After seeing Cristian Romero perform so well in his debut Serie A season for Genoa in 2018/19, Juventus took no chances in him getting swooped away by another top club by purchasing him at the end of that same season. The then 21-year-old was one of a few centre-back recruitments by Juventus in the summer of 2019, and as such, was loaned back to his former club immediately on a season-long loan. The question remains, will he fit in Juventus’ long-term squad plans?
He continued his strong performances into the 2019/20 season and improved on his game in numerous aspects. Davide Nicola continued the previous Genoa manager’s trust in the youngster’s ability to perform better than his senior counterparts. In an ageing squad, Romero stands out as the greatest prospect in the squad, alongside being one of the more athletic individuals in the side. Capable of producing a high volume of defensive work, he has aided a side that has struggled immensely in Serie A this campaign. With new tactics, Nicola has managed to improve the team to work better as a cohesive unit, capable of grinding out results when necessary.
Style of play
The Argentinian is a physically-imposing central defender who reads the game well and anticipates a lot of attacks happening before they do. His strength and aerial ability are magnificent, which is always useful against sides who like to play direct football or attempt a lot of crosses.
He is a player who likes to dribble when he has the chance to, which is sometimes useful to move his team up the pitch, when successful. He likes to tackle more than the average centre-back and he is strong at doing so. Though, on occasion, he mistimes his tackles and will commit a foul, sometimes in dangerous areas to concede. When it comes to Genoa’s style of play under Nicola, he seems to fit quite well. He is consistently linking up with his fellow centre-backs and whoever the right-midfielder is in the Genoa starting XI.
Genoa tend to keep possession of the ball in their half, in the middle of the pitch, which their opponents have found easy to exploit. They are aggressive with their attacking and defensive play, to which their opponent usually replies with pace. Nicola’s favoured formation is 3-5-2 which seems to fit Romero’s strengths well. One of the squad’s only true strengths is their ability to win aerial duels, which Romero contributes to heavily.
Passing and build-up
Genoa aim to play possession football. They attempt to play short passes all across the midfield line at speed. They are pretty inconsistent when it comes to finding their target though. Genoa as a team lose the ball quite frequently and a player is dispossessed by an opponent on the ball 9.5 times per game.
Cristian Romero usually wanders around the right inside channel and leaves himself open as a passing option with his movement. The Argentinian is useful during the build-up and he is always looking to offload for a passing option as soon as he receives the ball. When he finds no one free around him, he will attempt to dribble past his opponent, usually to good effect. Even though they attempt to keep possession of the ball within the midfield, Genoa often find themselves losing the ball in that location, with Romero tasked with winning back the ball and attempting to progress the ball forwards with his dribbling or passing.
It should be noted that passing is a weakness in Romero’s game. He, most commonly, attempts the safe option when passing and rarely aims to be progressive with them. As he is young, at Juventus, he can learn and develop on this attribute to a certain level, but it is doubtable that it will ever be a strong point in his game. Thankfully, other aspects of his game outweigh his passing ability, as we will discuss.
Impact on their defensive approach and defensive contribution
As mentioned, the team’s 3-5-2 formation fits Romero’s abilities really well. He is strong in more than a couple of defensive aspects.
Due to his positional awareness, he is strong at blocking the ball, using his wide frame to his advantage. He uses his body cleverly to block opposition shots and crosses, cutting off avenues of attack for the opposition.
He also has a great impact in 1 vs 1 defensive duels. His marking and tackling ability gets him to manoeuvre his body in a way which he imposes himself upon his opponent and recovers the ball for his team. His anticipation and composure are extremely important to his actions, as he can predict the attacks that are about to happen and make the correct decision to stop it, under pressure. His strong capability to read the game so well leads to him making 2.5 interceptions per 90 minutes. Although Genoa face a lot of defensive pressure, this can be seen as a strong number for a centre-back, and evidence of his match intelligence.
As stated, he does like to dribble when he finds himself in the situation to do so. These scenarios tend to happen when Genoa are on the counterattack, or his typical passing options are blocked off. Though, his decision-making in these scenarios is strong, as he completes a high amount of his dribbles. His dribble success rate stands at an impressive 70%, which compares favourably to Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly, as he stands at 58%.
Across two years at Genoa, Romero has grown to become one of the most promising centre-backs in Serie A. He is a powerful, pacey, and intelligent defender, who has shown all the determination to make it to an elite level in world football. However, currently one may state that he is not quite at the level of a Juventus player. His passing and frequency of fouls given need to be improved upon before he can make the step up. Perhaps another loan move to a different club chasing European football, such as Roma, would be the smartest decision.