Ivory Coast's soccer player Gervinho, celebrates with a medal after winning their African Cup of Nations final soccer match against Ghana in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, Sunday, Feb. 8, 2015 (Photo: AP)
The return of Gervinho and arrival of fellow Ivorian Seydou Doumbia cannot come quickly enough for AS Roma, whose Serie A campaign has faltered while the pair were away winning the Africa Cup of Nations.
Neither Doumbia nor Gervinho had arrived in Roma by Thursday morning, having taken a detour to Abidjan, to take part in the Ivorians' title celebrations, and it was not certain whether they would start Sunday's match at home to Parma.
But their imminent arrival has given coach Rudi Garcia renewed optimism after a difficult injury-plagued month which has even started speculation as to whether the Frenchman would stay on at the club after this season.
When Gervinho left for Equatorial Guinea at the start of the year, second-placed Roma were only three points behind leaders Juventus and nine clear of third place.
In his absence, they have managed only two wins and four draws in six games, scored a modest eight goals and dropped seven points behind Juventus while Napoli are lurking in their rear view mirror, four points behind in third.
Gervinho's pace has made him Roma's most dangerous attacking weapon in their 18 months under Garcia and Roma have looked toothless in his absence.
An injury to forward Juan Manuel Iturbe has not helped and came just after fellow striker Mattia Destro had been loaned to AC Milan, unhappy at only being given a limited number of starts despite scoring regularly.
Doumbia, signed from CSKA Moscow for €15 million during the Afcon, is a fascinating addition to the squad, boasting a prolific scoring record.
He was the Swiss league's leading scorer in both his seasons with Young Boys and amassed 129 goals in 83 appearances for CSKA, including 17 in 22 in European competition, and many wonder why he has taken so long to reach one of the major European leagues.
"Soon I will have more choices and the squad will have versatility on the field and on the bench as well," Garcia told reporters after a barely-deserved 2-1 win at Cagliari on Sunday.
Another promising sign for Garcia was the performance of 18-year-old Daniele Verde who set up both goals against the Sardinians.
"I believe in him because he is fast, he has quality and technique and, as well as that, he works for the team and is hungry," said Garcia.
"With these qualities he will go a long way."
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