All that Walter Sabatini needs is a couple of explosions, and then his life becomes the prototype of a Michael Bay movie, with him literally flying everywhere in a race against time to satisfy 23 different parties while presumably swearing a lot.
The latest reports indicate volcanic mercato activity all involving Roma’s defence, with Moroccan centre-back Mehdi Benatia still the conundrum. His sale seems inevitable now, not only because Olympiakos' Kostas Manolas looks certain to arrive and unofficial sources suggest Lille's Marko will closely follow, but because the player himself seems to be on the verge of rupture. Apparently his relationship with the rest of the team is tense, with long spells of silence broken only by episodes of bickering. Benatia can't wait to leave, and the others can't wait either.
The reason the sale still hasn't happened is that Roma still has several details to smooth out, including but not limited to that of price. Bayern Munich, still the most likely candidate to secure the veteran defender's services, initially put £19m on the table, while Roma were looking for an offer closer to £24m. The disagreement resulted in a stasis, which Sabatini promptly employed to fly to England in an attempt to find other solutions – for instance, trying to upsell Benatia to Arsenal, who turned down the offer. When that happened, Sabatini was expected to fly to Germany yesterday – something he did not do. Perhaps there is still unfinished business in England, but expect closure for the Benatia histrionics in the very near future – possibly in the next few hours.
Such closure is in fact central to any discussions about Roma's immediate future, as the primary source of uncertainty going into the season is the team's defence. Summer games have suggested that the department is less lucid and efficient than it was last year, and the injury of Leandro Castan means that Roma will likely have to deploy a whole new central duo for a while.
This is important because Coach Rudi Garcia's 4-3-3 relies on a functional relationship between two strong passers in the middle of the defence and two strong passers in the middle of the midfield. These four passers make up an interlocked tactical square that allows the rest of the team to manoeuvre around it at high levels of speed. In the absence of Benatia and Castan, new players will have to be worked into the role not quickly but immediately – the season opener against Fiorentina, who pack a heavy punch even in the absence of Giuseppe Rossi, is only five days away.
If it is confirmed that both Basa and Manolas are incoming, then expect a loan for hot prospect Alessio Romagnoli to follow, possibly en route to Sampdoria. Roma's four central defenders would then become Castan, Basa, Manolas and Davide Astori, three of whom would be newcomers this year. While not all of them may be world class, on paper that's a solid defence. It will have to hold up on the field too, though, not just on paper. Roma's whole season depends on it.
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