Jose Mourinho wants Roma to accelerate their pursuit of Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Denis Zakaria, who has attracted plenty of interest from the Premier League.
Mourinho is still missing a top-level midfielder in his new squad in Italy. So far, in all but one of their league games so far, he has used the same two players in the double pivot. Jordan Veretout and Bryan Cristante are the duo in question.
Veretout is a much better player than he showed in his sole season with Aston Villa a few years back. Cristante, meanwhile, was a useful option from the bench for Italy at Euro 2020. But both have their limitations and Mourinho wants a new option.
Granit Xhaka was his top target in the summer, but they could not agree a deal with Arsenal. Now, he is looking for alternatives.
Roma have subsequently been linked with a range of Premier League players to fill the void. For example, Douglas Luiz, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Tanguy Ndombele have all been mentioned.
But Mourinho is casting his net further and wider. Now it seems his main target is Zakaria – himself no stranger to certain Premier League clubs.
The Switzerland international was linked with the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City and Mourinho’s former employers Tottenham over the summer. Ultimately, he stayed with Gladbach into the final year of his contract there.
The Bundesliga outfit now risk losing him for free at the end of the season. Gianluca Di Marzio recently reported that Roma are prioritising him for 2022.
But those plans could be accelerated amid Mourinho’s need for immediate reinforcements.
It has since emerged, via Corriere Dello Sport, that Roma could try to steal a march on the competition by signing Zakaria for a cut-price fee in January. In turn, that would end any hopes of a Premier League transfer for the 24-year-old.
But it may not be so straightforward. According to Todofichajes, Gladbach still want somewhere in the region of €30m-€40m for their top talent. Mourinho may thus be scuppered – or at least made to wait.
Roma try to win race for Zakaria
Even so, Il Romanista believe contact is underway with the player’s entourage. Roma are willing to give him a five-year contract worth €3m per season.
They could even offer Gladbach a bonus of around €5m, as Calciomercato.it also claim – even though he would be out of contract – if Mourinho secures Champions League qualification.
The Serie A side are clearly exploring various methods by which to beat any remaining Premier League suitors to his signature.
Gladbach, though, will still take some convincing if the transaction is to go through in the winter.
Their stance seems somewhat strange after they admitted in the summer that Zakaria wanted out. Their sporting director said in July he felt the midfielder was looking to move on.
The Premier League seemed the likely destination at the time. But perhaps he will be heading for the Eternal City instead.