When Roma sold Mohamed Salah during the summer of 2017, the Serie A club thought they had played a blinder. The former Chelsea had cost £16million. One year later, they pocketed £39million for the Egypt international and spent just £10million of that on his replacement.
The Italian side never envisaged Salah’s meteoric rise and, in hindsight, the deal now looks a bad one of them. But at the time it was viewed as a shrewd business with the man they signed to replace him considered by many to be possibly better.
Cengiz Ünder has been courted by Europe’s top clubs using originally burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old with Altinordu before a transfer to Başakşehir. Reports claimed he was close to joining Manchester City before Roma swooped. And an impressive one at that.
Injuries halted his progress during his first 3 years in Roma but, when fit, he’s performed. But under new coach Paulo Fonseca, Ünder has fallen from favour and a move is on the cards.
He was connected to Everton during the January transfer window but it is Tottenham Hotspur who’ve long held a fascination with the Turkey international and, according to reports, José Mourinho would like to signal the 22-year-old this summer. Any deal, however, hinges on the North London club qualifying for the Champions League.
At first glance, Spurs are not needing attacking reinforcements. They’ve just added Steven Bergwijn to their ranks to go together with Heung-min Son, Érik Lamela, Lucas Moura, and Harry Kane.
But Kane is vulnerable to the odd ankle injury and Lamela has had hamstring problems for large parts of the campaign. Moreover, the Argentine is the only left-footed attacker in the squad. For the purpose of balance, that needs to be addressed.
If reports are true, £30million would have to convince the Serie A facet to part with their No.17. By no means a deal, it could be a clever piece of business.
Since the beginning of the 2018/19 season, Ünder, when fit has performed nicely. He’s averaged 0.23 goals and chipped in with 0.32 assists per 90. In total, the fleet-footed winger has been involved in 0.55 goals (per 90). For instance, over the course of a 38-game season, that equates to 21 target involvements.
He’s overperforming his expected numbers, averaging 0.37 open-play expected goal contributions per 90. That’s still an impressive return for a player not consistently at the starting XI.
Ünder can create something out of nothing. An underrated trait in the modern game.
The Roma attackers have the run on the opposition. Defenders are needing to run back towards their own goal. It’s a dream situation for attackers and a nightmare for the opposition. The visitors score what turns out to be a simple aim. However, it was only because of Ünder’s brilliance that this opportunity came about.
The Turkey international could fill the creative void left by Christian Eriksen’s departure. Spurs have goals but they require a man to deliver the ammunition. Ünder does exactly that.