Miralem Pjanic made his long-awaited return to the Stadio Olimpico on Sunday. The man, who once wrote countless social media posts professing his love and devotion for Roma, stood in front of his former supporters wearing, not giallorossi but, a bianconeri shirt with the chance to do something he’s never done before; help his club win the Scudetto. But, like his exit from the ‘Eternal City’, Pjanic disappointed once again as he was marginalized by his replacement, Leandro Paredes, during Roma’s landmark 3-1 victory over Juventus.
From the moment it became public that the Bosnian midfielder demanded to be sold to Juventus, the Curva Sud, and every Roma supporter, circled ‘May 14, 2017’ on their calendars. Many had hoped the antepenultimate match of the season would help decide the Scudetto race, but due to club failures throughout the season, Roma fans had to settle for a match with significant Champions League qualification implications.
With Napoli ahead of Roma by two points in the table, it was crucial for Roma to secure all three points against the ‘Old Lady’. That situation seemed to, rightfully, overshadow the return of Roma’s “Benedict Arnold.” However, when the dust settled, and Roma had claimed their three points, it was the Romans who had the opportunity to relish Pjanic’s disappointment.
Over the course of the 90 minutes, Pjanic failed to make his mark on the match with one of his patented long-passes, or a goal or assist. Though he completed 46 out of 53 passes (86%), only one was completed into the box. Additionally, only one of his six attempted crosses was successful. Compounding his lack of influence on the match was his corner kick failures. The dead-ball specialist completed only one of five corners, with the one being a short layoff. He created no chances, and his only shot was blocked. It must’ve been a frustrating day for the man who betrayed the home fans.
At the other end of the field, Pjanic’s replacement at Roma, Leandro Paredes, had an exceptional evening. The Argentinian midfielder completed 51 of 56 passes (91%) and created two chances from corner kicks. Of his 19 pass attempts in the attacking third, 17 found their mark (89%). However, it wasn’t just his offensive prowess on display, he successfully cleared all six chances he was afforded, including four in Roma’s box. Though he didn’t show up on the scoresheet, his influence was undeniable.
Though Roma is back to a point above Napoli for the lucrative final automatic Champions League spot, Juventus has the rare opportunity to win the Treble this year. Their success is due, in large part, to Pjanic’s arrival and successful turn at replacing Paul Pogba in their midfield. However, for one mid-May evening, Roma fans proved to the man who betrayed them that their team is not centered around one player, but around the club entire.