By Peter Nicolaides
Ignazio Abate and Nigel De Jong are both available on free transfers in June. Ironic, they’ll be leaving the club who’ve used the bosman-transfer system frequently since the purse-strings got tightened.
With both men having experience in the Champions League, regularly selected at international level and with experience in playing in Serie A, the two players would make a useful collective acquisition for either Roma or Napoli.
Both would be decent free agent pick-ups for Juventus, but with the club under constant pressure to perform well in the Champions League, it would be debatable if either would add a new dimension to The Old Lady and take her to the next level.
But for Roma and Napoli, signing the Milanese duo makes perfect sense. Firstly, there’s AS Roma. With neither the ageing Maicon nor Vasilis Torosidis cementing or convincing the Giallorossi faithful at right-back, Abate may be seen as a more tried and tested commodity.
With Serie A clubs soon having to comply with the new regulations on the number of foreign players in each squad, signing an Italian international on a free transfer will really be a bonus.
As for Nigel De Jong, the Dutch midfielder would add another option and another player to rotate within the squad alongside Kevin Strootman, Daniele De Rossi, Radja Nainggolan and Seydou Keita. With Keita turning 35 this year, another midfield option would prove fruitful to utilize in the process of prolonging Keita’s career and effectiveness for when Roma need the Malian skipper the most.
If one considers the lack of effectiveness of Cana Ucan at Roma then Nigel De Jong would be an upgrade. With conflicting reports of Roma not passing their FFP requirements, 2 Bosman-signings that would actually add value to the Roman outfit would be shrewd business.
Alternatively, there’s Napoli. A club often criticized for having unconvincing defenders and defensive midfielders, their talented forward line and attacking options – dating back to the days of Cavani and Lavezzi – have not been well complemented at the back. With Christian Maggio set to walk on a free transfer in June, Abate is a cost-free alternative who unlike Maggio, actually is more suited to a back four.
Maggio might be better off at Genoa, Fiorentina or Valencia who often use the wingback system, a position he is more suited to which may also aid his chances at international level in Antonio Conte’s prefered 3-5-2 formation. Napoli do not have too many Italian players in their squad, even fewer of decent quality, signing Abate may serve as a short-term solution to increasing that.
Nigel De Jong would add value to Napoli too. An upgrade to David Lopez and Walter Gargano, De Jong provides a more convincing, tried and trusted defensive midfielder to play in Rafa Benitez’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Having De Jongh sit in front of the back four seems more assuring than some of the current and previous options available to the Spanish tactician.
Signing both Abate and De Jong on free transfers would be prudent business by the Naples outfit, regardless of which European competition they find themselves playing in next season. Should Roma and Napoli both achieve top three finishes this season, signing both Nigel De Jong and Ignazio Abate would not only strengthen either squad, but weaken one of the challengers to their much-coveted Champions League places in the future as well as send a statement of intent that Napoli and Roma are above both Milanese clubs, both Genoa-based clubs and Fiorentina in the modern-day pecking order of Italian football as the two closest challengers to Juventus in the future.
As for AC Milan, it would be ironic that Milan – a club who’ve used free transfers routinely in the past could be weakened by a domestic rival in the same manner.