It’s all change at Roma, with sporting director Monchi exiting the club less than 24 hours after the dismissal of head coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
It’s fair to say that Monchi didn’t live up to expectations at Roma, and the pressure seems to have got to him, as he reached a mutual agreement to leave after less than two seasons.
Monchi will be remembered for orchestrating some big sales at Roma – with the likes of Alisson Becker, Radja Nainggolan and Mohamed Salah moving on under his stewardship – but it’s the incomings that have come under even more scrutiny. Even with the big cash generated from those sales, Monchi didn’t always replace the talent effectively, opting for depth rather than improvements to the starting lineup.
One or two key players he brought in will stand out as a legacy of his brief tenure, but many will be remembered as disappointments. Here is a rundown of all his signings that made a senior appearance for the club, ranked from worst to best.
19. Javier Pastore
One of Monchi’s most expensive additions, and certainly his most disappointing. Pastore has been an embarrassment to the team with his lazy attitude and lack of desire. It always seemed like a pointless signing – Pastore didn’t fit into the 4-3-3 system that Di Francesco was using at the time, had struggled with injury in recent years, and was past his prime. What’s more, for Monchi to offer a 29-year-old player a five-year contract was ludicrous.
18. Jonathan Silva
Remember him? When, in Monchi’s first season, Aleksandar Kolarov was suffering from burnout and Roma needed a genuine alternative at left-back, Monchi decided to bring in an injured player who was struggling for gametime at Sporting. It’s still baffling to this day.
17. Hector Moreno
A player that Monchi had pursued for a long time, but it didn’t go as he would’ve hoped. Moreno made just six appearances at the back end of 2017 before quickly being moved on to Real Sociedad. A huge impact, then.
16. Maxime Gonalons
On the face of it, this initially seemed like a decent signing. Roma needed someone to gradually take over from Daniele De Rossi in holding midfield, and former France international and Lyon captain Gonalons could well have been that man. Alas, he struggled to adjust to the demands of Italian football, and rarely put in a good performance. Another one to soon be moved on, he joined Sevilla after just one season. Incidentally, he has only made five appearances there all season.
15. Ante Coric
Coric could turn out to be a decent player after all, but with just 19 minutes of Serie A action to his name so far, it doesn’t seem like this was the wisest move from Monchi. Roma’s midfield has been overcrowded this season, meaning there has been no space for the Croatian to develop. Time will tell if he goes on to become a top class player, but for now he seems like a waste of money.
14. Gregoire Defrel
He could have been a suitable vice-Dzeko, but Defrel didn’t cope well with making the step up to Roma. Often being deployed out of position on the wing made things hard for him, but even so, he looked out of his depth and not strong enough to compete at the highest level. His form for Sampdoria this season has been much-improved, so perhaps there is still a player in there and Roma just didn’t use him right.
13. Ivan Marcano
Marcano can go into the same category as Gonalons. At first sight, it seemed like a shrewd move. Picking up an experienced player on a free transfer in a position where Roma needed to improve – it all sounded good. However, Marcano has struggled to nail down a regular place in the side, and doesn’t appear to have the required physicality.
12. Rick Karsdorp
This one could have been a lot lower if it hadn’t been for Karsdorp’s resurgence in 2019. When Roma desperately needed cover at right-back, Monchi for some reason decided to sign a player for the role who was already carrying an injury. Those problems kept Karsdorp away from the team for the majority of his debut season, meaning the uninspiring Alessandro Florenzi and Bruno Peres had to share the position. However, on the odd occasion this term, Karsdorp has come into the side and shown enough quality to suggest why Monchi put his faith in him. Future performances could definitely see his position on this list rise.
11. Robin Olsen
Whilst some of the criticism Olsen has come in for this season has been a tad unfair, he was hardly the most inspiring replacement for Alisson. True, most keepers worldwide would have been a downgrade on the Liverpool-bound Brazilian, but fans were probably hoping for a better replacement. He has put in some decent performances, and he remains a starter for Sweden internationally, but he has made some high-profile blunders this year which suggest Roma should have been a bit more bold in bringing in a new keeper. Still, on the balance of things, he probably deserves a second season to prove his worth.
10. Antonio Mirante
The other goalkeeper brought in by Monchi in the summer – as well as Daniel Fuzato, who is yet to appear for the first team – Mirante just pips Olsen in this list due to the lower expectations on him. Mirante has been a capable back up so far, and probably has some justified arguments to say he should have started more matches. His experience will come in handy during his time at Roma, but even so, he still seems like a downgrade on last season’s number two, Lukasz Skorupski.
9. Patrik Schick
Roma parted with a lot of money to bring Schick to the club, in a deal which could eventually surpass their record transfer fee. He hasn’t always carried that weight on his shoulders well. In his first season, the pressure he felt was visible, and after battling with injury, he made a few poor mistakes upon his return. This season has improved slightly – especially since his hiring of a mental coach – but he certainly hasn’t provided value for money. However, it’s beginning to look like he could develop and recapture the form he showed at Sampdoria with the right attitude.
8. Justin Kluivert
The jury’s still out. Kluivert is an exciting player with big potential, but has perhaps come to Roma too early in his career. He hasn’t seen as much gametime as he would have liked – and probably would have deserved – but a change of manager could see him get a run in the team. There’s plenty of time for Kluivert to grow.
7. Bryan Cristante
Another expensive player who could eventually cost Roma €30m, Cristante has endured mixed fortunes with the Giallorossi. The Italian midfielder sometimes looks composed, but can ghost out of games. He’s a long way off matching the 12 goals he scored for Atalanta last season, but at least he hasn’t stood out for being bad.
6. Steven Nzonzi
Arguably the marquee signing of summer 2018, Nzonzi arrived as a freshly-crowned World Cup winner to add more quality to the centre of the park – trying to do a better job of it than Gonalons did. That he has most certainly done, but he’s still sometimes looked a shadow of the world class player he can be. He’s done well enough, but hasn’t shown what he is fully capable of.
5. Lorenzo Pellegrini
In terms of potential, he would probably top this list, but Monchi can’t take the full credit for his signing. When Walter Sabatini sold Pellegrini to Sassuolo in 2015, he inserted a buyback clause into the deal, which was duly exercised as one of Monchi’s first decisions in Rome. After an inconsistent but decent first season, Pellegrini has kicked on this campaign, and is a player that Roma really need to build around for the future.
4. Davide Santon
Many fans were disappointed when Santon came to Roma as a makeweight in the deal to take the popular Nainggolan to Inter. However, Santon has proved his doubters wrong by putting in some solid, if unspectacular, performances. Like Mirante, he will probably feel like he has done enough to earn more starts. But at just shy of €10m, he has been a shrewd addition who can offer cover in either full-back position.
3. Aleksandar Kolarov
Another one that wasn’t fully down to Monchi, but has still been a really shrewd purchase. Reportedly on the suggestion of his former Manchester City teammate Edin Dzeko, Kolarov came to Roma in 2017 when the club’s other left-back Emerson Palmieri was injured. Kolarov made an instant impact on the team, scoring on his debut and emerging as a key leader. As mentioned above, he did start to suffer from burnout, but that was because of his exceptional levels of performance. He’s had a few hairy moments this season, but is still standing out as a senior figure in the dressing room and will feel like he maintains a lot to contribute.
2. Cengiz Under
Monchi arrived with a reputation for plucking wonderkids out of relative obscurity and seeing them become top class talent, and Under was perhaps the one player he brought to Roma who embodied that most. Few would have heard of his exploits with Istanbul Basakeshir in the Turkish Super Lig, but, after a patient first half to the 2017-18 season, Under really began to turn on the fire in a Roma shirt with a string of wonder goals in the first few months of 2018. His form has reportedly caught the attention of Bayern Munich and Arsenal, among others. Monchi himself is expected to end up at the latter, so Roma may need to be wary of the London club coming in for him. No doubt, though, that the Lupi would turn a huge profit in the event of a sale.
1. Nicolo Zaniolo
He wasn’t the inspiring name that Roma fans wanted to see following Nainggolan’s exit. He’d never played in Serie A. He was only 19 years old. It just didn’t look like he was going to be a first team player. But Zaniolo’s hard work changed that.
Now, he is the blossoming star of Italian football, catching the attention of fans inside the country and even beyond. He has been a bright spark in a disappointing season, impressing with his confidence, creativity and movement. He has now reached five goals for the club – some of them spectacular – and has started nine of the team’s last 10 matches.
Some have even heralded him as the new Francesco Totti and called for him to be given the number 10 shirt, and while that may be taking things a little too far, it can’t be denied that Zaniolo has got every Roma fan excited for the future. And for less than €5m? He’s looking like an absolute bargain.
This article was originally published in the heat of a moment in March 2019. With the benefit of the time that has passed since, here is a revised order as of November 2021.
20. Javier Pastore: 19. Jonathan Silva; 18. Hector Moreno; 17. Robin Olsen; 16. Ante Coric; 15. Patrik Schick; 14. Steven Nzonzi; 13. Maxime Gonalons; 12. Gregoire Defrel; 11. Ivan Marcano; 10. Daniel Fuzato; 9. Justin Kluivert; 8. Davide Santon; 7. Antonio Mirante; 6. Cengiz Under; 5. Rick Karsdorp; 4. Bryan Cristante; 3. Lorenzo Pellegrini; 2. Aleksandar Kolarov; 1. Nicolo Zaniolo