Captain. Roman. Punching bag. Often ridiculed and always played out of position for the last several years, Alessandro Florenzi is almost certain to start for AS Roma against Genoa on the opening day of the Serie A season. But should he?
Several times the Rome based club have dipped into the transfer market, but all the options selected so far have failed to live up to the lofty transfer fees paid to finally free Florenzi, so he can finally return to a more attacking role in the side.
The likes of Bruno Peres, Rick Karsdorp, and Davide Santon have all pulled on the jersey and for one reason or another be it injury or general lack of ability have failed to settle into the side.
Rumours are again beginning to swirl about that sporting director Gianluca Petrachi is looking at possible defensive re-enforcements on the right side coming in to the Giallorossi. With time running out before the transfer market closes let's look at the options of who are the contenders to plug the gap in Paulo Fonseca's side.
Current Occupant: Alessandro Florenzi
In all these years there's one thing that's for sure: Florenzi isn't a right back. Yet somehow, coach after coach seems either intent or through lack of other options stick him there season after season.
Initially put there by Rudi Garcia after an injury emergency at the back he's been pegged back there despite it not being his natural role. The native Roman started out his career brilliantly under Zdenek Zeman, highlighting his industry, work rate, and a bit of flair he thrived.
Things essentially have never been the same for Florenzi since he suffered a terrible ACL injury. Losing his place in the midfield he was desperate to work himself back into the squad, and thus the brilliant idea of plugging him at the back came about.
Since that time it's been clear he doesn't have the positional sense, speed, or crossing ability to really excel in the role no matter how hard he tries. In a recent pre-season game again Real Madrid he was badly exposed by Marcelo on the opening goal highlighting just exactly why he isn't suited to the role and is not up to the task to get Roma back in the UEFA Champions League come the end of the season.
With a fresh start this season under manager Fonseca it's best everyone moves on from this failed experiment for the betterment of the team.
In House Replacement: Leonardo Spinazzola
Earlier in the summer in what could be deemed a blockbuster move, and tensions between the clubs seemingly disappearing, Roma had sent promising left back Luca Pellegrini to Juventus FC in exchange for Leonardo Spinazolla.
Granted his preferred position is left back, and is where he has played the most in his career, but as a naturally right footed player he has filled in from time to time.
However, where he more than makes up for in regards to his preferred position in the pitch is his natural talent, pace, and actual defending. His inclination of where he should be on the pitch when the team is attacking and defending would greatly enhance the teams ability to defend as a unit compared to with Florenzi who often finds himself at sea.
With the coaching change at the club, Fonseca's type of football is also beater suited to Spinazzola. Fonseca prefers his fullbacks to be pinned higher up the pitch in order to stretch play and press in more attacking positions.
While the style of Florenzi and Spinazzola are different they do share one attribute in common...injuries. Like Florenzi he has also suffered a brutal set of ACL injuries that have hampered his last few seasons. In fact it kept him out of action for half the season last year, so it's hard to say that Spinazzola can be reliable to contribute for an entire season and in a position not entirely familiar to him.
Outside of Italy Addition: Davide Zappacosta
David Zappacosta makes a lot of sense for a variety of reasons. He's under 30 years old, is a naturalized right back, has the attributes that would suit Fonseca's tactics, and is eager to get back to Italy. He would be able to provide a better goal input, has superior key pass metrics, and is better at keeping possession that Florenzi.
He also has a previous relationship when sporting director Petrachi, who was in charge of Torino FC at the time he spent at the club, and sold him to Chelsea FC. It's not very shocking to hear Petrachi looking to bring in his former protege.
The two problems with Zappacosta are as follows: he has barely played over the last two seasons at Stamford Bridge and his cost. Since his deadline day transfer he's only played 26 times in the Premier League, and having cost €28 million is certainly a cause for concern.
Chelsea are rumoured to be asking for €25 million for the defender, which simply put Roma are in no position to pay. Unless, coming over in either a dry loan or loan with option to buy at a reduced figure the transfer does not improve Roma to point where they have to make a move.
Best Bet: Elseid Hysaj
Since Carlo Ancelotti took over from his mentor Maurizio Sarri at SSC Napoli, Elseid Hysaj hasn't been able to solidify his place in the squad with a mixture of tactics and injuries hampering his exclusion from the starting 11. Like the others he has had a significant injury history and been held back by a knee injury that has wrecked his last several seasons.
On his day Elseid Hysaj, an Albanian national team member, is one of the very best fullbacks in Italy. At 25 years old he's already won the best right back award in Serie A during his time in Naples, and has impressed since his days at Empoli.
Rumours about his potential addition to Roma started picking up earlier in the summer when the Giallorossi were in negotiations to bring in new midfielder Jordan Veretout, whom Hysaj shares an agent with. At the time though Roma were not able to afford the €20 million quoted by Napoli for his signature. However, with Davide Santon looking to move to La Liga a move could be on the cards again with Napoli apparently lowering their demands to a more reasonable €15 million with the window coming to a close.
A much more sound defender than the previous three players mentioned before his addition would go a long way to solidify Roma's extremely shaky backline that shipped bucket loads of goals last season.
Where Hysaj could really help Roma is with his technical ability. A good dribbler, and played in a Napoli side that suffocated sides with possession, so he is adept at holding onto the ball. He also averages a massive amount of passes. In 2017/18 he averaged 65.7 passes per game and boasting a passing percentage of 86.9% according to WhoScored. Since Fonseca plays a similar type of game to Sarri it wouldn't be a stretch to see Hysaj return to form. If he can get back to the player he was several years ago he would certainly be the best fit to finally end the woes Roma has had at finding a right back.