There have been several high-profile transfer sagas this summer but Patrik Schick’s had more twists and turns than any other. As the breakout star of last season’s Serie A, the Czech striker had his pick of Europe’s elite. Borussia Dortmund and PSG were reported to have a significant interest, only for Juventus to beat the competition at home and abroad to his signature, just as they did for Paulo Dybala in 2015.
With the price fixed by a €30.5m buy-out clause, Pavel Nedved persuaded Schick to accept the Old Lady’s offer in June. How could a Czech possibly resist the chance to be mentored by one of his heroes? He couldn’t and promptly boarded the next flight to Turin to complete his medical at Juventus’ own bespoke facility.
A couple of weeks later, it emerged that the paperwork to finalise the deal had still to be filed. Juventus wanted Schick to undergo another medical after a potential health issue had been flagged up by the first battery of tests. The second one, which was held in Rome, did not satisfy them either and Juventus asked Samp if they could review the terms of the deal. The Bianconeri still wanted Schick but planned to mitigate the risk.
Rather than buying him outright straight away, Juventus now wished to take him on loan with an option to make the move permanent should the 21-year-old recover and meet a number of performance-related targets. Samp, though, were not for turning and demanded Juventus respect the existing arrangement. With both clubs unprepared to back down, they decided to call the whole thing of and all of a sudden Schick was back on the market. Apparently unfazed by what gave Juventus cold feet, Inter in particular rekindled their interest.
By this stage, the buy-out clause in Schick’s contract had expired, allowing Samp to hold an auction. Inter felt they were in pole position, not least because they picked up the phone as soon as Schick became available again. They wanted the player to know just how much they believed in him at a very difficult time and banked on their relationship with Samp to have the edge on Roma in Schick’s acquisition. Inter thought Samp might do them a favour after paying a premium for Milan Skriniar earlier in the window in a deal that also sent Gianluca Caprari the other way.
Caprari is the latest in a long list of Inter players to follow this well-trodden path in recent years. Andrea Ranocchia, Dodo, Ricky Alvarez, Federico Bonazzoli and Alfred Duncan have all driven down the same stretch of autostrada and, in retrospect, maybe that’s why Samp weren’t so keen to cut Inter any slack on Schick. Even if they had been, FFP left Inter with very little wriggle room indeed, particularly as they had to address other needs first.
Which is where of course Roma come in. Roma are under the same FFP restrictions as Inter but the sales of Mohamed Salah and Antonio Rüdiger left the Wolves with decidedly more room for manoeuvre. As Monchi was keen to underline at Schick’s unveiling, despite making several bids for Riyad Mahrez, the first trip he made as Roma’s new director of sport was to Milan for a meeting with Schick’s agents. “He has always been our obsession.” In fact, Francesco Totti’s first act as a Roma director was to send Schick a message imploring him to join the capital club.
Now Schick is a Roma player, the perception of Monchi’s first window has changed markedly. He has added the depth Roma were lacking for next to nothing. Hector Moreno, Maxime Gonalons and Aleksandar Kolarov cost around €5m each. Lorenzo Pellegrini was worth far more than his €10m buy-back clause. And while no one in Italy knows all that much about the most expensive signings of Roma’s window, Rick Karsdorp (22) and Cengiz Ünder (20), Monchi’s track record is such that you feel they could be stars of tomorrow. Obviously Gregoire Defrel will end up costing Roma more than them both, but for the moment he is on loan from Sassuolo for €5m.
Which brings us to Schick. Now if everything goes off without a hitch, Samp will get €42m for him just a year after they paid Sparta Prague €4m. Monchi’s predecessor Walter Sabatini swears he was the first to discover him and that if it weren’t for FFP, Schick would already be a Roma player. Alas the Czech might end up being the most expensive player in their history, costlier even than Gabriel Batistuta.
The structure of the deal is fascinating because for now all Schick is costing Roma is €5m. That’s the loan fee. If Schick then meets certain performance-related targets Roma are obliged to make the transfer permanent for €9m. They could also have to pay up to €8m in other bonuses too.
But the really interesting bit is that if Roma sell Schick before February 1, 2020, Samp are entitled to 50 per cent of the fee or €20m - whichever is greater. And if Schick is not sold, Samp get €20m anyway. The long and the short of it is Schick could end up costing Roma as little as Gonalons or more than Batistuta. You could be mistaken for thinking Roma are owned by hedge fund managers or that Monchi wrote the football-version of The Art of the Deal…
As if the financial particulars of the transfer were not already generating enough debate on their own, Roma’s decision to sign Schick and his choice to play in red and yellow also figure as the source of a great deal of conversation. Roma, by all accounts, needed a player to replace Salah on the right wing and while Schick’s touch maps show he is very active on that flank, he isn’t a natural fit for that role.
Marco Giampaolo, his manager at Sampdoria, said on Sunday that he would advise Schick to reject Roma if their intention was to play him in that position on the basis that he is at his best either as a centre-forward or a second striker. Schick also admitted as much at his unveiling, though he did highlight the fact he has played on the right in the past.
Whether he does at Roma will depend a lot on Eusebio Di Francesco. A devotee of 4-3-3, Di Francesco might have to adapt in order to accommodate a special talent. Either that or Schick will have to. Monchi doesn’t seem worried. “Good players always find space in teams with big ambitions,” he said on Wednesday.
It might actually be that Alessandro Florenzi competes with Defrel for the spot on the right and Schick offers an alternative to Dzeko at centre-forward. You’d like to think Di Francesco could find a solution that includes them all, though - like a 3-4-2-1 or something similar. After all, Maurizio Sarri had to move away from his beloved 4-3-1-2 to get the best out of Lorenzo Insigne when he left Empoli for Napoli.
Perhaps Di Francesco will have a rethink. And Friday’s friendly with Chapecoense will give us a first look.