perfect opportunity at Roma to rediscover the immense ability he has in himself. Perotti meanwhile excelled at Genoa and now has the stage to re-establish himself as one of Europe’s finest; after all, it wasn’t so long ago that the likes of Real Madrid were prepared to offer Sevilla over €30m for him.
Ervin Zukanovic’s arrival shouldn’t go unmentioned either. The Bosnian is a sensible signing, a solid defender who can cover both centre back (his preferred position) as well as left back – an area that Spalletti explicitly requested reinforcing, although he had initially hoped to be reunited with Mimmo Criscito. The issue will be whether Zukanovic can make the step up to Roma, having played at fairly low levels until moving to Serie A in 2014 with Chievo. There is an argument to be made that Roma should have signed another centre half or a right back (or indeed both) to strengthen the team’s weakest area, but given the available options there’s also a strong argument to be made that the club are right to wait until the summer.
Ultimately Roma’s January transfer window can be described as understated, with only essential deals being made while the team and their new coach develop a mutual understanding. The decision to replace Garcia with Spalletti should of course have been made much sooner than it was, but given the delay the club have acted relatively shrewdly albeit not having strengthened as much as some fans may have wished. In essence though, not making too many changes at this stage may turn out to be the wiser course as a bigger overhaul risked upsetting the team’s balance even more. With the players he has at his disposal, particularly when Maicon and Lucas Digne are fit again, Spalletti will have the flexibility to use a variety of systems (4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1) to get the most out of his players in the race for a Champions League place.
Once, or if, that is achieved, then the sporting director can plan accordingly for next season. Whether that sporting director is still Walter Sabatini though remains to be seen.