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Diawara primed to pilot new Roma project under Fonseca

8:32 am AEST 4/8/19
Amadou Diawara Napoli
The Guinea international has big shoes to fill in the capital, but it could be the making of him

For Guinea international Amadou Diawara, 2019/20 is a season with a lot of significance.

This summer, the 22-year-old traded in San Paolo for the Olimpico, bundled, along with some cash, as part of a swap deal that saw Kostas Manolas rock up at Napoli.

It was one of those transfers that made sense for all parties involved. Despite outscoring champions Juventus, Napoli finished 11 points off the summit of the table. That seemed to suggest things could have been tighter at the back, and a reliable partner for the stalwart Kalidou Koulibaly was required. Manolas – his experience of Serie A, his speed and nous, and his ability to complement the Senegal defender – was also amenable to a change of scenery.

Going the other way, Diawara was finally able to end his Napoli nightmare. Signed to deputize for Jorginho, the departure of Maurizio Sarri and his replacement with Carlo Ancelotti effectively rendered the former Bologna man redundant—Ancelotti did not play with a regista, and so there was no call for his particular strengths within the tactical scheme.

He rocked up in Rome with a new regime putting down roots. Paulo Fonseca’s sterling work with Shakhtar Donetsk means there is a real sense of excitement in the capital, as he had the Ukrainian giants regularly holding their own in Europe despite being forced to play home games away from their Donbass Arena home. Born into poverty in colonial-era Mozambique, the 46-year-old is no stranger to making do.

However, his avowed 4-2-3-1 had some very specific requirements, not least of which was a midfielder able to drop toward the defence and possessing the vision to progress the play. With Roma lacking a player of that mould – Steven N’Zonzi was never the most mobile, even at his decidedly not-present physical peak – the arrival of Diawara is extremely tasty.

So, club needs Amadou, Amadou needs club; a match made in heaven, and both parties guaranteed to get on like a house on fire then?

Perhaps, but there are obvious caveats: the nature of Roma, the city as well as the club, for one. While Napoli have firmly established themselves as the second-best team in Italy, their following does not quite come close to what the Giallorossi can boast of. Playing in the capital, and all that it entails, can be daunting.

There is also the context in which Diawara arrives. There is still something of a cloud around the departure of Daniele De Rossi, a legend of the club who was effectively forced out – or, at least, that is the feeling among the club Ultras. Whether or not that feeling is accurate is almost irrelevant: as soon as the lustre of a new signing wears off, any poor performances will be greeted with a criticism laced with the bitterness at the manner of Capitan Futuro’s exit.

That is a huge amount of pressure for a player who, while hugely promising, is still mostly potential. That is, of course, an exciting thought about one who has already scored in the Champions League and who, according to Sarri, “plays a Champions League game as if it were a Thursday mini-match back at the training ground.”

However, before Roma begin to see that player, there will be some rust to sand off. Diawara missed the last two months of last season through injury, and although he recovered in time to be a part of the Guinea squad at the Africa Cup of Nations, four matches in the cloying heat of Egypt will have done little for his overall physical condition.

During that interregnum, the Curva would do well to not get on his back. At his best, he could well hold the keys to this new project, as his vision and “feet of a Brazilian” come to the fore. Fonseca will, of course, know all about Brazilian limbs, what with the sizeable contingent that passed through his hands while at Shakhtar.

If he can have the same effect on Diawara as he did with the likes of Fred and Luiz Adriano, Roma will be on to something major.