With three months remaining on their calendar, any number of things could happen to our beloved AS Roma this year. They could overcome their 2-1 deficit to Shakhtar and advance to the quarterfinals of the Champions League while holding firm in third place domestically, or they could very well crumble, blow the return leg at the Olimpico and fall all the way back to fifth or sixth place in Serie A. Odds are they won’t, but those are the extremes in which Roma exists.
No matter what happens, this season will be known for one thing, the emergence of Cengiz Ünder, the previously unknown Turkish wünderkind. Honestly, that’s a bit of a misnomer—the kid cost over €13 million—but he wasn’t necessarily mentioned in the same breath as many of the games up and comers, so his signing caught many of us by surprise.
And for a while, he went unnoticed. He garnered a few appearances early in the season, mostly as a “sure, why the hell not?” kind of late match substitution, but since the calendar flipped to February, he’s been a house on fire. Starting with his blink of an eye goal against Verona several weeks ago, Ünder has transformed himself into Roma’s most dangerous and most effective attacking threat. With five goals and an assist in this last four matches, including Roma’s lone goal in yesterday’s Champions League loss, Ünder is already (arguably) Roma’s most important attacking player.
No matter how you slice it, that €13 million looks like it was well spent, but where does, or where will, Monchi’s latest find rank among the game’s best players in a few years? Well, if you ask one odds maker, Sisal Matchpoint, he may very well be the best player in the world before too long. The Italian online better parlor has given Ünder 50/1 odds of winning the world’s most coveted award by 2023, so if you’ve got some spare time, a couple of bucks laying around and a dodgy retirement plan, why not give it a shot?
Now, I’m not a gambling man—not since the days when I would bet on regular season baseball from my dorm room—but I have a hard time believing this will happen, and if Ünder does win the Ballon d’Or, what are the odd he’s a Roma player when it happens anyway?
Chances are Sisal is just capitalizing on the Ünder hype, driving clicks and bets their way in the process, but the kid certainly is making a name for himself, which should make for an interesting and terrifying summer transfer rumor season.