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Roma Look to Nahuel Bustos as Dzeko Understudy

Dzeko's term in office is almost up, and Roma may have found a dark horse candidate to replace him.

Mexico U23 v Argentina U23 - Friendly Match Photo by Jaime Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Finding a second striker and eventual successor for Edin Dzeko is the not so dirty little secret to Roma's transfer ambitions. For the past several years, Roma has operated on a Dzeko or Bust policy, and for the most part the Bosnian Batistuta has delivered the goods. With 102 goals in a Giallorossi shirt, Dzeko is already among the best scorers in club history, and his five-year stint in the Italian capital is arguably the best of his illustrious career. Despite a couple of dips, Dzeko has had a legendary run with Roma.

The problem with that is, for the majority of his tenure in Rome, there's been no Plan B. If Dzeko was off the mark, Roma's attack became imbalanced and too wing oriented. Gianluca Petrachi tried to solve that problem this season by bringing in Nikola Kalinic on loan. On the surface, this was a shrewd move; better to have a veteran capable of slotting into multiple formations and delivering at least an average performance than an untested and volatile kid as your reserve forward.

Fortunately for Roma (and I guess, unfortunately for Kalinic), Dzeko has answered the call throughout this season, as his 2,154 minutes are the most of any outfield player on the club. And what's more, he's been nearly as good as ever, delivering 12 goals and four assists in those 25 appearances.

This isn't an indictment on his performance, nor Kalinic's value as a back-up, but Petrachi has to plan for the Dzeko recently turned 34-years-old and his days as a week-in-week-out starter are numbered.

For much of the past 18 months or so, it seemed like Roma had a ready-made replacement waiting in the wings, but Zan Celar's first taste of professional football has been sort of sour. With only one goal in 12 appearances for both Cittadella and now Cremonese, Celar, now 21-years-old, has lost a bit of his top prospect shine.

Accordingly, Roma have been connected to a host of young strikers over the past few months, most notably Everton's Italian international Moise Kean, who may be cost prohibitive considering The Toffees just paid nearly €30 million for him.

All of which leads us to 21-year-old Argentine striker Nahuel Bustos. Currently playing with Club Atletico Talleres in Cordoba, Bustos is a smaller (5’9”) more combustible type of forward than Dzeko, but with nine goals in 20 appearances for Talleres, he's starting to make a name for himself, drawing the eyes of Napoli, AC Milan and now Roma, who are rumored to be the first club to express a genuine interest in Bustos.

As you can see, he’s most definitely not a Dzeko-type of striker, and does seem to share some similarities to Kean, but, and pardon my French, this kid's got some *&$%s—just look at some of those long-distance shots he's thumping into the back of the net.

He doesn't seem like a freakish athlete on the order of Kylian Mbappe or an imposing brute like Dzeko, but Bustos certainly has a deft touch and an eye for goal; someone who would know how to move in concert with the rest of the front-line.

Tuttomercato, the source of this rumor, doesn't speculate on a price but Transfermarkt has him pegged at €6.7 million, so he'd certainly be a budget option for the Giallorossi this summer.

So, whether it’s Bustos, Kean or someone else entirely, it finally seems like Roma are starting to sort of maybe considering their post-Dzeko future.