Over the years, we've talked at length about Roma's struggles in the full-back department. With more misses than hits on the transfer market and no in-house options to speak of, Roma has struggled to find suitable long-term solutions at the position for the better part of 20 years now. The emergence of Leonardo Spinazzola and the rebirth of Rick Karsdorp and Bruno Peres, not to mention up and comers like Riccardo Calafiori and the soon to be announced Bryan Reynolds, has turned this once five-alarm fire into an easily extinguished campfire.
While the club's difficulties recruiting and developing full-backs has been well documented, the 2015 signing of Edin Dzeko from Manchester City papered over another crack in Roma's developmental system: the complete and utter lack of a home-grown striker, which stretches back even further than their full-back failures.
Quick, name the last home-grown striker to make his mark with Roma.
You can't, which is precisely why we've endured trysts with Adriano, Julio Baptista, and Seydou Doumbia over the years. And prior to Dzeko, our only real taste of the good life were brief stints and/or hot-streaks from Luca Toni, Mattia Destro, and Pablo Daniel Osvaldo.
This is precisely why we tracked Dzeko's transfer to Roma so intently six years ago, our #DareToDzeko social media campaign may have seemed tongue in cheek at the time, but it was really a cry for help from a fanbase desperate for some semblance of competence from a Roma striker.
With 114 goals and 40 assists in 242 appearances in all competitions, Dzeko was every bit the savior we'd hoped he be in 2015. He didn't lift any trophies during his time with Roma (but then again, who does?), but he'll leave the Eternal City as arguably the greatest striker in club history.
While I've always maintained that it's better for Roma to move on from Dzeko a year too early than a year too late, whether it's due to his feud with Paulo Fonseca or simply the fact that his contract expires in 2022, Roma will soon be in the market for a new striker; hopefully, one who can lead the line deep into the 2020s and beyond.
Dealing with an uncertain financial future, Tiago Pinto will have his work cut out for him, so here are 10 strikers/forwards he may want to check in with this summer. This isn't a ranking, just a quick list of forwards who might fit in well in Rome, but we'll start with the man on the inside.
Height: 6 ft/1.82m
Career stats: 142 appearances, 30 goals, 10 assists,
Market Value: €10 million
Loaned from Real Madrid this past summer, Mayoral was slow to adjust to life in Serie A, but with four goals in his last five matches, young Mayoral is making the case for more significant playing time. Nimble afoot, with a surprisingly deft touch and playmaking skills, Mayoral is well suited to Paulo Fonseca's up-tempo attack.
The jury is still out on whether or not Mayoral can lift his game against bigger clubs, but thanks to his energetic play and ever-improving performances, he's earned the right to prove he can. Roma can make Mayoral's loan permanent for €15 million this summer or €20 million in June 2022.
Whether they exercise that cheaper option this summer or not likely depends on Fonseca's future with Roma, but the peace of mind that comes with testing Mayoral out for another year might be worth that extra five million in 2022.
Career stats: 277 appearances, 113 goals, 31 assists
Market Value: €40 million
Terrorizing Serie A defenses since 2014, including a 26-goal binge in 2016-2017, this next striker is no stranger to Roma fans. The man who once could have fetched €100 million after his capocannoniere season hasn't approached those same lofty heights in the ensuing five years, but with 40 goals in 91 Serie A matches over the past two-and-a-half seasons, Belotti is about as bankable a striker as you'll find in Italy.
Torino missed the €100 million boat by a few years, but with the club facing relegation this season, they might be tempted by a €40 million offer; a small price to pay for a player his age and with his goal-scoring track record.
In cost, form, and function, Belotti would be a statement signing from the Friedkins during their first summer in charge.
Club: PSG (On loan from Everton)
Career stats: 98 appearances, 27 goals, 3 assists
Market Value: €30 million
With nine goals in only 14 Ligue 1 appearances, Kean appears to be finally living up to his vast potential, putting a lost 2019-2020 season at Everton behind him. Kean will probably always have to deal with the notion that he's “just a poacher” but as long as he's shooting and scoring efficiently, that's not a bad label to carry around. Through 14 appearances, Kean is putting 41% of his shots on target and is currently averaging 0.28 goals per shot, the second-highest mark on the squad.
Still a few months shy of his 21st birthday, Kean has ample room left for growth so it will be interesting to see how the end of his loan plays out between PSG and Everton. But, if Kean is looking for a completely new home, developing side by side with his best friend Nicolo Zaniolo could suit both of them (and Roma) quite well.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt (On loan from Real Madrid)
Career stats: 155 appearances, 53 goals, 12 assists
Market Value: €20 million
Another guy who seems like he's been playing a lot longer than he has, Luka Jovic has seemingly been football's next great forward for half a decade now—and for good reason. After leaving Red Star for Eintracht Frankfurt (with a brief stop in Benfica in between), Jovic's star began to rise. With 36 goals and seven assists in 75 appearances for Frankfurt, Jovic's reputation was well earned, so much so that he parlayed that Bundesliga success into a €63 million move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2019.
And, for a variety of reasons, Jovic struggled to repeat that success under Zinedine Zidane's stewardship, struggling for form and playing time. With only 32 appearances in all competitions since then (and only two goals and two assists), Jovic's Real career looked like a fantastic flop, leading many to speculate Zidane would let him leave for another club last summer.
If you believed the rumors, Roma were almost that club last summer but landed a different Madrid striker (Mayoral), leaving Jovic to rot on Real's bench. With only five appearances for Real Madrid this season, Jovic was sent back to Frankfurt on loan earlier this month and has already scored three goals in three matches.
Some guys just aren't made for Madrid, but a healthy spring in the Bundesliga could put Jovic's career on the upswing again.
Career stats: 70 appearances, 28 goals, 9 assists
Market Value: €25 million
As you might be aware, Roma's new GM, Tiago Pinto, came from Benfica before accepting his new position in Italy. And during his time with Benfica, one of the club's big-ticket purchases was Núñez, who they bought from Almeria in the Spanish Segunda for a cool €24 million last summer. While it's still early days for Núñez at Benfica, he looks set to live up to that sizeable figure. In 19 appearances (all comps), Núñez has scored eight goals and chipped in seven assists.
Now, I can't pretend to be an expert on this kid, but take a look at that highlight package and what do you see if not a bigger, faster, stronger, and more aggressive version of Mayoral? Or maybe even an Edinson Cavani-lite—he certainly has the hair for it.
Having just signed the 21-year-old Uruguyan, Benfica may not be keen to sell so soon, but money talks and the chance to move to a bigger league might tempt Núñez, particularly with another World Cup cycle commencing soon.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Height: 6 ft/185cm
Career stats: 180 appearances, 71 goals, 18 assists
Market Value: €28 million
Silva, a 25-year-old Portuguese forward, had a cup of coffee with AC Milan several years ago, registering eight goals and two assists in 35 appearances for Milan during the ‘17-'18 season before playing two seasons at Sevilla. Silva arrived in Frankfurt last year and has banged home 31 goals and contributed eight assists in 56 appearances since then.
You're not getting the most dynamic forward on the planet with Silva, but the guy knows how to finish. Since signing with Frankfurt before the 2019-2020 season, Silva has put 40% of his shots on target and has outperformed his league xG totals by +2.4 since the start of last season.
Height: 6’ 2”/190cm
Career stats: 86 appearances, 16 goals, 1 assist
Market Value: €16 million
Fiorentina fans may scoff at that market valuation, as the Viola have supposedly asked for as much as €40 million for Vlahovic but their optimism seems well-founded. I mean, just look at this kid: size, technique, close control, confidence—he seemingly has it all. He's definitely not the finished product yet, but under the right manager, you may not find a better lump of clay to mold.
Career stats: 68 appearances, 24 goals, 2 assists
Market Value: €12 million
If Roma are shopping on a budget this summer, they could do a lot worse than Reim's Boulaye Dia, a 24-year-old Senegalese/French forward. Dia doesn't have an extensive track record but with 19 goals since the start of last season, he looks like a late bloomer come to life.
With a quick first step and an even quicker shot, Dia looks like a defender's nightmare, but you'll notice in the highlight package that he's capable of working in deeper and wider areas as well, where his dribbling and close control really shine. He may not be a hulking number nine, but he seems willing to do the dirty holdup work to help spring his teammates into space.
Dia isn't a household name, but for only €12 million or so, he could give Roma a lot of bang for their buck.
Career stats: 316 appearances, 93 goals, 52 assists
Market Value: €32 million
The most accomplished player on this list, Thauvin is a bit of a hybrid attacker capable of playing attacking midfield, winger, and forward. But no matter where he plays, Thauvin produces. While he missed most of the abbreviated 2019-2020 Ligue 1 season, Thauvin racked up an impressive 53 goals and 28 assists between the ‘16-'17 and ‘18-’19 Ligue 1 seasons.
Thauvin may not be the holdup play, brute strength type of forward, but given his positional versatility and a practically unlimited bag of skills, he could potentially transform Roma's attack. And what's more, he's a natural lefty and an impending free-agent.
He may not be a striker in the strictest sense, but he's a dynamic talent that could add untold layers to Roma's attack, including a keen ability to find the back of the net.
Height: 6’5”/197 cm
Career stats: 293 appearances, 123 goals, 27 assists
Market Value: €30 million
I'm not sure if Roma has ever had a player named Wout, but it's high time they did. At 6’5”, Weghorst is the closest thing to a Dzeko facsimile Roma may find, hell he even plays for Wolfsburg like Dzeko once did. But unlike Dzeko, Weghorst isn't plagued by inconsistent and inefficient shooting and finishing, particularly this season. With 12 goals coming off only 44 shots, Weghorst boasts an absurd 57% shot accuracy and has converted 27% of those shots into goals. Through his three-year stint in Wolfsburg, Weghorst has scored 45 goals in league play, maintaining a 51% shot accuracy and a 24% conversion rate.
He doesn't fare as well as Dzeko in terms of playmaking stats (few strikers do if we're being honest) but Weghorst is a massive, mobile, and clinical finisher up front.
Due to their inability to develop a striker of their own, Roma will once again be forced to dip into the transfer market to find Edin Dzeko's eventual successor. These ten names are all relatively affordable—though a few would require Roma to cross the €35 to €40 million threshold—and they each could serve as bridges, if not outright focal points, for the next phase in Roma's re-development.
Which of these 10 strikers should Roma sign?
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