Does anyone deserve a new Roma contract? Pinto showing prudence with summer stance

With the transfer window closed, Roma are now trying to future-proof themselves by focusing on contracts.

Nicolo Zaniolo and Gianluca Mancini have already been linked with extensions, and now Bryan Cristante is apparently in talks about his future too.

The Italian trio are all featuring heavily for Jose Mourinho this season. But have any of their performance levels warranted a renewal?

On paper, it is easy to see why Roma may want to reward them with new terms. Mancini and Cristante are the second and third captains respectively, while before his injury issues, Zaniolo was probably the player with the highest market value at the club.

For Mancini and Cristante, there are several players below them in the leadership hierarchy who take home a bigger salary. It would make sense from their perspectives to feel worthy of a pay-rise, just because of status. And as for Zaniolo, transfer links have not gone away since his return from those physical problems that stunted his progress; tying him down would in theory keep him central to the club, with the figures to prove it.

But all three have been struggling for form in recent weeks – and indeed, across the entire season. Mancini has been exposed defensively, Cristante has been at fault for several goals due to poor marking, and Zaniolo has not shown the same general confidence as before.

Right time for new Roma contracts?

While they are playing like this – and the team as a whole are struggling for the results they need to improve upon last season’s seventh-place finish – is it the right moment to discuss renewals? On the contrary, Roma should wait to see if their form improves before making a commitment they may later regret.

One only needs to look at the example of Federico Fazio, recently departed for Salernitana, as a warning sign for giving longer deals to key players who have shown signs of decline. Roma extended his contract when he was still a regular but declining in form, only to end up freezing him out altogether one year before that new deal was due to expire.

Unlike Fazio, though, the trio Roma are now talking about have time on their side. Cristante is 26, Mancini 25 and Zaniolo 22; they are not near the ends of their careers and may want to show this year has merely been anomalous. But the strategy is still somewhat risky for Roma until they give more guarantees.

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On the flip-side, allowing their contracts to enter their final two years could begin to be risky too. Besides, could renewals be the show of faith each player needs to boost their confidence? It may act as a reminder of how the club still believe in them, encouraging them to justify that on the pitch.

Zaniolo is sometimes showing signs of getting there (his disallowed goal against Genoa recently was somewhat representative of this – a bright moment but one taken away from him through no fault of his own). Cristante, after a slow start to his Roma career, was better in the first part of the season despite his defensive errors. And turning the calendar a few months further back, Mancini was one of last season’s standouts.

What matters is the present, though. It remains to be seen how each player will react and whether Roma will be making the right decisions. Tiago Pinto must work out whether they deserve it and if it financially makes sense for the club.

Assessing Pinto’s priorities

He also must consider if there is anyone else more deserving first. Two players’ terms run out at the end of this season; Davide Santon will be gone, but a decision must be made about the ageing – but still useful – Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Then, in 2023, deals for Chris Smalling, Stephan El Shaarawy and backup goalkeeper Daniel Fuzato will also run out. In all these cases, due to varying circumstances, perhaps it is best to wait.

With that in mind, Roma can be free to focus on their Italian core, after already tying down captain Lorenzo Pellegrini last year before looking into deals for his deputies. Fortunately, time is on their side, so they don’t necessarily need to rush into any decisions. Indeed, it has since emerged that Pinto will freeze negotiations until the summer before making performance-related decisions. And that is the way it should be.

“Yesterday the agent of Cristante was at Trigoria. The future was spoken about, but not the renewal. All frozen – for everybody – until the end of the season. Tiago Pinto was clear: the renewals with adjustments to the salary will will pass only from the performances.”

Corriere Dello Sport journalist Jacopo Aliprandi

Keeping Mourinho happy

One factor to also consider is the fact that Mourinho is still using each player frequently. Giving them new deals is a sign of backing the coach, which may help with the project. However, the job of a sporting director – or in Pinto’s case, general manager – is to make decisions that will benefit the club regardless of who the manager is.

Mourinho should be here for the long-term, though, despite reasonable doubts about the first year of his project. Hence, it can only keep him happy to ensure three of his most trusted players stay. Now the onus will be on them to show the world why he is giving them such responsibility.

The jury is still out on whether Roma would be doing the right thing in terms of these contracts – especially if it is still a difficult moment for the club by the summer. But it appears they want to be proactive; only time will tell if their approach is the correct one.

In each player’s case, the next few months could be auditions to prove that, while some may be questioning them and not without reason, they belong at the heart of Roma’s future. Until then, there will be doubts, so only later down the line can any contract plans be appropriate.

It’s over to them.

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