Whether it was Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Costa or Mauro Icardi, a lot of Roma's transfer chatter this summer focused on the men responsible for scoring the goals: the forward, the number nine, the striker. For much of the past twenty years or so, Roma has operated with committee approach up top, relying instead on Francesco Totti and their cavalcade of wingers for scoring rather than a traditional number nine. It wasn't until Edin Dzeko arrived in 2015 that Roma had any semblance of consistency at center forward, but with the Bosnian Batistuta's clock winding down, the Giallorossi will once again be in the market for a man to lead the line.
And while he didn't crack last year's list of U23 standouts, scoring 28 goals for the Primavera last season has vaulted Zan Celar into our Top Ten U23 talents for 2019.
Number Ten: Zan Celar
Current Club: Cittadella (loan)
Future Comparison: Slightly smaller but faster Edin Dzeko
Who Is He?
Celar, 20-years-old, is a Slovenian striker from the city of Kranj. Standing 6’2” in the air, Celar has been a goal scoring machine from his earliest days playing in Slovenia. Starting with Velesovo-Šenčur, Celar has had no problem finding the back of the net, scoring 122 goals between the ages of 12 and 17. Following that prolific record, Celar joined Roma's Primavera team in the fall of 2017.
What Can He Do?
Well, as we just mentioned, Celar is no stranger to scoring goals. During his debut season with the Primavera, Celar slotted home 15 goals in all competitions, a spectacular debut for a kid his age living abroad for the first time. We've certainly seen many flashes in the primavera pan in our days, but Celar put all doubts to rest this past year, scoring 28 goals and contributing four assists in only 27 Primavera matches. Thanks in part to that impressive performance, Celar was given his senior team debut by Claudio Ranieri, coming on for Patrik Schick in the 86th minute against Empoli this past March.
While his goal scoring prowess is his calling card, the clip above is a pretty illustrative example of how he can and will function within a broader attack, as you'll notice Celar dropping back to link up with midfielders, spreading play out wide and even overlapping with wingers. Thanks to his size and athleticism, Celar can make an impact all over the pitch, traits that should enable him to thrive in virtually any tactical setup.
What Can He Become?
Despite all that praise, here is where I must preach some caution. From Umar Sadiq to Marco Tumminello to Edoardo Soleri to Ezequiel Ponce, Roma has had a lot of promising strikers at the Primavera fail to live up to expectations at the senior level. None of them had quite the same scoring record as Celar, but the ghosts of Roma past will always haunt us, so it's worth considering.
Despite that, one look at Celar and it's clear as day; this kid can play. From his earliest days in Slovenia, Celar has done nothing but score, and what's more, his two years with the Roma Primavera showed a kid who can work with both feet when necessary, can score with his head, can contribute to buildup play, can out hustle and out muscle nearly any defender and can even score a golazo when needed .
If...if...he can take the next step with Cittadella this year in Serie B, Roma may have a ready made replacement for Edin Dzeko as soon as the 2020-2021 season. More likely, Roma will purchase another striker this summer, pushing Celar's impact back another year or two, but he is definitely a talent worth developing, so let's hope he bucks Roma's recent trend of squandering Primavera talent.