Next up in our countdown of Roma's top U23 prospects is a young man we're not quite sure what to make of yet, but he certainly seems to have the "it" factor. Number three in our countdown is everyone's favorite follically gifted Turk, Salih Uçan. While we haven't seen a ton of Uçan yet, his poise, intelligence and gait on the pitch all portend a future as a skilled and creative lynchpin to Roma's midfield.
Who Is He?
Uçan probably needs no introduction to the diehard among us, especially since we've tracked nearly every stage of his Roma career in these spaces. However, in case you're new to our community or to the club itself, here's the lowdown. Uçan had a grand total of 50 club appearances in Turkey before Roma snapped him up last summer, but don't let the lack of match time fool you, he's been a key component at the club level before. During the 2011-2012 season, at only 17-years-old, Uçan was instrumental in getting his former club Bucaspor promoted to the Turkish top flight, making 24 appearances, scoring one goal and providing three assists along the way, a performance he topped once he moved to Fenerbahçe, scoring three goals in 10 appearances, showing no signs of wilting at a bigger club.
All of this was enough for Roma to sign Uçan to a deal that will ultimately cost €15 million, give or take a few hundred thousand.
What Can He Do?
Honestly, I think the better question to ask is what can't he do. In terms of simple positioning, he can play anywhere across the midfield, both horizontally and vertically, he can work one-twos, he can do layoffs, he can pass it long, he can pass it short, he can thread the needle and he can play it through the air. Simply put, although he doesn't have an arsenal of tricks in his pocket, there is very little this kid can't do with the ball at his feet, and it all comes in a soon to be formidable package—have you noticed how much mass he added this summer?
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And, good lord, look at his first touch! His composure on the ball is almost unheard of for a player his age--look how calmly he settles the ball, the turns he makes and how he creates enough space and separation to keep the ball moving; he just has an innate feel for how to run a midfield. And if that wasn't enough, he's excellent off the ball and the kid can even tackle.
He is, in just so many ways, the ideal midfielder. You don't confine him to a certain area of the pitch or ascribe him a certain role; his skill, composure and understanding of the game should allow him to succeed regardless of who lines up alongside him or what formation his manager prefers.
He's a bridge, a lynchpin and a conduit. However you choose to phrase it, when Uçan pulls it all together, he will be the man that makes Roma work, the link between front and back, the one who can create from deep or provide a direct threat. Line him up alongside Leandro Paredes and Gerson, and five years from now Roma might have the best midfield in Europe.
What Can He Become?
As we move higher up the prospect ladder, the proclamations and predictions become more outlandish simply because the talent becomes more real. Just look at Uçan--his stature, the way he moves, how strong he is on the ball, his intuitive movement and passing--and tell me you don't see shades of Kroos. Uçan, like Kroos himself, can play the deeper midfield role, channeling the ball from the back and springing the attacking midfielders, but he has also shown flashes of a more forward role, being the final link in attack and even threatening the goal.
As we mentioned in the previous section, if Uçan can put it all together, he profiles as the sort of player who defies traditional definitions and black and white tactics. All truly successful teams have players like this, guys who are given free roam to contribute in a host of areas—Totti, Messi, Ronaldo, Ozil etc—and Uçan's poise, technical ability and sheer skill should see him fill this role for Roma in the not too distant future.
However, even if he doesn't live up to that enormous billing, his feel for the game and his vast skill set should ensure a decade and a half long career as a reliable rotation regular, but if he does fit that bill...oof...Roma may have a world beater on their hands.