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Roma Midseason Loan Updates: Florenzi Flourishing While Ünder & Kluivert Struggle

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Alessandro Florenzi is flourishing with PSG but the rest of Roma's loanees haven't been so lucky.

Paris Saint-Germain v FC Lorient - Ligue 1 Photo by Aurelien Meunier - PSG/PSG via Getty Images

We last checked in with Roma's army of loanees back in early December. At that point in the season, roughly 25% of the way through most major European leagues, it was probably a bit too early to gauge the progress of Roma's erstwhile players, but, hey, it was a slow news day so we decided to take a look.

But, believe me, it wasn't a pretty picture. Roma has over a dozen players out on loan, playing their trade with clubs as varied as Leicester City and Gil Vicente, but apart from former captain Alessandro Florenzi at PSG, Roma's loanees struggled to adapt to their new surroundings, spending more time on the pine than the pitch.

But, now that we're officially 50% of the way through the season, we should have a better idea of which players are bound for better days and which ones may come slinking back to the capital come June.

And we'll start with the biggest name on the list.

Alessandro Florenzi

Paris Saint-Germain Training Session Photo by Aurelien Meunier - PSG/PSG via Getty Images

Club: PSG | Terms: Loan w/option | Contract: June ‘23

While he's not yet a full-time PSG player, it's likely only a matter of time before PSG exercise their €9 million option on the 29-year-old full-back. There was some doubt that Florenzi would successfully navigate the managerial change at the Parc de Princes, but PSG’s switch from Thomas Tuchel to Mauricio Pochettino hasn't affected Florenzi's playing time.

All told, it's been a banner year for Ale with PSG. Florenzi has made 15 appearances in all competitions, including 13 starts, and has scored two goals in league play. Securing a soon to be 30-year-old full-back capable of playing multiple positions and formations for only €9 million is a steal for any club, let alone one with PSG's resources.

It's sad to say, but Florenzi's success in Paris likely means we've seen the last of him in a Roma shirt.

Cengiz Ünder

Leicester City v Everton - Premier League Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Club: Leicester City | Terms: Loan w/option | Contract: June ‘23

When we last checked in with Ünder in December, he was struggling to gain a foothold in the Premiership, turning in little more than 300 total minutes for Leicester City and very little has changed since then, unfortunately.

Between the Premiership, the FA Cup, and the Europa League, Ünder has logged 675 minutes, scoring two goals and providing three assists. Despite all his extraordinary physical gifts, Ünder hasn't been able to crack Brendan Rodgers’ rotation, falling behind the likes of Ayoze Perez and Marc Albrighton in the pecking order, though he's seen more minutes than either of those two in the Europa League.

Roma fans watched this last-minute transfer with bated breath last summer, hoping that the Foxes would take Ünder on a permanent basis, but Leicester were tough negotiators and managed to take the 23-year-old on a loan with a €24 million option.

So, barring a miraculous second-half turnaround, Ünder seems set for a Roma return this summer.

Justin Kluivert

TSG Hoffenheim v RB Leipzig - Bundesliga Photo by Christian Kaspar-Bartke/Getty Images

Club: RB Leipzig | Terms: Loan | Contract: June ‘23

Kluivert and Ünder, due to their similar physical gifts and style of play, will be inexorably linked in the eyes of Roma fans, both for their successes and struggles. Unfortunately, much like Ünder, we've seen more of the latter in 2020-2021 from Kluivert. Through his first five months with RB Leipzig, Kluviert has been on the outside looking in, logging only 441 minutes of action between the Bundesliga in the Champions League, scoring one goal in each competition.

Kluivert has the luxury of being two years younger than Ünder, so there's certainly still hope that he'll fulfill his promise, but despite being used in multiple positions and roles, Kluivert hasn't been able to land a steady job under Leipzig manager Julian Naglesmann.

Without an option inserted into this loan, we can assume that, unlike Ünder, Kluivert remains a part of Roma's future plans, though we don't know how much new Roma GM Tiago Pinto values the 21-year-old Dutch winger.

Stay tuned.

Robin Olsen

Everton v Rotherham United - FA Cup Third Round Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Club: Everton | Terms: Loan | Contract: June ‘23

Olsen will never be able to shake the Monchi stain from his Roma resume. Fresh off the dreaded World Cup bounce, Roma's former DS handed Olsen the unenviable task of replacing Alisson Becker in the summer of 2018. And after one disastrous season in the capital, Roma quickly sent Olsen packing, shipping the giant Swede off to Cagliari on loan last season.

When Cagliari passed on retraining Olsen, Roma scrambled to find a new temporary home for the 31-year-old keeper and eventually found a safe landing space for him with Carlo Ancelotti's Everton side.

And despite making only five appearances for Everton, Ancelotti has been sufficiently convinced and reportedly wants to keep Olsen as his number two behind Jordan Pickford. Whether they purchase him outright or swap him for Bernard, Olsen seems set for a stay in Merseyside.

Alessio Riccardi

As Roma U19 v FC Internazionale U19 - Primavera 1 Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images

Club: Pescara | Terms: Loan w/option | Contract: June ‘23

Fans of Roman attacking midfielders may want to look away. Riccardi, who many (including us) have tabbed as the next great link in the Romans-at-Roma chain has somehow seen his standing with 19th place Pesacara slip even further—that's 19th place in Serie B for the record, as much as it pains me to type that.

Back in December, Riccardi had only played 65 minutes for Pescara, but at his age and playing professional football for the first time, we were able to brush that off as part of the maturation process for any kid making that leap. It was probably too optimistic to expect Riccardi to waltz into Pescara and become an instant star, or even just a starter, so a slow start may have been expected.

But, amazingly, he’s made only one further appearance since then: a 29-minute romp against Virtus Entella on December 27th. With no discernable injuries to speak of, this news hits twice as hard, but we'll repeat what we said in December: he's too young and too talented to give up on, but Roma can't abide by such an unproductive loan spell for one of their brightest young talents.

We haven't heard anything about Riccardi being recalled or sent elsewhere, so unless things pick up for him in the spring, I'm afraid it's been a year wasted for the teenage talent.

Devid Bouah

Parma Calcio v Cosenza Calcio - Coppa Italia Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Club: Cosenza | Terms: Loan | Contract: June ‘21

With successive seasons shattered by ACL tears, simply suiting up and being available was an achievement for 19-year-old right-back Devid Bouah. And while he's not exactly tearing it up for Cosenza, he's at least seen an uptick in his minutes in 2021. From only 22 minutes in our last update, Bouah has carved out a small niche with Cosenza, making five more appearances, bringing his season total to 112 minutes of action.

While you can never have too many full-backs, Roma's impending capture of 19-year-old American Bryan Reynolds doesn't bode well for Bouah's future with Roma. He still has ample time to prove his worth, but the competition is getting crowded.

Mirko Antonucci

UC Sampdoria v Salernitana - Coppa Italia Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Club: Salernitana | Terms: Loan w/option | Contract: June ‘22

Here was our recap from December:

There are prospects (players like Riccardi, Tommaso Milanese, Filippo Tripi) who have the world in front of them, post-hype prospects (players like Ünder and Kluivert) who haven't yet fulfilled their enormous promise but have been given a fresh chance, and then there are guys like Antonucci, who never truly figured into his parent club's plans but nevertheless has been groomed and loaned out in the hope that he eventually becomes a useful piece of some sort.

After making his official Roma debut at 18-years-old during the 2017-2018 season, Antonucci has served stints in Serie B (Pescara), the Portuguese top flight (Vitoria Setubal), Roma's bench, the Primavera, and now back to Serie B with Salernitana, for whom he's lighting it up, scoring goals and providing assists on the reg.

Wait...what's that?

Oh, he's only played 17 minutes across two matches thus far.

Here's what's happened since then:

Practically nothing. Antonucci hasn't played since December 12th and has only spent 18 minutes on the pitch this season.

The Others

Football Italy cup AS Roma-Spezia Calcio Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

As you may have noticed in Roma's Coppa Italia debacle against Spezia earlier this month, goalkeeper Daniel Fuzato has returned to Roma after an unsuccessful stint with Portuguese club Gil Vicente. For the moment, he's Roma's third keeper but I suppose there's a chance they find a new loan for him over the next few days, though we haven't heard anything to that effect yet.

Salvatore Pezzella, a 20-year-old midfielder, has found a bit of a role with Serie B outfit Reggiana, the club formerly owned by baseball Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. Pezzella has made 15 appearances and logged 320 minutes for Reggiana thus far. Not bad, but I doubt we'll ever see him in a Roma shirt.

Ante Coric, another one of Monchi's famous Misfits, has made one appearance for Dutch club VVV-Venlo. But I hear he's still the next Luka Modric.

And lastly, 21-year-old keeper Stefano Greco has started 18 matches for Serie C club Pro Patria.

Final Thoughts

In December, we tried to couch the lack of progress made by Roma's loanees by offering some context: even if you're the last man on Roma's bench, you're still among an ultra-elite set of athletes when you consider how many people play football, but I'm not sure there's much solace to be found after this update.

Roma's youngest prospects struggling to adapt to professional football isn't that troubling, but when their big-ticket items, Ünder and Kluivert in particular, can't find match time, what else can Roma do?

Roma spent nearly €30 million on those two and the odds of them reaping any significant benefits from that investment shrinks with every second they spend on the bench.

Here's to better and brighter things when we check in this spring!

Poll

Which young player is most likely to make an impact with Roma?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    Alessio Riccardi
    (110 votes)
  • 18%
    Devid Bouah
    (86 votes)
  • 14%
    Daniel Fuzato
    (64 votes)
  • 7%
    Mirko Antonucci
    (32 votes)
  • 15%
    Cengiz Ünder
    (69 votes)
  • 21%
    Justin Kluivert
    (96 votes)
457 votes total Vote Now