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Patson Daka, Duvan Zapata Among Roma’s Dwindling Options at Striker

With Roma likely to miss out on Gianluca Scamacca, the club's options are shrinking fast. But there are some intriguing options out there, including Patson Daka, Duvan Zapata and more.

Leicester City v Wolverhampton Wanderers - Premier League Photo by Stephen White - CameraSport via Getty Images

A mere 48 hours ago, it seemed like Roma had finally landed their man, as reports of an accord between the Giallorossi and West Ham—a loan with a Champions League-tied obligation to buy for striker Gianluca Scamacca—spread throughout the Italian media.

However, as is so often the case in these situations, the winds quickly shifted. Just as they did with Davide Frattesi, another Roman academy graduate presumed to return home, Inter Milan is poised to snatch Scamacca from underneath Roma's nose. With General Manager Tiago Pinto hamstrung by the club's inability or unwillingness to spend, he's spent the entire summer trying to convince clubs across Europe to send players to Roma on loan with an option to buy—a relic of simpler silly seasons gone by.

And whether you appreciate Scamacca's talents or not, Roma cannot begin the season with Andrea Belotti and a cloud of dust up top, so the club needs a new striker, full stop.

In that light, here are the best of the rest—the loose change in the transfer rumor couch, if you will.

Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid)

We might as well start with José Mourinho's main option all along. While Morata and Roma reportedly agreed to a four-year, €18 million contract, Pinto has yet to reach an agreement with Atletico, who want a reported €16 to €18 million transfer fee for the 30-year-old Spanish striker.

Morata may not be a long-term solution, but with 33 league goals over his last three campaigns, he can still get it done. And if he really is Mourinho's preferred option, Pinto would be wise to invest his energy in Morata.

But if that transfer price proves too steep, the transfer rumor mill has expanded over the past few days, so here are the best of the rest.

Marcos Leonardo (Santos)

The latest name added to the rumor mill, Leonardo, is a 20-year-old Brazilian forward currently plying his trade for Santos in the Brazilian Serie A. During the 2022 season, Leonardo scored 13 goals and provided three assists in approximately 2,800 minutes and has already notched six goals in his first twelve appearances in 2023.

He's only 19 years old, so we shouldn't expect him to be an immediate contributor, but this would be a throwback to the days of Walter Sabatini, who showed a preference for young South American talent.

But he's not the only young South American forward linked to Roma in recent days.

Lucas Beltran (River Plate)

Beltran, a 22-year-old Argentinian forward, was previously connected to Fiorentina but has recently popped up in the Roma rumor mill. Beltran came on last year after a slow start to his top-flight career, scoring 12 goals and chipping in two assists in 25 league appearances for River Plate.

Much like Santos, he's not likely to make an immediate impact, but desperate times call for desperate measures—and you never know; players like this have caught the league by surprise in the past.

The next name up is another up-and-comer, but this player brings the added benefit of European experience.

Marin Ljubicic (LASK Linz)

Ljubicic, a 21-year-old Croatian forward, had a stellar debut season in the Austrian Bundesliga last year, scoring 12 goals in roughly 1,600 minutes, good for a 0.67 goals per 90 minutes clip. He may not be a household name, but according to the Corriere dello Sport, Pinto has personally scouted Ljbubicic, taking in a LASK match last week.

Ljubicic, like Santos and Beltran, would be more of a depth move at this point, but with the futures of Belotti and Abraham up in the air, it wouldn't hurt to have some measure of insurance for 2023 and beyond.

But enough of the kids; let's move on to some more proven products.

Duvan Zapata (Atalanta)

Two years ago, Roma would have tripped over themselves to sign the Colombian striker. Fueled by Atalanta's attacking wizardry, Zapata scored 56 league goals between 2018 and 2021, helping Gian Piero Gasperini's side reach the Champions League.

Now, at 32 years old, Zapata has slowed down a touch, scoring 10 goals in 2021-2022 before cratering to a paltry two strikes last season. But, if things are truly as desperate as they seem, there are worse rolls of the dice.

But we'll end this list with a pair of wild cards...

Patson Daka (Leicester City)

Daka, soon to be 25, lit the Austrian league on fire after scoring 51 goals between 2019 and 2021. Thanks to that scorching run, Daka earned a €30 million move from Red Bull Salzburg to Leicester City, where he struggled mightily, scoring only nine goals in the past two Premiership seasons.

The drop-off after arriving in Leicester can't be ignored, but Daka looks like the classic case of a kid who went to the Premiership too soon, so perhaps he could rediscover his Salzburg scoring touch in Rome.

And lastly, a name completely out of left field...

Alexis Sanchez (Marseille)

Usually, we wouldn't stump for Roma to sign a 34-year-old forward, but the former Udinese and Inter Milan man experienced a rebirth in the south of France last year, scoring 14 goals in 35 appearances. Plus, he has the grit and tenacity that Mourinho craves from his strikers, so it may not seem as far-fetched as it sounds.

With the season only three weeks away, time is running short. If you were in Pinto's shoes, which striker would you make a play for?