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After a Bright Start, Ünder Seems Set for a Quiet Exit From Roma

It will be a quiet exit through the back door for the young Turk

AS Roma v Udinese - Serie A Photo by Claudio Pasquazi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

I reckon this kind of goodbye wasn’t the one we, fans, had in mind for Cengiz Ünder back in 2017. Some of us thought he would stick around for at least 5-6 years and become a fan favorite like Taddei or Perrotta. Others thought he would follow the Salah path: two great and impressive seasons followed by a big money transfer to a European powerhouse. I read Bayern would supposedly come in with an offer of €60 million or higher. It seems those fans were already counting their chickens before they were hatched.

There was an (unlikely) third option concerning Cengiz: he wouldn’t succeed and live up to expectations—like his countryman Salih Ucan a couple of seasons ago—and Ünder would leave through the back door unnoticed like so many others before him.

But this? This is a very special situation for all of us, probably the most special for Cengiz himself. Let’s see how his career in Rome turned out.

Did he become a fan favorite in Rome? Not really. There were admirers and believers from the start, but there was also a significant part of the fan base that would sell Cengiz without dropping one tear. 2019-2020 was his third and probably last season at Roma so forget that long-term solution with Ünder leading the Roman front-lines in 2022 alongside Zaniolo and Celar/Schick/whoever might replace Dzeko. Cengiz won’t be remembered as a Taddei, Cassetti, Perrotta or Vucinic.

However, he was also no Mo Salah prototype. He didn’t set Serie A alight and changed the way we play. Salah was almost revolutionary, he was a guy who enters Trigoria every five or so years and leaves a lasting impression (Marquinhos, Alisson, Cassano to name a few). An extraordinary talent destined to leave Roma sooner than later, with Roma hitting the jack pot.

According to some sources, Napoli would be willing to offer approximately €25 million (without bonuses), while Roma are holding out for at least €30 million straight up. Although that’s double of his fee we paid to Basaksehir, it’s far from the once assumed €60 million from Bayern or the Salah/Alisson amounts. Marquinhos was sold for around €31 million but that was back in 2013 and a totally different mercato. A CB like him would right now fetch Roma at least €50 million

So Cengiz didn’t become a fan favorite and no next jackpot like Salah or Alisson either. Did he turn into our third option then, a flop? Was he a failure like Ucan? No, actually far from it.

Just go on YouTube, there are plenty of videos of Ünder’s skills, goals and actions in a Roma shirt. Even his critics will have to admit Ünder is talented as hell and intrinsically one of the best on the team. But you just can’t make it click like in a FIFA videogame. There are a lot of other factors that can influence a transfer; that can make or break one’s career in a club. Talent isn’t enough. You need some luck, the right coach, no tactical changes, injuries etc.

His first season in Italy was rather successful—7 goals in 27 Serie A games and that amazing run in the Champions League. His second season was tougher, with poor results under EDF and a sixth place in Serie A. Schick, top scorer SES, our ‘new toy’ Kluivert and the rise of a certain Zaniolo all hold him back.

And now the third one, 2019-2020, has been a total waste for a guy like Cengiz, with 18 appearances in Serie A and only three in Europe. He didn’t feature in either Gent fixtures so he still has to play his first European match this year (granted, the pandemic didn’t make things easier). Sad to say, he isn’t a crucial part of this team anymore.

It looked like Fonseca wasn’t an admirer of Ünder to begin with and the recent change to a 3-4-2-1 really dealt the final blow to the Turk. The bench was Ünder’s second home the past few weeks as Fonseca did not see Cengiz as a key piece of his lineup. Not even his pool of substitutes. On the wing he prefers attacking fullbacks/wingbacks like Bruno Peres, Spinazzola and Zappacosta, while behind the main striker he chooses guys who can also play down the middle, in a more central role like Mikhi, Zaniolo, Perotti, Perez and Pellegrini.

Ünder’s last start? The 0-2 loss at home vs Udinese, when Fonseca last opted for a 4-2-3-1, a formation which admittedly suited Cengiz better. After a more convincing performance in Naples thanks to a three-men defense, the omission of wingers and introduction of attack minded wingbacks, the train was back on track. Roma have won six of their seven games after Napoli. Without the help of Cengiz (or Kluivert for that matter, who’s in the same dire situation as him).

You’d think Fonseca isn’t risking Ünder out there on the pitch to get injured and losing his value on the mercato. Like I said earlier, Napoli would offer almost double of what Roma once paid for him in 2017. For a not so vital piece in Roma’s juggernaut. For someone deemed expendable. For someone who I bet is feeling unhappy in Rome.

Things started out brightly for Cengiz but his time in Rome is nearly up and it’s best for both parties of he leaves this summer. Napoli and Gattusso seem a good fit for him, where he will team up Mertens, Lozano, Insigne, Callejon, Osimhen and co. Serious competition so he won’t walk into the starting lineup just yet.

Yet something tells me we are gonna regret this decision to sell him, but there’s simply no other way. This transfer simply has to happen this summer. A player like Cengiz doesn’t deserve to rot on the bench. It was not his fault, not Roma’s fault, not anyone’s fault. This course of events was something no one of us had foreseen. Not Monchi, not Petrachi, not Pallotta.

Ok, perhaps Fonseca could have used Ünder a bit more since the relaunch of Serie A but judging from the good results and change to 3-4-2-1, Paulo is not to blame. You know, never change a winning team.

Roma already has enough in-house replacements and alternatives (Zaniolo, Mikhi, Pellegrini, Perez, Kluivert if he stays) but I’m sure gonna miss those good old nicknames and references in here. The Ündertaker, Wünder Boy, Cengiz Khan, the song Young Turks by Rod Stewart...

But right now, I feel ‘under the weather’ because he won’t be here come September.