There has always been somewhat of a ‘culture crisis’ at Roma. Fabio Capello once described his former team as a “big club with a small-town mind” and when Monchi joined there were a lot of think pieces wondering if he could change the culture in Rome. If one of his first signings, Dutch right-back Rick Karsdorp is anything to go by, he’s on the right track.
Even after Feyenoord won their first Eredivisie title for 18 years, overturning all betting promo codes, Karsdorp’s first thought was self-criticism. “I do not consider this to be a good season, as strange as it may sound. Last year, I recorded 11 assists, whereas I failed to do so this season.” For the record, he still registered four assists as well as being named to the Eredivisie team of the year 2016-17.
The Dutch international has been signed from Feyenoord for €14m plus a potential €5m in bonuses. The full-back positions are no longer for failed outfield players, as in recent seasons it has become a quintessential role if you want to compete for titles.
Two-way fullbacks that can defend and attack whilst having the stamina to back it up are going for a hefty sum in this market. Consider Alex Sandro being tagged at €70m and Danilo moving to Real Madrid for €31.5m two summers ago.
Bear that in mind when Roma have just bought a Dutch international that featured in a historic title-winning team whilst being the best right-back in the whole league at 22. All that for €14m. Now we could be talking about a great deal.
He rose through the youth ranks in Rotterdam as a midfielder, even playing in the first team as a trequartista. These experiences weren’t meant to further Karsdorp’s career as an attacking full-back, but when Fred Rutten was hired in 2014, he spotted the potential.
At first, the defensive holes in his game were papered over by his athletic abilities. He could push up the field and recover the vacated space. However, under Giovanni van Bronckhorst, his defensive capabilities have improved in leaps and bounds.
The signing of Karsdorp has wider implications for the rest of the squad. A year ago, Roma thought they had signed their right-back for the foreseeable future in Bruno Peres at a cost of €13.5m from Torino. After a pretty dismal season mixed in with some injury issues, Monchi isn’t prepared to wait and see if the Brazilian can recapture his previous form. He’s already moved on.
Another complication for the Giallorossi is where Alessandro Florenzi fits in when he comes back from injury. The Roma youth product was having a career year playing right-back before his second ACL injury in quick succession, though new Coach Eusebio Di Francesco seems to want him further upfield.
With the signing of Karsdorp, Roma’s defence is beginning to take shape. The only question that remains is if Roma will spend on a left-back despite forecasts of Emerson being fit by December.