Gazzetta dello Sport (Chiara Zucchelli) From Marquinhos to Benatia, from Yanga-Mbiwa to Manolas – in the last few years, Roma supporters have more often than not adored their centre backs. Except for the Greek, who is in his third season with the Giallorossi, the others only lasted 12 months, sold to make the club a profit. However, the new leader of the Roman defence, Federico Fazio, seems to be about to take a different path. He has already reached the number of appearances required to trigger the release clause agreed with Tottenham (it’s easy to work that out, given that he hasn’t missed a minute of the league season since September) and Roma have given him a contract until 2019, tying him down for the next 2 seasons with a salary worthy of a top player: €3 million a year, including bonuses related to both individual and the team’s performances. He joined the club in the summer for a minimal fee, a €1.2 million loan fee and a €3.2 million option to make it permanent (he cost less than every other centre back Roma have signed in the last few years, including the young Marquinhos), and is performing to such a high level that Spalletti said after the Cagliari game that “it would be impossible for us to do without him right now”.
After his arrival at Roma was met with a fair amount of scepticism after his failure in the Premier League, the defender – who turns 30 in March – quickly became a leader in the dressing room. He doesn’t regret his time at Tottenham (“the Premier League teaches you a lot”, he has said) or the close friends he made there, such as with his fellow Argentine Lamela. The former Roma player, who has been out for some weeks with a hip problem, has been treated by a physio at Trigoria and was at the Olimpico last night for the Cagliai match, while today he has been enjoying the sea and seafood in a restaurant at Santa Severa. Fazio was with him, of course, and was recognised by fans who a few months ago considered him to be a reserve, and not a particularly good one at that. Even Spalletti used to be of the same opinion – in the crucial return leg against Porto, he chose to play De Rossi at centre back instead; in the first 2 games of the season he played for little more than half an hour, and in the third he was left on the bench against Samp. But then something changes: he started against Fiorentina, and has started every game in the league and Coppa Italia since, as well as 4 of the 6 Europa League games, even scoring against Astra Giurgiu.
Obviously Fazio will start again in Genoa against Samp on Sunday alongside Manolas and Rudiger, and the team is unlikely to change from that which started against Cagliari yesterday. A number of players are tired, but there won’t be many changes until the Coppa Italia match against Cesena on 1st February. Instead, after this morning’s training session, Spalletti gave the entire squad a day and a half’s rest, and they will return to Trigoria for training at midday on Wednesday.