Roma are on the verge of completing a deal for Lyon midfielder Maxime Gonalons, which is widely reported to be worth around €5 million. The French international is out of contract next summer, and according to Gianluca Di Marzio he will sign a 4-year contract next week. Roma will pay €5 million in 2 instalments, €3 million this year and €2 million next year.
The player’s agent, Frederic Guerra, has also confirmed the move on Twitter, saying “Agreement reached between Olympique Lyonnais and AS Roma for the transfer of Maxime Gonalons. Medical in Rome on Monday. Thanks to the two presidents.”
Accord trouvé olympique lyonnais et as roma pour le transfert de maxime gonalons..visite médicale lundi à Rome..merci aux deux présidents..
— frederic guerra (@FredericGuerra) June 28, 2017
But who is Gonalons, and what will he bring to Roma? As a deep lying midfielder, he is being signed to replace Leandro Paredes (who is likely to join Zenit St Petersburg) and to provide an alternative to captain Daniele De Rossi. Gonalons will perform a similar role to De Rossi, sitting in front of the defence, aiming to break up opposition attacks before restarting the play again, looking to play either directly towards the forwards or a shorter ball to his central midfield partners.
Having played in both a 4-3-3 and a 4-2-3-1 this season, Gonalons will be familiar with the systems used most recently at Roma, though new coach Eusebio Di Francesco will prefer to use the former next season. His preference to play as the deepest of the midfielders will allow the likes of Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman and Lorenzo Pellegrini the freedom to move forward and support attacks, as well as to provide cover when either full back pushes on.
Gonalons’ attacking contribution will be minimal – over the last 2 seasons, his key passes have been at less than 1 per game with equally small contributions in front of goal (1 goal in 44 appearances in all competitions in 2016/17, 0 in 43 in 2015/16), through balls, and dribbles.
However, compared with Daniele De Rossi’s performances last season (graphic below), his passing accuracy is superior, with more tackles and more interceptions. Di Francesco will look for his Roma side to play an attractive style of football, and Gonalons’ ability to play simple passes and keep the play moving will be an important aspect of the gameplan when the coach calls on the Frenchman. He rarely plays long passes, but he has a good range of passing and – given Roma’s tendency to play directly towards Edin Dzeko at times last season (likely to be replicated this season) – he will probably be required to do so again when he pulls on the red and yellow.
Needless to say that there are differences between the styles of Serie A and Ligue 1, but Gonalons clearly has the attributes to perform well in Italian football. Napoli tried to sign him twice in 2014, the second time being rejected by the player himself, but this time the 28 year old feels the time is right to cross the Alps.
While Gonalons’ relationship with Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas has not been ideal of late, he has also spent his entire career at the club and is keen for a fresh start. According to Get French Football, last season “his interest, effort and level of play have clearly declined”, which may well be due to the fact he has been playing for les Gones since 2009.
At 28 he still has plenty of time left in his career, so any decline in his performances last season is far from terminal. Roma can be confident that they have picked up an excellent player for a low risk fee, and Gonalons will certainly provide much needed depth as the Giallorossi look to compete on multiple fronts next season.