Maicon's first season with Roma was an unquestionable success. The powerful Brazilian full-back rediscovered much of his best form after a disappointing spell at Manchester City and once again looks like one of the best in his position.
At 32, however, the Giallorossi would be remiss if they weren't looking at options to replace the former Cruzeiro, Monaco and Inter right-back eventually. DeAndre Yedlin is among the most hyped young players in the MLS, and with the club's American connections, it's tempting to wonder: Is the USA's DeAndre Yedlin a natural successor?
Natural, no, but there are signs that he could be an interesting alternative, not least because the sport's increasing popularity in the States makes signing young American talent a smart move for European clubs.
The "natural" successor would be a more powerful, experienced player. The Seattle Sounders star is 11 centimetres shorter than Maicon, and he's far less imposing physically. At just 21, he'll add muscle in the coming seasons, but he's unlikely to become the formidable presence that has marked the Brazilian out throughout his career.
He is, however, gifted with the kind of pace and attacking instinct that makes him a nightmare for the opposition. If Roma decide not to move for him, it won't be too long before another big European club comes calling.
According to the Gazzetta dello Sport, Roma's Walter Sabatini has already been in the U.S. to put in place a deal for Yedlin. Something of a preemptive move to stop others who've been attracted to the player following his World Cup performances, the pink paper believes that the Giallorossi will leave the American in Seattle for another season to develop.
It's been a strikingly quick rise to prominence for the player, who was only drafted by the Sounders in 2013. He was a surprise inclusion in Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. squad—especially given the furore surrounding Landon Donovan's exclusion. Yedlin was brought as a deputy for Fabian Johnson, but his confident display against Portugal when he came on as a sub—and played a role in Clint Dempsey’s goal—instantly justified the German coach's decision.
Against the Portuguese and against Belgium, Yedlin proved that he's ready for and able to play in the biggest games. He was originally a right winger as a teenager, but his defensive contributions nowadays show little evidence of that and, for Klinsmann’s side at least, he offered a good mix of attacking and defensive contribution.
The signs from Brazil are promising, but Roma isn't the U.S. men's national team, and Serie A isn't a short knock-out summer tournament. Yedlin's performances for Seattle have belied his age and suggest great promise, but there's still a huge step up between MLS and a major European league—especially to a club as ambitious as the Lupi.
If Yedlin can make that transition, he can be a superstar, both in the US and in Europe. His generation have grown up with the MLS, and for them, full stadiums and huge support is the norm. Now it's only a matter of time before American soccer produces a truly world-class talent, and clubs like Roma will be keen to take advantage.
U.S. players still represent good value, even if this summer's World Cup will have pushed some prices up, and with such fervent support for the USMNT throughout the States, having one of their rank as a regular starter would be good business for a European club, all of whom are looking to expand their influence in the lucrative American market.
Replacing Maicon won't be easy, but taking a gamble on a young player who has shown great promise, won't cost much and could have significant commercial prospects is a smart bet.