Rudi Garcia believes Kevin Strootman could become AS Roma's biggest January addition if he can return to full fitness.
Strootman has been sidelined with a serious knee injury for the best part of nine months, ruling him out of the World Cup and the majority of this season so far. He has appeared twice in Serie A this season but is still a long way from full fitness.
The 24-year-old is, however, slowly regaining the form that has seen him linked with a big money move to Manchester United. Along with Manuel Iturbe, who has also been injured for the majority of this season since his arrival this summer, Roma boss Garcia is confident the pair can make a big impact in the second half of the campaign.
"Gradually we’ll see whether he’s back at 100 per cent, but he’s approaching it in training"
"The biggest signings in January?” Garcia is quoted in the Daily Star.
“[Manuel] Iturbe and Strootman.
"With Kevin obviously we knew that with such a bad injury it would take him time to get back to 100 per cent. He’ll basically only have half a season, although fortunately we played less games in the first half of the campaign.
“The more he trains, the more he’s improving. For Kevin the break was important, even in a mental sense to get back to training with an important freshness. Gradually we’ll see whether he’s back at 100 per cent, but he’s approaching it in training.
Manchester United interest
Garcia's comments, although obviously tongue-in-cheek, do suggest that there are no plans to let Strootman leave for Manchester United in the January transfer window. That is despite the fact that Louis van Gaal is reportedly willing to pay up to £30 million.
Strootman was a big loss to Van Gaal when he was attempting to mastermind a World Cup triumph with the Netherlands. The midfielder's injury forced the Old Trafford boss into changing his tactics in Brazil.
Now Van Gaal wants to make Strootman the focal point of the Red Devils but it seems AS Roma won't let their star asset go easily. They are currently trying to dislodge Juventus at the top of the table and have their eyes set on a second consecutive Champions League qualification.