We continue our march towards Roma’s top U23 player with a stop at number five. Kicking off the top handful of Roman youth is none other than The Tank himself, Ezequiel Ponce. After impressing with Roma’s Primavera side in 2015-2016, Ponce will ply his trade in La Liga in the coming season.
Number Five: Ezequiel Ponce
Previous Club: Roma (Primavera)
Current Club: Granada (La Liga)
Future Comparison: Carlos Tevez
Who is He?
Ponce, 19, hails from Rosario, Argentina, a tiny hamlet on the east coast of Argentina that has produced, among others, Gabriel Batistuta, Angel Di Maria and Lionel Messi. Still just a teenager, Ponce came to Roma in the summer of 2015 from Newell’s Old Boys (not to be confused with BSC Young Boys) for the tidy sum of €4.2 million.
Signed by Newell’s at all of 8-years-old, Ponce became the club’s youngest debutant in 2013 at the age of 16. And this wasn’t just a spot appearance either, Ponce would go on to score four goals in fifteen appearances as a 17-year-old. Not a gaudy sum, but pretty impressive for a kid still slight of frame and short on experience.
Unfortunately for The Tank, the wheels (or the tank equivalent) came off once he came to Rome, as he was sidelined for nearly five months after tearing his ACL last November, which is pretty much a contractual obligation at this point for all Roma signees. But that was merely a setback as Ponce would return to action in March and was instrumental in the Primavera’s Scudetto campaign, scoring nine goals in ten matches.
What Can He Do?
Well, score, for one. Beyond that impressive nine-goals-in-ten-matches run through the spring, Ponce boasts an incredible scoring record on the youth circuit. During the 2012 season, when he was playing in Newell’s Old Boys youth team (that's confusing, huh?), Ponce scored an astounding 35 goals, which he followed up with 22 the next season. Youth leagues are obviously a different animal, but one thing is for certain, the kid can score.
Generally speaking, Ponce is a classic, though not statuesque, number nine—good in the air, great without the ball and clinical in front of goal. Additionally, Ponce has shown, throughout his youth career, an ability to drop deep and hold up/link play with the rest of the attack.
If all goes according to plan, Ponce’s strength, athleticism and wide bag of tricks should make him both a shot taker and shot maker, which could portend a long and productive career.
Speaking of which....
What Can He Become?
Whether it’s because of their shared nationality or similar strength on the ball, the Carlos Tevez comparisons were inevitable. While Ponce probably won’t put up the same balance of goal and assist numbers as peak-Tevez did with City and Juventus, he seems to have the same knack for scoring goals—be it through beauty or brute strength—that enabled Tevez to have such a successful European career.
Ponce, however, packages these skills in a slightly taller and more athletic package. Really, the biggest influence on his future success and/or Tevezishness depends on what manager/system is in place in Rome by the time he comes of age. If he’s required to drop deeper and to be more of a facilitator, his numbers may be blunted somewhat, though that wouldn’t necessarily indicate ineffectiveness on his part. If, on the other hand, he’s given free reign throughout the offense and has license to seek out the ball and shoot-at-will, we could be looking at a 15-20 goal scorer when all is said and done.
Needless to say, we’ll all want to keep an eye on Granada this season. With Edin Dzeko’s always perilous grasp on Roma’s #9 position, Ponce could be in prime position to steal some serious minutes from the Bosnian during the 2017-2018 season, which will hopefully be the first among many with Ponce leading the line.