Nicolas Burdisso is set to leave Roma, heading to an unknown club with the desire of increased playing time in hopes of being called up to the Argentina National Team for the World Cup this summer. Sky Sport broke the news on Wednesday morning, finally confirming what has long been thought would happen to the center-back.
Burdisso has been a great servant to the club ever since joining on loan from Inter back in the summer of 2009. For his first two seasons at the club (he was eventually signed outright for about 8 million euros), he made more appearances on the pitch than Philippe Mexes and nearly helped the team win a Scudetto in 2009-2010, failing at the last hurdle against Sampdoria and Jose Mourinho's treble-winning Inter.
Throughout the rest of his career at Roma he would often find his playing time limited due to injuries (a knee injury kept him out of the game for nearly the second half of the 2011-2012 season) or depth reasons (Medhi Benatia and Leandro Castan being indubitably first choice this season). When Thomas Di Benedetto's consortium took over, Roma tried many different players at center-back, from Gabriel Heinze and Juan to Simon Kjaer and Marquinhos.
After recovering from injury, under Zdenek Zeman and Aurelio Andreazzoli, Burdisso actually finished last season with more appearances on the pitch than Marquinhos and has stayed at the club longer than the other three names. In 25 appearances last season, he averaged 90 percent passing accuracy (Second on the team to Castan), 10 defensive actions per game (Second only to Marquinhos), and only two outright defensive errors (as many as Marquinhos and fewer than Ivan Piris).
With his now impending departure, Burdisso's absence will mean the loss of one of the club's longest serving players on the current roster, the loss of a player who has been rather integral to the side for the past five years.
Burdisso's grinta embodied much of what Roma truly is though his temper and bookings also represented passion at its most dangerous to the team. He was booked 23 times in the five seasons since he arrived at the club, being sent off thrice, all in the 2010/2011 season, where his tackle on Daniele Conti will long live in infamy.
He was by no means a perfect center-back, but at 32-years-old he certainly played his part this season. Despite being relegated to third choice, Burdisso's five appearances for Roma have been crucial to fill in for Castan and Benatia as injury and suspension have required; all things considered, he did admirably to help the side maintain the league’s best defensive record.
For the club, the thought now must be about who can similarly play a crucial backup role. Though Tin Jedvaj is certainly a talented and exciting young prospect, he's only played seven minutes all season long, and thus Roma may find themselves on the market this month for another center-back unless Rudi Garcia truly sees this as an opportunity to get the Croatian quality minutes on the pitch.
Either way, someone will replace Burdisso's position as third choice center-back at Roma, but replacing the service, where he always left it all on the pitch, from the highs of the near-Scudetto run to the lows of sixth and seventh placed finishes, will be a much more difficult task.