Roma's squad depth, which was flimsy enough as it is, stands to take another hit later this month. With the club scrambling to find a short-term replacement for Evan Ndicka, who will be playing for the Ivory Coast at the African Cup of Nations this month, the new year brings with it more unwelcomed news: the Iranian National Team has called up Roma forward Sardar Azmoun for the Asian Cup, which runs from January 12th through February 10th.
Azmoun, who joined Roma from Bayer Leverkusen this summer, has made 13 appearances for the Giallorossi. While he's remained a bench player for José Mourinho, the 29-year-old (whose birthday is today, actually) has seen his standing with Roma increase over the past several weeks, playing significant minutes in the club's last six league matches.
The problem, as far as Roma's current roster woes are concerned, is that Azmoun is a mainstay for the Iranian National Team. And with their continental cup kicking off in two weeks, the Iranian FA has sent a letter to Roma requesting Azmoun's release: (translation via Google)
"The Football Federation has sent an official letter to the Roma club and according to FIFA rules, Sardar Azmoun has requested the presence of Sardar Azmoun in the national team and is negotiating with the Roma management to obtain approval for the presence of this player, therefore the Football Federation awaits the end of the AFC ultimatum (in 12 days): the Italian club's decision to release this player and join him in the national team's training camp is awaited, after which the final list will be drawn up and the 26 national team members who will participate."
No decision has been made yet, but given the tournament's importance, one would imagine the club will consent to the Iranian FA's request. While he's not a starter, losing Azmoun will put a noticeable dent in Mourinho's rotation patterns, putting further attacking onus on Stephan El Shaarawy and Andrea Belotti as the club's top options off the bench.
We'll pass along updates as they become available.