Why Man City can beat Barcelona, Chelsea for Roma starlet Marquinhos
For all the criticism aimed at AS Roma's transfer policy this season, one man who can afford football directors Franco Baldini and Walter Sabatini some breathing space is Marquinhos.
The young Brazilian's European career was barely four months old when Roma were fielding enquires from Barcelona and Manchester City ahead of the January winter market. Barca were even willing to discuss a €25 million fee for the 18 year-old, which was quickly shutdown by Roma's board.
Instead, the Giallorossi took up the option to sign Marquinhos permanently - to the tune of a bargain basement €3 million. Former club Corinthians were aware of Barca's approach, but Roma's deal was watertight, having paid an initial €1.5 million to take the defender on a season-long loan.
Baldini and Sabatini knew they had a talent on their hands, but his progress has even startled them. Marquinhos arrived in the summer from Corinthians along with Leandro Castan, who was keeping him out of coach Tite's first team. But within weeks, Marquinhos had relegated his fellow Brazilian to Roma's bench and was wowing scouts from across Europe.
Since the winter transfer window shut, whenever Marquinhos' name is mentioned in the Rome press, it is associated with Barca and City. But he insists the attention is something he happily leaves to his minders.
"If a proposal came, it would go to my manager or the club. I'd be the last to know, probably at the last minute when it came to signing something," he laughed.
Marquinhos has always been quick to say he is happy in Rome, but cannot rule out a future move.
"You cannot ever close the door, you do not know what will happen tomorrow. But for now my thoughts are here and finishing the season in the right fashion."
Marquinhos has been able to settle quickly in Rome, with his parents and siblings all moving, lock, stock and barrel to the city last year.
"It was difficult to leave Corinthians. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, I spent 10 years at Corinthians. I do not regret it. I was taking a chance leaving so young. Of course I did not know if it would work out, but now I see that I was wrong.
"I try not to worry about the transfer rumours, I leave that to my father and the agents. I just don't think about it. I don't worry about money."
Indeed, Marquinhos says he chose Roma because of their lower profile, believing he'd be able to develop without the burden of expectation that comes with playing for a Champions League club. But such has been his impact, the youngster is now headline news.
"He has this ability to be versatile. I explained to him that this was important. It's a benefit to have a player who can quickly play in three positions when needed.
"He is fast, he reminds me of Cordoba. They even have the same body type.
"He'll still have to be a little more imposing when carrying the ball. But his ability to concentrate and anticipate is awesome."
Along with City and Barca, Brazilian media sources say Chelsea have also asked Roma about Marquinhos' situation, though out of the three, Roberto Mancini's Manchester City could have the inside-running - thanks to Matija Nastasic.
As he's suggested, Marquinhos is very much career focused. Comparing Barca's recent treatment of high-profile Brazilian signings and Chelsea's buy big policy, Marquinhos cannot help but be impressed with how Nastasic has settled at City since his January arrival from Fiorentina.
However, with ambitions of gatecrashing Brazil's 2014 World Cup squad, the teen could also see another year with Roma as the best option.
"It's all a matter of working hard, keep doing what I've been doing well, seizing my opportunities. It's a dream to play in the World Cup. I'm dreaming about it. Many things in my life have been moving fast."