While all eyes have been on Roma's record-breaking sale of Mohamed Salah to Liverpool and the quite bonkers story of Kostas Manolas pushing Antonio Rudiger to Chelsea by refusing to sign for Zenit Saint Petersburg, apparently because he didn't want to be paid in rubles, sporting director Monchi has quietly brought in two of Europe's most promising young talents and boosted two areas that were in serious need of reinforcement.
Roma youth product Lorenzo Pellegrini comes back to his hometown after two years at Sassuolo that have seen him grow into one of Serie A's brightest midfield prospects. That time has also seen him graduate to international status after making his debut for Gian Piero Ventura's Azzurri in their 5-0 World Cup qualifying thrashing of Liechtenstein earlier in the month.
"This was what I always wanted, something I desired even two years ago," said the 21-year-old, who grew up near Rome's famous Cinecitta film studios, after signing a five-year deal worth €2 million a season and giving himself a place in Monchi's new-look Roma, as well as a shot at Champions League football.
Pellegrini's return home is good business for both Sassuolo -- who make a big profit thanks to the €10 million they receive via the buyback clause included in the player's €1.25 million 2015 transfer to Emilia-Romagna -- and Roma, who get a proven Serie A quality player for a snip, bolster a midfield weakened by Leandro Paredes' departure to Zenit and guarantee themselves whopping earnings should he move on before 2022.
Pellegrini's contract includes a variable release clause that, depending on who you believe, starts at either €25 million or €30 million and will increase according to the number of matches he plays, goals he scores and even the trophies he wins. Rome-based daily Il Messaggero reports that the clause starts at €30 million on the assumption that he plays 45 minutes in at least 20 matches. The paper claims that €1.5 million will be knocked off the original figure every match below that by the end of the season, while every match more will add €1 million.
With or without that clause, Pellegrini is already worth substantially more than the fee Roma have paid, as his eight goals and seven assists in 34 appearances last season for the Neroverdi amply show, and his fine displays in the recent Under-21 European Championships only underlined the strides he's made since leaving Roma a raw youth product in 2015.
He scored Italy's first goal of the tournament with an absolutely sensational bicycle kick in their opening 2-0 win over Denmark and seriously impressed in the 1-0 win over Germany that sealed their place in the semifinals. For 45 minutes he, alongside Roberto Gagliardini and Federico Bernadeschi, dominated Spain in that semifinal, before tiredness took hold and, reduced to 10 following two silly Gagliardini fouls early in the second half, they finally caved to the pre-tournament favourites.
Perhaps even more interesting is the arrival of 22-year-old Rick Karsdorp from Feyernoord, who arrives in the Eternal City fresh from winning the Eredivisie with the club that signed him as a 9-year-old and is another highly-rated prospect just breaking into his national team. He comes to Roma looking to make the step up to another level and was encouraged to move south by countryman Kevin Strootman.
"Kevin sent me a few messages to tell me that I could call him or write to him if I wanted more information on the club and that's what I did," he said. "His presence is important. He said I could go to him for anything I needed. I don't speak Italian and my English is not good, so it will be important for me to talk to Kevin and do that right from the start of the season."
His arrival for an initial fee of €14 million means another major transfer box has been ticked well before Roma regroup for preseason in early July. Last year, the right back-position was a major weakness for former coach Luciano Spalletti, who bereft of Alessandro Florenzi thanks to two ACL injuries in October and February had the choice of Bruno Peres or Rudiger -- neither of who shined there, for different reasons.
Premier League-bound Rudiger is a centre-back by trade and struggled to impose himself as an attacking force down the right. While in general he was solid defensively, more accomplished wide players like Lorenzo Insigne could take advantage of his unnatural stance and positioning. Meanwhile, Peres plays the role practically as a winger rather than a traditional full-back, and the Brazilian's attitude to small matters like positioning and chasing back seem unconventional, to say the least.
In Karsdorp, Roma have bagged a player who offers loads going forward but combines that with defensive commitment and skill that his predecessors lacked. He started out as a midfielder, at times playing as a number 10, and he wasn't played as a full-back until 2014. That time spent in the middle of the park has given the 22-year-old a calmness on the ball that many defenders dream of, and his quality distribution has brought him 14 assists over the last two seasons.
As long as the apparently non-serious knee surgery he needs to undergo on Monday doesn't bring any nasty surprises, he, alongside Pellegrini, could be one of the summer's best signings.