In my years at the helm here, and even as a reader, I've heard some pretty absurd Roma-related transfer rumors--whatever happened to that mystery signing that would bring 12,000 fans to the airport anyway?--but this one may take the cake. With Roma suffering through the Dzeko dregs for much of the season, and with Francesco Totti being sidelined throughout the fall, Roma had no other alternative than turning to their 19-year-old Nigerian striker, Sadiq Umar (or Umar Sadiq, depending on who you ask); a kid they don't even yet own outright.
While it's always enjoyable to see a young player get a shot, with his new-born giraffe-esque gait and Mr Bean like physique, seemed more like a sideshow character than a burgeoning young talent. And then, lo and behold, Umar made some noise, scoring goals in back to back appearances--a well played header against Genoa and a sliding tap-in against Chievo.
True, neither of these goals will make you forget about Zlatan, but Umar certainly has that look about him; the type of striker who succeeds despite his lack of readily apparent skills. He's quick and, by most accounts, knows how to make the most of his slight frame, evading defenders rather than bowling them over.
However, with Edin Dzeko and Francesco Totti ahead of him on the roster, and with Ezequiel Ponce and Tonny Sanabria above him in the prospect pecking order, Umar has quite a long road to hoe in Roma. Despite those lack of plaudits, Arsene Wenger, in his infinite wisdom, has somehow deemed this kid worth €20 million, a fee flat out refused by Roma.
Having been rebuffed in their first attempt, the rumor mongers of the world would have us believe that the Gunners are prepared to push this bid north of €20 million, which, even by rumors standards is absurd. But this much is clear: between Umar, Ponce, Sanabria and even Kevin Mendez, something's gotta give, one of these kids will be a sacrificial lamb.
So would bilking Arsenal for €20 million ensure that one of his more acclaimed peers finds a place in Rome, or will the club cash in on all these assets in favor of a more experienced striker on the tail end of his career?
Whatever the case may be, this is yet another litmus test for Roma's (mis)management of their youth. Acquiring, cultivating and cashing in on prospects is part of the game, but at some point you have to wonder who exactly will survive the reaping.
Umar may not be the crown jewel of Trigoria's playground, but his immediate place of employment could be quite telling for the future of this club: Is he merely the first domino to fall or would his departure simply be the cost of keeping Sanabria?
What wins out, the bottom line or the project?