As we wait and see whether or not the Serie A season will recommence, the rumor mill has been working overtime to churn out potential Roma transfers that range from ludicrous to intriguing. Well, file this one under the latter. In a bit of role reversals, Corriere dello Sport is reporting that Atalanta have made inquiries about Cengiz Ünder.
It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to see Roma and La Dea do business on the market. After all, Bryan Cristante, Gianluca Mancini, and Roger Ibañez have all made their way from Bergamo south to the Italian capital in the last 24 months. However, a young and fairly expensive talent would be heading in this opposite direction this time around would be unusual.
Ünder has long been rumored to be the next prized asset heading out the Trigoria doors to create some capital for Roma, but he is usually linked with Premier League and Bundesliga clubs.
Nevertheless, Atalanta find themselves in an unusual position of power after advancing to the Champions League quarterfinals, while looking poised to return to the competition next season. For once, if it chooses, Atalanta can spend to build up its side rather than sell off pieces like it has done in the past.
According to the report from Cds, Atalanta has identified Ünder as a player adept at fitting into Giampiero Gasperini’s system. To make the move happen, Atalanta would be willing to splash €15 million plus a player in return for Ünder. Atalanta apparently hasn’t offered a particular player with the cash for the young Turk, but CdS reports Roma would be interested in an old flame, Josip Ilicic.
Roma have long been admirers of the 32-year-old Slovenian; often linked with him on the market the past few summers. However, prying away a player who has been one of the best performers in Serie A the past few seasons under Gasperini would be no easy task for the Giallorossi, even if La Dea are high on Ünder.
Ilicic, who has often been known as a mercurial player throughout his career, has been a revelation since joining forces with Gasperini prior to the 17/18 season. This season Ilicic has been particularly deadly with 15 goals and 8 assists in 21 league matches, while also scoring five times and assisting once in six Champions League matches.
While you’d think depriving themselves of Ilicic would be a non-starter for Atalanta, Roma bringing the Slovenian to the capital would still raise questions for the Giallorossi. For one, Ilicic isn’t getting any younger—at 32, you’d have to wonder how much longer Ilicic could continue to play at a high level.
Secondly, prior to his arrival in Bergamo, Ilicic was an up and down player, often following up solid seasons in Palermo and Florence with clunkers. We have often talked about Atalanta players failing to live up to expectations when they go elsewhere and, based on his track record, Ilicic has the potential to be one of those guys.
If Atalanta isn’t willing to include Ilicic in a deal, the CdS says that Roma could be interested in Timothy Castagne and Mattia Caldara. As a natural right back, Castagne would fill a need for Roma. At just 24-years-old the Belgian isn’t even in his prime years and could fill the position for the Giallorossi for years to come. Meanwhile, Caldara, a 26-year-old center back, is a bit of a riskier proposition considering his injury history. Just a few years ago, Caldara looked like one of Italy’s best defensive prospects and was sold to Milan where he was ravaged by injuries.
Whether or not Atalanta make a serious offer for Ünder remains to be seen, but if there is truth behind this rumor then it could be a signal of intent from La Dea. With a second season of Champions League football, the Bergamo based side may finally have the economic clout to match its sporting ambitions. This could be bad news for Roma and the rest of the teams battling Atalanta in the table.