We’ve spent the bulk of transfer season thus far talking about possible additions—and rightfully so, the club has several holes—but haven’t really addressed the players going in the other direction, save for Miralem Pjanic. Roma find themselves in a bit of an awkward state, whereupon their ranks are teeming with talented young players, yet their manager, Luciano Spalletti, isn’t exactly renowned for his handling of prospects. So while we can and should dream of one of Roma’s young guns taking the world by storm, odds are it won’t happen, at least not yet.
While we get into many of these names in greater depth during our now annual U23 prospect countdown, today we’ll focus on one specific and intriguing name, Ezequiel Ponce, Roma’s 19-year-old Carlos Tevez in the making.
Last fall we discussed the prospect of Ponce’s immediate role with Roma—questioning whether or not he was ready for first team minutes—but unfortunately that question was rendered moot the minute his ACL decided to give way. Fortunately for the club and player, Ponce returned reasonably quickly from his injury, scoring seven goals in all competitions for the Primavera side last spring.
And while Ponce isn’t quite yet at full strength, his performance in the spring was enough to throw his name into the back up striker mix at Trigoria. With Edin Dzeko’s woeful performance in 2016, and without any clear cut option behind him, Ponce stands a real chance to force Spalletti’s hand, or does he?
With rampant speculation over a dramatic tactical shift, one that would see Stephan El Shaarawy as a prima punta supported by either Mohamed Salah or Diego Perotti, playing time for Ponce, or any of Roma’s young forwards, may not be as clear cut as it seems.
Given that confluence of tactical uncertainty and age, a top flight loan might be in order, and hey wouldn’t you know it, Sporting Gijon are more than happy to oblige Roma once more. Gijon, you may recall, served as an incubator of Antonio Sanabria’s talents last season, to the tune of 11 goals, and are reportedly interested in taking on Ponce this season. And if everything goes according to plan, he’ll flourish allowing Roma to reap the rewards; we’re talking a seven figure sale here, guys...yeah, that big.
All kidding aside, Ponce profiles as a far more versatile, stronger and more effective number 9 than Sanabria. His sheer strength and athleticism, coupled with his aerial ability, hold up play and touch, makes him the prototypical 21st century striker; a shot taker and shot maker, so letting him go shouldn’t be as easy as it has (or soon will be) with Sanabria.
And while I’d rather see him ply his trade in Italy this year, Gijon proved with Sanabria that they’re ready, willing and able to give serious minutes to a seriously young kid. But mark my words, if they sell Ponce, they'll feel the full wrath of my keyboard.
In all seriousness, Ponce is like Britney Spears circa 2001; not a girl, not yet a woman. He's too good for the Primavera, but not quite ready for Roma, so get him some minutes somewhere, but for the love of god, don't entertain the notion of selling him. Not even for a second.