Tony Sanabria's route to Roma was a strange one, as he moved from Barcelona B to Sassuolo before moving to Roma due to a lack of a non-EU spot at Roma for the Paraguayan. Upon acquiring Sanabria from Sassuolo, Roma agreed to pay the Italian club 2.4 million euros for the rights to his contract as well as take over Sassuolo's payments to Barcelona for him, which included a 2.5 million euro payment up front and seven million euros in bonuses related to performances. In total, that's a hefty sum for an 18 year old, albeit a graduate of one of football's most famous academies.
Number Eight: Antonio Sanabria
Height: 180 cm
Position: Centre Forward
Previous Club: Barcelona B/ Sassuolo
Current Club: Sporting Gijon (loan)
Future Comparison: Poor Man's Luis Saurez (But without the biting)
Who Is He?
Last season Sanabria had five goals in three league appearances for Roma's primavera squad, while also scoring two goals in eight appearances in the UEFA Youth League. He's tallied two appearances for Roma's first team as well since arriving. Internationally, Sanabria is experienced for a 19 year old, having already made five appearances for Paraguay's senior side.
What Can He Do?
Sanabria is more than capable of playing top flight football this season, and he should be (just not with Roma), which is why his loan move to Sporting Gijon is great. The free flowing nature of the Spanish game should allow him to hone the skill set he learned at La Masia, which includes pressing for the ball and making moves off the ball.
Built in the mold of the typical South American striker, Sanabria has a powerful shot and great technical ability. Although he doesn't seem as quick as other strikers, he more than makes up for it with his physical presence (he's 5'11 and only just turned 19).
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Sanabria's biggest weakness is his lack of consistent playing time, which really doesn't fall on him as a player. During half a season at Sassuolo he totaled just two appearances, but that makes sense given that Sassuolo was simply babysitting him for Roma.
Last season at Roma though, it seemed like the coaching staff couldn't find a proper spot for Sanabria. He wasn't good enough to get regular playing time on the first team, yet he was almost too good to be playing as the number nine for the primavera squad. As a result, he bounced between the first team and primavera squad, which affected his playing time. Hopefully the loan move to Sporting Gijon will allow Sanabria to gain consistent playing time.
What Can He Become?
Sanabria could break into the first team after a successful loan spell or two, assuming he'll want to come back to Roma after that long away from the club. If Sanabria can fulfill his massive potential in a series of loan moves, he can be the man at striker for Roma in the post-Dzeko era. With Roma having recently jettisoned strikers Mattia Destro and Seydou Doumbia, the club may be needing a good backup striker sooner rather than later, especially with new striker Edin Dzeko almost on the wrong side of 30 already.
Best case scenario, Sanabria fulfills his potential and becomes yet another South American striker that thrives in Europe, which Roma can cash in on down the line. Worst case scenario, Sanabria is yet another in a long line of 'the next' that failed to live up to the hype and expectations that come with graduating from La Masia. After all, someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class there too, right?