It’s no secret that Cengiz Ünder’s fortunes in the 2019-2020 season haven’t been the sunniest. After an injury in September sidelined him for a while, it’s apparent that Ünder has been unable to impress Paulo Fonseca enough to force his way back into starting contention. This is a pretty abrupt fall from grace for the Turkish winger, as coming into this season, one wouldn’t be remiss to have pinned the Giallorossi’s future hopes on Ünder, Nicolo Zaniolo, and Lorenzo Pellegrini. He won fourth place on our annual U-23 countdown, with dallagente closing his article on Cengiz saying:
This latter point is especially important in Paulo Fonseca’s side. If Ünder does not grasp the mental side of the game, where he’s expected to keep opposition defences narrow and on their feet with his off-the-ball positioning in Fonseca’s team, that could mean Ünder prematurely hitting his ceiling in the Italian capital.
Despite all the positive praise Dalla gave to Ünder, it looks like this Fonseca worst-case-scenario came to pass, at least so far. Cengiz has always been a speed demon, the perfect player to fill the hole left by Mohamed Salah’s transfer to Liverpool. Yet the tactical know-how has never been as up to snuff, and in Fonseca’s tactics, that has translated to only one goal this season and Ünder being in the Giallorossi doghouse.
As always, there are no shortage of suitors for Ünder’s signature, with clubs in Germany and England reportedly vying for his signature. Because of his poor season so far, the rumored deal for Ünder seems to be something in the ballpark of a loan with an option to buy nearing €40 million, which, if used, would be a very good return on investment for a player who moved to Roma in 2017 for €13.4 million.
The man who may take Ünder’s place in the Giallorossi lineup is one who has worn the Giallorossi colors before, albeit quite a long time ago. Matteo Politano, 26-year-old winger for Inter Milan and erstwhile Roma player, is currently the hottest name on the market to replace the Turkish Blur.
A little bit of history on Politano for those of you who might not have followed the Giallorossi for as long. Matteo Politano, a born and bred Roman, was one of the stars of Roma’s early-2010s Primavera side, along with Federico Viviani, Nicolas Lopez, and Junior Tallo. After a series of complex loans, buy-outs, buy-backs, and further loans, Politano finally found a club that would give him the breathing space to develop in Sassuolo. At Sassuolo, Politano developed into a nice right winger/second-striker option to balance out Domenico Berardi’s explosion onto the world stage, scoring 20 goals over three seasons with the Neroverdi.
As is somewhat typical, production like that from a young Italian winger perked up the ears of many Italian clubs, with Inter first loaning, then buying Politano in 2018 and 2019, respectively. However, since joining the Nerazzurri, Politano has only scored 5 goals in 37 appearances, and has been out due to both injury and Antonio Conte’s personal decision-making for much of this season.
The rumored price for Politano would be around €20 million outright, once a hefty fee but in today’s game kinda peanuts. If Roma sign Politano, they’d be welcoming back a Roman who at his best has an eye for goal, pace for days, and dribbling ability. Of course, that’s what they thought they had in Cengiz Ünder, minus the Roman part, but all signs point to Ünder and Paulo Fonseca simply not working well together. If Roma is able to replace Ünder with a player who can fit Fonseca’s tactical approach better, this could be a win for all involved. Ünder can move to greener pastures (imagine him in the Premier League); Politano can come home and find a way to rebirth his career; Fonseca can have a versatile forward whose style fits his game; Petrachi might be able to make some good money off of the difference in fees between Ünder and Politano.
The winter mercato is only just starting up, but regardless of whatever specific moves end up happening, it looks like Roma will be quite active this month.