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Striker Search Updates: Zapata Blocked, Lukaku Looking For Work & Luka Jovic Emerges

Three strikers with cloudy futures, but which one, if any, can Roma land?

Estonia v Belgium: Group E - UEFA EURO 2024 Qualifying Round Photo by Joosep Martinson - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Andrea Belotti may have had the game of his life last weekend, bagging a brace in Roma's 2-2 draw with Salernitana, but that hasn't halted the club's search for a new striker. With Tammy Abraham sidelined until the spring and José Mourinho seemingly having zero faith in forward Ola Solbakken, The Special One and GM Tiago Pinto have been searching high and low for a new striker.

For most of the past two weeks, Roma has been chasing Atalanta striker Duvan Zapata. A 32-year-old Colombian forward, Zapata was a bit of a nomad early in his career but found a new lease on life in Atalanta, scoring 79 of his 124 career goals under Gian Piero Gasperini's tutelage.

Between 2018 and 2021, Zapata was among the best strikers in the league, reeling off 64 goals and chipping in 27 assists. However, he saw his production drop precipitously last season, registering only two goals and four assists in 27 appearances. With one year remaining on his contract, this should have been an easy negotiation. However, with Gasperini reportedly blocking the move, Roma is now forced to look elsewhere.

And with transfer deadline day looming on September 1st, the Giallossi's options aren't wearing thin; they're practically threadbare. With Zapata off the table, reports are now linking Roma to two disparate options: Fiorentina forward Luka Jovic and Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.

According to reports from Radio, Radio in Italy, Roma is looking at Jovic, 25, to fill their striker vacancy. Jovic's coming out party came in 2018-2019 when, as a 20-year-old, he scored 27 goals and added six assists in 48 appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt, earning a €63 million move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019.

Since then, Jovic has bounced back and forth between Frankfurt and Madrid before experiencing a mini resurgence with Fiorentina last season, scoring 13 goals in 48 appearances in all competitions. However, now that the Viola have signed striker Lucas Beltran, Jovic could be on the move again. Despite all his travels, Jovic is still only 25 years old and could be a solid short-term addition for Roma, but he won't move the needle like this next guy.

Romelu Lukaku of FC Internazionale celebrates after scoring... Photo by Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images

As much promise as Jovic once held and as impressive as Zapata's Atalanta run was, neither player can hold a candle to Romelu Lukaku. The 30-year-old Belgian forward has bruised and bullied his way to 273 goals and 81 assists during a career that has brought him from Anderlecht to Inter Milan, with stints at Everton, West Brom, Manchester United, and multiple stops at Chelsea in between.

Chelsea, who still hold his contractual rights, has no use for Lukaku this season, struggling in vain to peddle him back on Inter Milan, while Juventus emerged and quickly disappeared as a suitor earlier this summer. With no takers, the latest reports suggest that Lukaku's agent is trying to broker a loan to Roma, with Chelsea picking up half his nearly €20 million annual salary.

If we factor in the Growth Decree savings, his salary becomes more palatable, but the problem remains the same: Roma cannot afford to actually buy the player at the end of the loan. However, there may be hope, slim though it may be.

According to these sources (the Gazzetta and Corriere della Sera), the closer to the deadline they go without finding a taker for Lukaku, the more desperate Chelsea may become, potentially opening the door for a dry loan, or perhaps one with more favorable purchasing terms.

With roughly a week and a half remaining before the window closes, the transfer vultures will continue to swirl around Duvan Zapata, Luka Jovic, and Romelu Lukaku. Which player Roma ultimately lands could tell us a lot about the club's direction in Mourinho's final year.

Stay tuned.