Ainsley Maitland-Niles is the latest Premier League star on the radar of Jose Mourinho after links to Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Diogo Dalot… so, how could Roma line up if he lands his top transfer targets in January?
- Roma have had a mixed season and are sitting six points off the top-four
- Jose Mourinho is looking to strengthen Roma’s Champions League chances
- The Italian side could look to the Premier League in the next transfer window
- A right wing-back and a new midfielder are top of Mourinho’s January wishlist
Jose Mourinho is expected to dip back into the transfer market during the January window in an effort to revive Roma’s top four hopes.
His first season at the Stadio Olimpico has been riddled with inconsistency and half-way into the season they are six points adrift of the Champions League places.
Their 4-1 away victory against title-contending Atalanta showed just what the team are capable of, but their following 1-1 draw with Sampdoria – in which they conceded an 80th-minute equaliser – showed there is still much work to be done.
Roma have had a mixed season but recently earned an impressive 4-1 win away at Atlanta
Mourinho, though, did make some shrewd signings in his first summer at the club, including Rui Patricio from Wolves and Tammy Abraham from Chelsea.
The latter has made an instant impact, scoring 12 goals in 25 appearances across all competitions this season.
Roma also signed Roger Ibanez from Atlanta who has been a regular part of their defence alongside Chris Smalling and Gianluca Mancini, while Matias Vina has done a respectable job as cover for the injured Leonardo Spinazzola since his arrival in the summer from Palmeiras.
Mourinho, who knows the Premier League like the back of his hand, could be set to raid the league again in the January transfer window.
Sportsmail takes a look at Mourinho’s wishlist, as well as what the team could look like come the end of January.
A lack of consistency though has left Jose Mourinho’s side six points off the top four in Italy
Diogo Dalot has emerged as a target for Roma and his former boss Mourinho.
The Roma manager knows the Portuguese full-back well after signing him for Manchester United from Porto back in 2018 – six months before Mourinho left Old Trafford.
Dalot struggled for playing time at the club before Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure in November.
The Norwegian manager preferred to play Aaron Wan-Bissaka at right back and Dalot was loaned out to AC Milan last season.
Mourinho is a fan of Diogo Dalot who he signed for Manchester United from Porto back in 2018
However, since Solskjaer’s departure, Dalot’s career at Old Trafford has been brought back to life and he has started four of their last five games.
Italian publication Calcio Mercato had reported that Roma director Tiago Pinto made contact with Dalot’s agent and that there had been an ‘agreement in principle’ for the move to go ahead in January.
The appointment of Ralf Rangnick, though, could scupper Mourinho’s plans.
Another potential option would be Barcelona’s American full-back Sergino Dest.
Catalonian outlet El Nacional, as per One Football, have reported that Mourinho is keeping tabs on Dest who can also play as left-back.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles has also been linked with a loan move to the Serie A side, and though he prefers to play in midfield, he would also be able to play as Roma’s right-wing back, having featured on the right side of Arsenal’s defence in the past.
New Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick could scupper Mourinho’s plans of signing Dalot
Roma are keen to bolster their midfield options which normally consist of French international Jordan Veretout, Euro 2020 winner Bryan Cristante and captain Lorenzo Pellegrini.
The Serie A side have offered a six-month loan deal for Maitland-Niles with the prospect of the transfer becoming permanent for £8.4million.
Mourinho’s club held discussions last week and have stepped up negotiations with an offer as they look to secure the 24-year old’s signature.
Ainsley Maitland-Niles prefers to play in midfield but could cover a number of positions
Maitland-Niles was frustrated to see a move to Everton fall through in the summer after Arsenal blocked the transfer and he has been keen to play regular football – which he has been unable to get this season.
As mentioned, he can also play as a right-sided forward as well as right-back which would give the Italian side plenty of options.
Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek is also high up on Mourinho’s wish-list.
According to Il Romanista, Mourinho is hoping Tammy Abraham can convince his former Chelsea team-mate to ditch west London and join him in Italy.
Loftus-Cheek knows Mourinho from the manager’s second stint at Chelsea, making three league appearances as a teenager as part of their 2014-15 title-winning season.
The 25-year-old is said to boast the ‘characteristics’ that Mourinho is looking for in his new midfielder.
Chelsea midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek boasts the characteristics Mourinho is looking for
Roma are said to be keen on an initial loan deal with an option to buy and it’s believed they would be willing to cover Loftus-Cheek’s wages, believed to be around £170,000 per week.
The Italian side have been linked with a number of other Premier League midfielders including Tottenham’s Harry Winks and Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka.
Xhaka, had looked at one point likely to join Roma in the summer window, only to sign a new contract at Arsenal.
Granit Xhaka was linked with a move in the summer but signed a new contract with Arsenal
Denis Zakaria is also a potential target with his contract expiring at the end of the season
Outside of the Premier League, Roma have been strongly linked with Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria.
The 25-year-old Swiss defensive midfielder is in the last year of his contract and would be a more realistic signing come the summer as a free agent – though Roma could face heavy competition for his signature.
Former Arsenal loanee Dani Ceballos has also been linked, though Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo have reported that he could be on his way to Real Betis in the January window.
How Roma could line up in February
Mourinho has used a number of different systems this season but if he was to stick with three at the back, then there wouldn’t be too much change across the defensive line and in the wing-back positions.
Patricio has cemented his spot as Roma’s No 1 goalkeeper, while a back three of summer signing Ibanez, Smalling and Mancini seems to be nailed on until the end of the season unless Mourinho decides to go for a centre-back.
Spinazzola, who was arguably Italy’s best player at the Euros before suffering his achilles injury in their quarter-final victory over Belgium, is expected to return soon following his surgery in the summer.
Leonardo Spinazzola could still take some time to get back to full fitness from his injury
With an injury that serious, however, it could take some time for him to fully get back up to speed and feature regularly, so Vina could carry on as their main left wing-back for some time yet.
Meanwhile on the other side, Dalot could come in at right wing-back ahead of Dutchman Rick Karsdorp if Mourinho is able to land the Portuguese player.
Mourinho has been concerned about Roma’s leaky defence in recent times but could still switch back to a back-four consisting of Vina, Smalling, Mancini and Dalot – putting Spinazzola back into the fold when he is fully fit on the left.
In a midfield three, the head of the trio would be covered by inspirational Roma captain Pellegrini.
Loftus-Cheek and Maitland-Niles would compete for midfield spots with Jordan Veretout (left) and Bryan Cristante (right)
The Italian is undoubtedly their most important player and has scored eight goals and registered three assists this season.
Behind Pellegrini, Mourinho could opt to go for an English double header in potential new signings Maitland-Niles and Loftus-Cheek.
However, while both players would certainly get more playing time than they do at their current clubs, there is no certainty they would be regulars at Roma as they would face stern competition in midfield from Veretout and Cristante.
Veretout in particular could be hard to get ahead of after scoring four goals and registering five assists in Serie A this season.
Loftus-Cheek has made 17 appearances for Chelsea this campaign and would appear to be more likely to start over Maitland-Niles if it was a choice of the two.
Though Maitland-Niles’ versatility could help him cover a number of positions for Roma.
This would leave England international Abraham and Italian Nicolo Zaniolo to play up front for Mourinho’s side as the Portuguese manager looks to improve their fortunes in the second-half of the season and lead Roma to their first Champions League campaign since 2018-19.
Roma’s potential starting XI should Jose Mourinho sign his top targets in the January window
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