It was a saga that started early. After only a few months on loan at Hellas Verona, Juan Iturbe’s name was on the tip of the tongue around Europe, reborn in the Veneto.
Anointed as a youngster as the second coming of Lionel Messi – as countless others have been – Iturbe could never quite make the grade at Porto after joining in 2011.
A raw 18-year-old upon moving to Portugal, the Argentine would only ever make 10 senior appearances at the Estadio do Dragao. His stock drastically dropped.
But that would all change when Iturbe arrived at Hellas Veona on loan with the option to buy in the summer of 2013.
Iturbe flourished at the Stadio Bentegodi. By November he was already linked with Liverpool by the Express. In the coming months Tottenham, Arsenal and Everton all joined the race, per Gianluca Di Marzio.
Hellas Verona confirmed by February of 2014 that a pre-arranged price of €15 million would be paid to sign Iturbe permanently – likely with a view to sell him on for a profit.
The young Argentine saw out the season with eight goals, four assists and 99 successful dribbles. And Verona did indeed pass Iturbe on come summer, to Roma, who pounced to snatch him away from Juventus’ grasp.
It was a major victory for Roma to sign such a wanted prospect, and at Juventus’ expense. But to date, things haven’t gone to plan at the Stadio Olimpico.
Faced with injuries, adjustment to new tactics and heavy expectations, Iturbe has underwhelmed as the wheels fell off of Roma’s Serie A title challenge early.
Agent Gustavo Mascardi claimed earlier this month in an interview with Gazzetta TV that the Roma staff “don’t understand” his client, and cited “offers from England for him”.
Some weeks later, Mascardi has reiterated his point about interest from the Premier League. He told Radio CRC via Football Italia: “I think he’ll stay at Roma next year. There are two teams in England who want him and would be willing to pay the fee that Roma did for him.”
Despite a tough start, it would be surprising to see Roma give up on a marquee purchase after just one season. It’s a key point in the situation, and begs the question as to what Mascardi’s true motivation is.
Uprooting a player low on confidence and moving to a new country would be a great risk and could only complicate matters further for Iturbe, who’s had little continuity in his career.
Mascardi’s public declarations of unspecified offers from England in turn may be little more than posturing, designed to press Roma into giving Iturbe maximum opportunities.
Iturbe faces a wealth of competition on the wings at the Stadio Olimpico, and his only shot at turning things around is to make sure he plays consistent – and abundant – minutes.
The Argentine’s agent certainly knows this, appearing to be taking steps to force the issue, gaining leverage by speaking of wealthy supposed suitors in the Premier League.
It’s unlikely Roma will cast Iturbe off after a single season in which the entire side has underperformed, and Mascardi may simply be trying to make sure the 21-year-old remains first-choice despite falling short so far in Rome.