August 12, 2022

While many of us are still busy daydreaming about Paulo Dybala in Roma colours, this rumor, exciting as it is, has never been really anchored in reality because it was precisely that: a dream. At the height of his career and desperate for that elusive Champions League title, Dybala probably never seriously considered playing for Roma, despite the reputation of Jose Mourinho and the gentle persuasion of Francesco Totti. Even given the series of injuries he has suffered recently, Dybala would have been an ideal signing for Roma as they look to skip a few steps along their development curve.

However, just because a dream is dashed doesn’t mean Roma fans should just wrap it up and accept their fate. In today’s increasingly positionless game, hybrid attacking midfielders/wingers/forwards are not this hard to find. The truly exceptional are rare, of course, but if you’re willing to accept a few knocks and scrapes, there are some truly intriguing options on the transfer market.

Like this man…

My friends, you are looking at one of the most productive strikers in all of Europe: Dušan Tadić. The 33-year-old Serbian jack-of-all-trades has made the Eredivisie his personal playground over the past few years. Since signing with Dutch powerhouse Ajax in July 2018, Tadić has posted numbers that would make Dybala blush: 79 goals and 77 assists in 166 appearances in all competitions, achieving the double-double (goals and assists) every season since his arrival in Amsterdam. , and he’s done it all playing in five different positions in attack, including attacking midfielder, striker and winger.

But these are just numbers. How and where would Tadić fit into Mourinho’s squad and what would it take to bring him on board?

We’ll take a look!

How would he help the Roma?

Roma’s defensive determination was on full display this season, with the likes of Chris Smalling, Roger Ibañez and Rui Patricio restoring confidence in the Giallorossi backline. Unfortunately, despite the combined heroics of Tammy Abraham and Lorenzo Pellegrini, Roma’s attack never really seemed to hit on all cylinders, at least not for very long. With only 59 goals scored, Mourinho’s attack was decidedly mid-table, as the club relied a little too a lot about Abraham and Pellegrini, often looking weak and ineffectual when either of those two had a rare night off.

What the club need is an experienced, versatile and productive striker who can simultaneously elevate Lorenzo Pellegrini, Nicolo Zaniolo and Tammy Abraham while bringing something unique to the table.

Enter Dušan Tadic.

Photo by Socrates/Getty Images

Positional versatility

He may be on the wrong end of 30, but on tactical flexibility alone, Tadić would provide a shot in the arm for Roma’s attack. While he spent most of the past season on the left side of Ajax’s 4-2-3-1, nestled just behind striker Sebastien Haller, Tadic had time in four other positions during the 2021-2022 season: attacking midfielder, right winger, left-winger and centre-forward.

Given his ability to play multiple roles (and play them well), Tadić could slot in anywhere on the wing, giving Pellegrini an extra outlet in the final third while taking some of the scoring pressure on Abraham in the area. And his ability to step in from wide areas and link up with Pellegrini, Abraham or whoever, would keep defenses out of place, creating more time and space for Mourinho’s men to operate in the final. third.

Let’s put it in even simpler and more pointed terms. Tadić could possibly do the following:

  • Start at LW next to Tammy Abraham and face Nicolo Zaniolo with Lorenzo Pellegrini in the hole
  • Start at RW next to Tammy Abraham and face Nicola Zalewski with Lorenzo Pellegrini in the hole
  • Start attacking in the middle, giving Pellegrini the day off
  • Start at centre-forward, giving Abraham a day off
  • Start at centre-forward in false nine formations
  • Start in the middle of the attack, allowing Pellegrini to play deeper (depending on the formation)
  • Play as a second striker immediately behind Abraham and just ahead of Pellegrini
  • Start in the hole behind Abraham and Zaniolo in a two forward formation.

And these are just a few off-the-cuff suggestions. With Mourinho swinging between a variety of defensive three- and four-man formations, Tadić could make the already malleable Mourinho even harder for opponents to decipher.

While that’s all well and good, versatility means smooth AM without the production to back it up. Luckily for us, Tadić never missed his production quota for Ajax.

Production, production and more production

Over his 14-year career as a professional footballer, Tadić has been an absurdly productive player, maintaining a level of drive you rarely see in players not named Lionel Messi. Starting with Vojvodina in the Serbian league in 2008 and throughout that year with Ajax, Tadić has scored 164 goals and had 175 assists in 521 career appearances, hitting the double-double six times along the way. .

And it’s not like he upped those stats early in his career and was just heading into retirement. Tadić remains incredibly productive, scoring 27 goals and 37 assists over the last two Eredivisie seasons. Over the past year, Tadić has ranked in the 80th percentile or higher among attacking midfielders/wingers in Europe’s five major leagues in a host of categories, including expected assists, key passes, distance from progressive passing, passes into the penalty area, crosses into the penalty area, passes under pressure, shot-creating actions and goal-creating actions, to name a few (figures courtesy permission of Football Reference).

SL Benfica v AFC Ajax - Round of 16 - UEFA Champions League

Photo by Gualter Fatia/Getty Images

While there is always the “Why is a 33-year-old still playing in the Eredivisie?” to face, Tadić has put up MVP numbers over the past four years for Ajax, so it’s not like he’s just hanging around and cashing paychecks – he’s the one of the best players in the league since he set foot in Amsterdam four years ago.

Good then…

What would it take to land it?

With two years remaining on his contract and four Eredivisie medals around his neck, Tadić may not be eager to leave Ajax for non-Champions League club Roma. However, despite dominating the Dutch league, aside from his eight-goal, twelve-assist campaign for Southampton in 2016, Tadić never really tasted success in any of Europe’s major leagues. So while Roma may not be able to offer him Champions League football just yet, one last shot to test his mettle in one of Europe’s top leagues could please the 33-year-old. year.

Currently valued at a reasonable price of 12 million euros by the good people of transfer marketTadić would be a relatively inexpensive addition on a two-year contract, where he could help bring the Giallorossi back to the Champions League.

It’s not Paulo Dybala, but Dušan Tadić could have an immediate and substantial impact for José Mourinho and Roma next season.