Rating Roma’s loan players and their chances of staying permanently

Due to UEFA restrictions, Roma had to rely on a number of loan deals to supplement their squad last summer and also in January.

Headlined by Romelu Lukaku, four new players arrived on loan in the summer, when there was also the renewal of Diego Llorente’s loan from Leeds United, which had started in January.

Midway through this season, meanwhile, Roma managed to add Dean Huijsen and Angelino to their squad on temporary terms.

Once the current international break concludes, it will be the final portion of the season in which the on-loan players will be fighting to prove themselves.

But of the seven players Roma currently have on loan, who has been the best and worst, and who is most likely to stay?

Here, in order of their squad numbers, each player’s fortunes on loan at Roma so far are assessed.

Dean Huijsen

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Huijsen was not a well-known name when Roma turned to him to replenish their depth in defence, certainly in comparison to the original target, Leonardo Bonucci.

After Chris Smalling’s long-term injury issues and Evan Ndicka’s upcoming commitments at the Africa Cup of Nations, Jose Mourinho decided Roma needed another defender and convinced Huijsen to make the bold choice of coming to the capital rather than the outskirts with Frosinone.

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The Juventus youth product only had one Serie A appearance to his name upon his arrival and his parent club inserted a clause to encourage Roma to give him enough appearances. Fairly quickly, Huijsen settled in with a calm presence and it didn’t take long for him to reach the required number of games for Roma to pay a discounted fee for his loan (and there were a couple of memorable goals along the way).

Uh oh, it was happening. Roma fans were starting to hope Huijsen could stay. But while his form was developing, so were Juventus’ demands and reluctance to let him go entirely.

There have been rumours of Roma trying to extend his loan for another season, which may be the only way retaining him would be viable. But even then, the initial concerns of simply increasing Juventus’ valuation of him would continue.

This week, La Gazzetta Dello Sport has published an interview with Huijsen, in which he has hinted at his future plans.

“Roma have no option to buy,” Huijsen reflected. “But I learned one thing from football, you never know what can happen. What is certain is that I will return to Juventus and I will make myself available. It’s the first big club that believed in me, I can only have words of gratitude for them.”

In truth, there may be better value-for-money options than Huijsen – who signed a new contract with Juventus before his move – if Roma need another defender next season, but with the way he has settled, he would not be unwelcome at the club in the long term by any means.

Performance rating: 7/10 Chances of staying: 4/10

Diego Llorente

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Perhaps the more realistic option for Roma in defence would be to finally turn Llorente’s loan from Leeds into a permanent move. They tried to last summer, but there was too much disparity in the two clubs’ valuations.

Llorente impressed during his first six months on loan at Roma, earning the right to remain in Serie A this season too once an agreement could be found.

In part due to Smalling’s absences and Ndicka’s original struggles to adapt, Llorente was one of Roma’s most reliable defenders during the first half of his second season.

The Spaniard has rarely been outstanding, but he has been consistent, becoming just one of seven Roma players to reach 30 appearances for the season by the time of the March international break.

The key question in relation to Llorente’s future this time around is once again what asking price Leeds will set. May it hinge on whether they secure promotion back to the Premier League or remain in the Championship?

Llorente will turn 31 in August, so Roma need to be careful about how much they invest in him. But if Leeds let him go for a small amount, he would be a sensible player for the Giallorossi to keep under their current financial constraints.

That said, there were even rumours that Roma could buy him cheap and then sell him higher, which is theoretically only possible if there is an option to buy in his existing contract. It would also hinge on the availability of any upgrades for a reasonable price, and Llorente has been fine enough himself.

Performance rating: 8/10 Chances of staying: 7/10

Sardar Azmoun

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Roma’s striker situation in the summer was a bit of a mess. Tammy Abraham got injured so couldn’t be sold, meaning Andrea Belotti’s contract was renewed after a goalless Serie A season and Mourinho was left without a centre-forward of sufficient quality.

Within the final week of the transfer window, after missing out on Alvaro Morata, Roma finally secured a new striker in the shape of Azmoun, who they had originally considered as an alternative to Abraham two years before.

Azmoun arrived from Bayer Leverkusen, one of Roma’s Europa League opponents from the previous season, where he was a rotation option with a certain Patrik Schick.

There was little enthusiasm for Azmoun’s arrival, as only a handful of fans welcomed him at the airport. Five days later, Lukaku signed on as well to immediately push him down the pecking order. Roma had to leave the Iran international out of their Europa League group-stage squad list.

It took until 18th February for Azmoun to even start a game for Roma, but he marked the occasion with his second goal for the club (his first had been a bullet header in November).

Gradually, with Lukaku losing some form in the post-Mourinho era, Azmoun has recently risen in the estimations of Roma fans, thanks in part to his work rate. After the international break, it would not be unlikely for him to start a few more games than the three he has so far.

There have even been recent reports about Roma trying to keep Azmoun, but they would need a discount on the option to buy from Bayer Leverkusen. As stated with Huijsen, there may be more pressing areas that require investment, as tempting as it would be to commit to a permanent deal.

But, as will be addressed later, Azmoun will be cheaper to keep than Lukaku. Is there a case for him and Abraham rotating next season?

Performance rating: 6/10 Chances of staying: 6/10

Renato Sanches

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The least likely loanee to stay at Roma. In fact, there were even reports over the winter that Sanches’ stay in Serie A could have been cut short due to his frequent lack of availability.

Like Georginio Wijnaldum the year before, Sanches signed from Paris Saint-Germain to bolster Roma’s midfield depth. But similarly to his predecessor, injury issues – multiple, rather than one big one – have severely limited his impact.

Sanches debuted on the opening day of the Serie A season then missed the next two games with muscular problems. He returned to score his first goal for Roma in the 7-0 win over Empoli, but only played once again before a hamstring strain.

Since then, he has missed other games due to muscle fatigue, influenza, an ankle sprain and simple selection preferences.

Roma actually have an obligation to buy Sanches if he plays in 60% of their matches, but to date, he has played in less than a quarter. Even if the Portugal international was to play in the remaining nine Serie A matches and five potential Europa League games including the final (hypothetically), he would be at lower than 50%.

With no obligation to buy Sanches, Roma will almost certainly not use their option either.

Performance rating: 3/10 Chances of staying: 1/10

Rasmus Kristensen

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Possibly Roma’s next most disappointing loanee has been Kristensen, someone who – like Azmoun – was a target for the club before his previous move and eventually ended up at their disposal.

Roma overlooked the warning signs from Kristensen’s relegation season with Leeds, bringing him in the same direction as Llorente. However, the right-back also fell foul of UEFA’s restrictions on their squad list for the Europa League.

Nevertheless, Kristensen has earned a substantial amount of appearances under both Mourinho and Daniele De Rossi. Exactly why has been questionable, since his form within them has rarely been good.

The Denmark international has shown some commitment and has even deputised out of position at left-back on occasion, but a recent return to form for Zeki Celik and fitness for Rick Karsdorp mean his chances back on the right-hand side may be limited from here on in.

Deserved or not, Kristensen is actually the Roma right-back with the most appearances so far this season, though. That could change soon, since he is currently injured and Karsdorp is only two behind him.

The general consensus at Leeds is that none of their loaned-out players are welcome back, so Kristensen could be available for transfer this summer. Roma being his buyers seems unlikely, though, since they have no obligation to do so and may prefer to sign a different starter in his position.

Performance rating: 4/10 Chances of staying: 4/10


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On the opposite flank of defence, Angelino arrived late in January to finally give Roma a left-footed left-back.

The former Manchester City man, currently owned by RB Leipzig, has started six of his seven Serie A appearances so far, including one surprisingly as a right wing-back.

There have been no assists yet by Angelino, who is competing with Leonardo Spinazzola for a place at left-back now that De Rossi has put Nicola Zalewski further forward.

Indeed, it still feels a bit early to judge the Spaniard, who is yet to reach double figures of appearances in Italy.

Roma have an option to buy Angelino for around €5m, according to reports, which may be a price worth paying if the 27-year-old can demonstrate his quality.

After all, Spinazzola is due to become a free agent at the end of the season, so Roma will need to invest in the left-back department anyway.

Performance rating: 6/10 Chances of staying: 5/10

Romelu Lukaku

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Without doubt the most high-profile player Roma brought in on loan in the summer – and the one that would have been most expensive and out of their reach in a permanent deal – was Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea.

His return on loan to Inter last season had not gone quite to plan and Chelsea spent large portions of the summer trying to sell him elsewhere, with Roma only ever an outside candidate until the Blues buckled and opted to loan him out again.

In contrast to Azmoun, Lukaku was granted a hero’s reception when he arrived in Rome. He backed it up with an impressive start, scoring 10 goals for the club within his first 16 appearances.

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A sensational record in the Europa League, which he is now one of the top three all-time scorers in, helped prop up his numbers. While that has carried on into the knockout stages, the goals have dried up more recently for Lukaku in domestic games.

He has only scored twice within his last 12 league appearances, although his overall season tally still makes for decent reading: 18 goals from 37 games. For perspective, 18 goals was the final tally of last season’s leading scorer for Roma, Paulo Dybala.

Chelsea remain desperate to offload Lukaku for good, writing a release clause into his contract before sending him to Roma and even offering a discount since. The truth is, he would still probably be out of reach unless they are confident he can help them achieve serious ambitions.

Lukaku will be 31 years old by the time Roma can buy him and Chelsea’s asking price would still make him one of La Magica’s most expensive signings ever. Let’s not be too harsh, Lukaku has been generally good for Roma – but probably not enough to justify that.

Performance rating: 7/10 Chances of staying: 3/10

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