An odd thing happened after Liverpool's 3-2 win over Tottenham on Tuesday: Brendan Rodgers wasn't at the press conference after the match. Assistant manager Colin Pascoe attended the question session instead, only telling reporters that Rodgers had to leave quickly as he "had an appointment in Europe." But what could that appointment be? What business would Rodgers have on the continent that he couldn't take 15 minutes to talk to the press first?
While we don't know the full scope of what Rodgers' trip involved, we do know one thing: he was in Rome.
A picture emerged yesterday of a sunglasses-wearing Rodgers outside the Vatican with a fan, leading to wild speculation as to why he was there. Has he left the club? Is he interviewing to replace Rudi Garcia? Has the pope stepped down and somehow named Rodgers as his successor?
After awhile, the surge of speculation started to condense on to one rumor in particular: he had been in Italy to scout AS Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic.
It's easy to see why Pjanic, a 24 year old Bosnian international midfielder, would be a potential target for Liverpool. He's a gifted playmaker who has advanced and developed by leaps and bounds since falling under the tutelage of Rudi Garcia 18 months ago. Pjanic is silky in possession, has a wide range of passes in his tool kit, and is excellent at providing service off set plays. He's even steadily getting better in defense, which is a big plus. If Rodgers wants to help Liverpool finally replace the old, attacking midfield version of Steven Gerrard, Pjanic would likely be a good way to do it.
Of course, cost is always a stumbling block. Pjanic is a core part of Roma's current side, and they have little reason to make it easy for another team to sign him. His transfer fee will likely be very high, €35 million at the absolute least, and with Pjanic's contract up in 2018 and no screaming financial need to sell him, Roma have all the leverage to just sit on the Bosnian and force the best possible offer.
What's confusing about the report, though, is figuring out what Rodgers would have been scouting. Roma last played played a match on Sunday, when they played away at Cagliari on the island of Sardinia. The only Serie A match in midweek was when Parma hosted Chievo on Wednesday, and there's nothing of interest for a club of Liverpool's level in that matchup these days. No one else plays until Saturday, so there were no matches for him to see. Unless a club let him in to training there was nothing for him to actually, you know, scout.
Rodgers may have actually been in Rome to talk to Roma staff in person about a potential sale, but that would normally be more Ian Ayre's business. Unless he wants to send a message about how serious Liverpool's interest is, it makes little sense for Rodgers to be down there to talk about transfers himself. And if that were the case, shouldn't he not be seen in public afterwards, so as to avoid broad public speculation like, well, this? Seems like better business if that's avoided.
So maybe Rodgers was just there to do some sightseeing. Perhaps he and his wife Susan were in Rome for a couple of days between matches to have a little pre-Valentine's getaway. Maybe he just wanted some good pasta - though if he wanted pizza, he really should have gone to Naples instead. But if this trip does wind up with Liverpool signing Pjanic this summer ... then it was a trip well worth the effort.