We’ve written at length about Roma’s hunt for a new striker. With Edin Džeko seeming to be on his way out of the Stadio Olimpico, it seems unlikely that Patrik Schick will be the only serious option at striker for Paulo Fonseca. While names like Gonzalo Higuain and Mariano Diaz have been thrown around as potential Džeko replacements, Roma may have the striker who could one day fill the Bosnian’s shoes already on contract. Even better, Gianluca Petrachi just extended that striker’s contract to 2023.
Slovenian Primavera striker Zan Celar, who scored 28 goals for Roma’s Primavera side last season, was renewed today before promptly being sent on loan to Serie B side Cittadella. Although it’s disappointing that Celar got sent to Serie B before getting a chance with the club this summer, the fact that Roma handed him a new contract is a vote of confidence in Celar’s potential. Combined with the rumor that Roma rejected a straight-transfer approach from Girondins de Bordeaux for the Zan Man (his official nickname starting now), and it’s clear that Roma doesn’t think that Celar’s Primavera performances are only a product of the lower level of competition.
For those of you who don’t watch every Primavera match you can (or at least read Dallagente’s excellent Primavera articles), here’s a bit of a primer on Celar. The Slovenian is a traditional poacher, and that style, combined with a mental toughness to make defenders sweat for the full 90, resulted in him becoming the Primavera capocannoniere. In all honesty, from what I’ve seen of Celar, he might be the best man for the job of fixing Patrik Schick’s mentality issues. I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen Celar look as if he lost interest or hope during a match. The Zan Man just keeps pushing, and when you find a forward with that mentality who also has the goalscoring record to back up that mentality, you’d be crazy to not give him a shot on the senior squad.
As much as I would have wished for Celar to get a chance with Roma this season, there would have been obvious negatives to trying Celar out as a key part of the forward rotation . Fonseca has been known to use a shadow striker in the past, a role Celar isn’t exactly built for. The stakes of success next season will also be incredibly high; do we really want to trust a 20-year-old with no Serie A experience to lead Roma’s front line? Add in that replacing The Bosnian Diamond with a Primavera prospect and the 42 Million Euro Man won’t exactly thrill the tifosi, and it was always unlikely that Celar will be getting a chance to start for the Giallorossi from the get-go. Sending the Slovenian to Cittadella will allow him to show Roma’s scouts if his crazy goal-scoring record with the Primavera was a blip or an indicator of even bigger things to come.
However, I still think that Celar deserved a chance to be a senior squad player for Roma this season. Sure, it’s the safer move to send him on loan to Cittadella’s lower-stakes environment. Even still, you’ll never know if a prospect is ready for the spotlight until they get thrown onto the big stage. Roma has had countless striker prospects wither away on loan at smaller clubs, wasting millions of euros on players who never make an impact for i Lupi. I’d hate for Celar to become just another name on that list. Even as Roma’s second- or third-string striker,Celar would get to learn Fonseca’s tactics and what it takes to be a part of a big club by staying with the Giallorossi. That’s something a year at Cittadella won’t teach him, and even if he scored zero goals for Roma next season, it would have been a worthwhile way for him to spend his year. Besides, zero goals in a season isn’t that much worse than Schick’s recent Roma performances.
Regardless, in bocca al lupo, Zan Man. I hope your trip to Serie B is short and eventful.