Roma’s shock elimination from the Champions League could pave the way for Kevin Strootman to finally join Manchester United.
The Italian side were comfortably beaten by Manchester City at the Stadio Olympico on Wednesday evening, and without the lure of football on the grandest stage could see their star midfielder depart as a result.
Rudi Garcia’s side have enjoyed a fine start to the season and currently trail champions Juventus by just three points at the summit, but could see their title surge derailed with the exit of one of the most powerful midfielders in world football.
With Louis Van Gaal unsuccessful in his pursuit of Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal in the summer, United remain sorely in need of a bulldozing midfielder capable of producing at both ends of the park.
Daley Blind, Ander Herrera and Angel Di Maria all arrived at the Theatre of Dreams but lack the physicality to dictate the bigger games, and despite Marouane Fellaini’s rebirth all signs point to yet more cash being splashed in January.
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Van Gaal has worked with his compatriot at international level, and is thought to have shaken hands with the 24-year-old over a proposed move earlier in the year prior to his own appointment as David Moyes’ successor.
Alternatives include Vidal and fellow Old Lady midfielder Paul Pogba, but Strootman is the chief target and with Roma out of Europe could finally end his wait to arrive at the Theatre of Dreams.
Rudi Garcia faces a huge challenge to restore confidence in the wake of their European heartbreak, with the struggles of the Europa League now lying in wait.
The Frenchman has been a revelation ever since signing on in the capital last year, but may now find the task of sustaining a title challenge difficult if top names begin leaving for elsewhere.
Francesco Totti remains the undisputed talisman, still churning out masterful performances week in week out with alarming inconsistency despite his tender age, but other stars may be more difficult to convince to stay in the capital.
Only the manager knows the answers to the questions he will inevitably face after such a huge setback. A player exodus would be difficult to prevent, despite their enviable league position.
It seems that Strootman is destined for the Theatre of Dreams, and the only thing left to settle is the date of his departure.
United have enough strength in depth for the time being, and despite the desire for a January completion date the summer of next year is the most realistic option.
Garcia must beware the loss of a star player. It could derail their season and also see the title remain in Turin come May.