The majority of headlines written in the wake of the weekend’s 2-2 draw between Fiorentina and Roma have quite rightly focused on Francesco Totti scoring his 200th Serie A goal. While this remarkable achievement certainly deserves celebrating, it has allowed some of the more negative aspects of Roma’s performance to slip under the radar, most notably the woeful display turned in by Brazilian central defender Juan.
Juan was selected for the clash on the merit of his towering performance against Lazio, when he marked danger man Sergio Floccari out of the game, but failed to justify his selection and was at fault for both Fiorentina goals. Much of the Roma first team have endured difficult campaigns, but arguably none have suffered more than Juan. He has regularly been left on the bench with Nicolas Burdisso and Philippe Mexes preferred in defence and when he has been given a chance he has disappointed more often than not.
Last season, Juan was a tower of strength in the Roma defence. His aerial dominance and ability to read the game combined with his sheer power and speed made him a formidable opponent and, alongside Burdisso, he formed one of the best central defensive pairings in Europe. This time around, though, he seems a shadow of his former self. It would be easy to make excuses and claim that he has merely fallen short of the high standards he set last season but on the evidence of the Fiorentina game, he is simply not the player he once was.
At 32, he is certainly entering the twilight of his career and he has been linked with a return to his native Brazil a number of times already this season. However, Juan has moved quickly to deny that he wants to leave, saying: “I have not authorised anyone to negotiate or offer me to clubs in Brazil or abroad.” The rumours, though, have not stopped flying and Roma have been linked with a number of defenders while Bayern Munich has been touted as a possible destination for Juan.
His performance against Lazio suggests that Juan is still capable of great things, and he has played more times this season than either Burdisso or Mexes. However, with a takeover and subsequent influx of transfer funds imminent, the exit door seems to be beckoning for one of the players of last season. That is not to say that his Roma career is over, rather that he must replicate his derby display at every opportunity until the end of the season in order to convince Vincenzo Montella and whoever is appointed next season that he merits a place in the squad.