With Serie A falling lower and lower down Europe's pecking order, few Chelsea fans would have been paying close attention to Roma's Mattia Destro last season. Signed from Siena in summer 2012, the 23-year-old has scored in buckets when healthy, and now he's apparently in the Blues sights as the preferred replacement for Fernando Torres should the club succeed in shipping him off to Milan.
Not that tells you much about Destro himself. Who is he? Why are Chelsea supposedly interested in spending upwards of €20 million to acquire him? Rather than just show highlight videos, I thought it might be a good idea to get a Roma-eye view of the striker, and so got in touch with Bren from SB Nation Roma site Chiesa di Totti:
Graham: We've heard that Chelsea are interested in dropping some significant money on Mattia Destro, who gets rave reviews from most of the Serie A experts. What does he do that makes him special?
Bren: Destro is special for three reasons: he's smart, he's efficient and he's effective. He just knows how to move off the ball and how to manipulate space, not only to find his own scoring chances, but to make room for Roma's wingers to operate. But once he gets the ball at his feet, he's extremely and outrageously efficient. Although he's had some injuries throughout his young career, when he's had significant minutes (his last season at Siena, then last year) his per match, per minute and per 90 goal totals were among the league's best. Last season alone, he was scoring at league leading rate of 0.95 per 90 and converted 37% of his shots into goals, all while averaging less than two shots per match.
G: Based on Destro's history, he's a little bit fragile. How worried would you be about him getting injured?
B: That's a bit hard to say, Roma is somewhat tight lipped in regards to injury specifics, but he's had some meniscus and calf problems in the recent past, so his ability to stay on the pitch is definitely a concern. But, as far as I know, he's never suffered any ligament tears or ruptures, no broken bones, no major surgeries, so I don't think it will be perpetual issue; he's just been waylaid but a series of small issues.
Fortunately, his game isn't predicated upon otherworldly athleticism, so these minor knocks haven't held him back when he's actually played, but staying on the pitch has been an issue for him, I cannot deny that.
G: Why would Roma consider selling him?
B: I haven't the slightest clue, and the mere mention of it has given all of us heart palpitations. While Roma can spend large sums on a few players here and there (Kevin Strootman and Juan Iturbe, for example), they're not the most profligate club in the world. So if this sale were to occur, we can safely assume it was with the bottom line in mind. There have also been some rumblings that Rudi Garcia prefers a more dynamic sort of player in that position--someone like Stevan Jovetic, to whom Roma has been connected at various points over the past few summers--but I don't really buy that, last season proved Roma can succeed with Destro as the prima punta.
Roma fans have a unique relationship with their players, particularly ones like Totti and De Rossi who are born and bred Romans. But every now and then, someone from outside the city limits reaches that same exalted status, which Destro is rapidly approaching. So just know this, his sale would absolutely crush the fan base.
G: What would you consider a fair price for him?
B:Well, they've invested €16m in him so far, so I can't imagine they'd let him go for anything less than €20, and that would be low end.
There's more great stuff on Chiesa di Totti regarding Destro (they really don't want him to leave), including this blurb on aspects of his game he might improve on:
Despite his superior ability to operate in space and to anticipate the movements of teammates and defenders alike, Destro was caught offsides quite a bit last season. Destro's 0.8 offsides calls per match led the club while his 15 total were second only to Gervinho's 20, who had 13 more appearances to his name. Offsides calls can crush momentum, and even worse, decide matches, so Destro must master the minutiae of timing his runs towards the box. Football history is laden with talented strikers done under by this subtle skill.
Beyond jumping the gun too often, Destro needs to become more ingrained in the attack; take more touches, take on more defenders and create more chances for his teammates. Granted, the extent to which he is required to do these things is wholly dependent on Garcia's formations and tactics, but no player ever suffered from improved playmaking skills.
To me, Destro sounds worthy of taking a punt on in a thin striker market, although I'm not entirely sure how much I'd go above €20 million for a guy with his injury history. He's almost exactly what you'd look for in a secondary striker for Chelsea -- superb movement, good finishing and a willingness to take chances. Forwards don't pop up in the right place and at the right time by luck alone. It's a skill, and it's perhaps the skill you want out of your strikers. That Destro's so good at scoring scrappy goals is definitely a point in his favour, even if there's some concern about whether he can keep up the scoring efficiency.
Speaking of scrappy goals, let's conclude with a good ol' highlight video.