It’s been common knowledge for a while that Granit Xhaka is likely headed to Roma this summer. New Roma manager Jose Mourinho has spoken highly of Xhaka in the past, and Xhaka has returned the compliment to the veteran coach.
Xhaka said, “Arsenal know what I want to do...it is very beautiful here in Rome,” after a Euro 2020 match played at the Stadio Olympico. He even joked when asked if he would conduct a post-match interview in Italian, responding “not yet” with a laugh. He wants the move.
All the signs point to an imminent transfer — he’s even reportedly agreed to personal terms, so what’s standing in the way?
Money is slowing down all the transfer dealings this summer, because there isn’t much of it to go around in the age of COVID-depressed finances. Clubs that aren’t absolute giants like Bayern Munich, backed by a nation-state like Paris Saint-Germain, or in the comparatively cash-rich Premier League are operating on tight budgets.
The most recent reporting from Sky Italy is that even though Xhaka wants to move and Roma definitely want to sign him, a deal is not close. Roma have offered €15M. Arsenal want more, perhaps as much as €10M more.
Xhaka’s outstanding performance at Euro 2020 hasn’t helped things (or if you’re Arsenal, it helped immensely). The midfielder and Swiss captain was probably his country’s best player at the tournament, excelling in a role further up the pitch with less defensive responsibilities than he has had at Arsenal.
I’ve long said that the Gunners haven’t used him correctly — that he’s better in a more advanced role that highlights his passing range and minimizes his limited mobility. But the club never asked me.
In a normal, reasonable world, Xhaka’s strong performance at the Euros would push his price up, but Roma simply might not have enough money (right now). But all isn’t lost. Jose Mourinho recently left eight players off his preseason roster: Pedro Rodriguez, Justin Kluivert, Robin Olsen, Steven Nzonzi, Ante Coric, Javier Pastore, Davide Santon and Federico Fazio. They’re all for sale. If Roma can move a few of those guys, they might have the cash to swing the Xhaka deal. If the two clubs wanted to get creative, they might use Justin Kluivert, who was linked with Arsenal last summer, as make-weight in the deal. But that’s purely suggestion / speculative on my part — there hasn’t been any actual news / reporting about that being on the cards.
For the record, I think that Arsenal are absolutely correct to stand firm on their asking price for Xhaka. Even at 29, as a central midfielder, he’s still in his prime. He’s getting towards the end of it, mind, but still in it. Playing in the slower Serie A will suit Xhaka and will extend his useful years. The €15M number offered by Roma is insultingly low for an international captain, coming off a standout tournament, who is expected to be an every-week player.
Even if the deal isn’t close right now in early July, I would be shocked if it doesn’t happen at some point in the window. Mikel Arteta wants to move to a single-pivot system. Granit Xhaka doesn’t fit that formation. And Jose Mourinho wants Xhaka at Roma. The transfer will get done eventually.