Wednesday February 21 2018
Unexpected Cengiz Under

Roma and Serie A fans did not expect Cengiz Ünder to become a key figure so quickly, writes Anthony Barbagallo.

Since Francesco Totti’s retirement and Mohamed Salah’s departure to Liverpool, Romanisti were left speculating on who would become Roma’s next X-Factor. Was it going to be Stephan El Shaarawy or Roman-born Alessandro Florenzi? Over the course of this month, the Giallorossi have discovered a new prodigy – a Turkish 20-year-old called Cengiz Ünder. Have the Lupi finally found their new rising star?

Before Ünder captured the headlines of Italian newspapers in recent weeks, some calcio aficionados may have never heard of this footballer’s name. So who is Cengiz Ünder?

Ünder signed for Roma last July for a fee of €13.4m from Turkish Super Lig club İstanbul Başakşehir. The Serie A starlet - despite his young age and inexperience in playing European football – has made seven appearances for the senior Turkey national team.

Before the Turkish football population became attached to Ünder’s flair, the 20-year-old honed his skills with second-tier side Altinordu, a club that places emphasis on youth. Being a former youth product of this Turkish club, this provided the right-winger with valuable experience playing in Turkey’s second division.

With Ünder making his debut in Turkey’s top-flight last season with new club İstanbul Başakşehir, this was when the starlet’s talent struck the eyes of Roma’s director Monchi. While the wonderkid is now acclimatising to Italian football and aiming to cement a place in Roma’s starting XI, his purchase last year bewildered many fans. There was a strange vibe surrounding the youngster, with certain Romani tipping him to be a mediocre footballer who would turn out to be an unsuccessful signing.

It looks like Monchi’s optimism about Ünder has paid dividends for the Giallorossi thus far. The Turkish superstar is slowly, but surely, capturing the hearts of many Roman supporters with his performances.

Not only has Ünder made a name for himself in the Italian capital, the 20-year-old has also impressed on the Serie A and world football stages. Over the last three weeks, Serie A followers have realised what Cengiz is capable of. One of his trademarks is storming down the right wing and cutting inside before catching goalkeepers off-guard with his deadly left-footed strike.  

If there was one new player Roma thought they were going to rely on this season, it would have been Patrik Schick. The Czech Republic international transferred from Sampdoria in a club-record deal. While the Giallorossi were looking for a Salah alternative on the right wing, Schick was expected to be the answer for the club’s objective. However, the 22-year-old forward has struggled to show his true ability or even find basic fitness levels.

Before Roma won their last three league fixtures, the Romans were enduring a six-match winless streak. But thanks to Ünder’s emergence in the last three games, it has lifted the Giallorossi to the third place in the Serie A table.

While Ünder has impressed under Di Francesco’s 4-2-3-1 formation – scoring four goals in the last three games – it remains a question whether he can reproduce his present form into the Champions League. It is unknown if Ünder will earn a starting spot in Wednesday night’s Champions League round of 16 tie against Shakhtar Donetsk, even though the Turkish winger has gradually gained Coach Di Francesco’s trust. If he is given the chance to play this mid-week fixture in Ukraine, then Roma fans will soon find out if their new hero can cope in Europe’s elite club competition.

However, with Cengiz now delighting the Romans with his vivid and intelligent style of play, it seems as though La Magica have identified their new upcoming icon. This is not the next Totti or Salah, this is Cengiz Ünder – a young Turkish footballer looking to create a lasting impression in Italian football.

Have your say...
I knew he was a fantastic prospect n thought he'd do well but he's surprised even me! The departure of Salah who's been phenomenal this season would be a lot harder to take without Under now coming into his own. Hopefully he stays at Roma for a while?
on the 2nd March, 2018 at 10:30am
@calcio cup

As for sevilla they are masters at this competition they also have to benefited from a golden generation of spanish players some of the guys in that team from the original win back in 06 have gone on to win the world cup the European cup some the champions league.

Italian teams haven't taken this competition too seriously most lack the resources to effectively compete in the league and the europa league that is what needs to be addressed.
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 10:11pm
@calcio cup

liverpool was a freak and even that season they spent 30 million net on players as for porto they may have not spent a fortunate but they happen to have mourinho when he was unstoppable a porto side which recruitment is the best in europe at the time a generation of quality Portuguese players and deco and after beating utd a run of games against lyon dep la co and monaco in the final hardly a the toughest of games.
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 10:04pm
Given Roma's small club transfer policy the last several years, we can assume that Under will develop into a really nice player and then sold in summer 2019 to Juve, PSG or Bayern.
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 9:07pm
@glass houses: You missed my point! Go back and see the money spent by Porto in 2004, Liverpool in 2005 & Sevilla's wins to see what I mean...Sevilla have won the EL 5 times, and you mean to tell me, an Italian club can't win it even once since 1999!?!? DRASTIC changes are needed for Calcio, and something like the FIGC fining teams or deducting points when Italian teams PURPOSEFULLY DO BAD in Europe might be a way to go...
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 2:20pm
@Beppe Rossi: They were destroyed in BOTH finals! So NO, that is not going close....Atletico went close in their finals, Dortmund went close in 2013 etc....
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 2:14pm
@calcio cup surely the point is lost when it come to premier league clubs give the likes of roma napoli milan inter and lazio a budget of at least 60 million euros without any player sales and a wage budget of 200 to 300 million euros every season and within 5 years i would suspect a italian team would have won the europa league or cl league at least once.

The premier league is dead without those absurd revenue streams virtually none of the academy players go onto play for the senior teams.
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 9:59am
Good to see Juve's strong interest in both Pellegrini and Florenzi, that could prove a good ploy to keep Roma..... "Under" in the table............
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 1:57am
Calcio Cup - Juve have been in two finals in 3 years. If that isn't "even close" in your small mind, then what is?
on the 22nd February, 2018 at 12:00am
@ Di Rocco: like Juve and play more "tactical" player rather than the young up and coming player IN FORM and see if you too can go 22 years with nothing in Europe like them....No wonder the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Sevilla, Man Utd can win European Trophies while a so called Italian giants like Juve, Roma etc....can't even get close! I really don't know when the MENTALITY of Italian football will change, and no wonder a SPANISH media outlet bought the Serie A rights and is trying..
on the 21st February, 2018 at 5:56pm
@Anonymous: Your type of attitude is why Italian football is where it is right now! Cut them some slack? Half the budget? RUBBISH! What was Porto's budget when they won the CL in 2004!?!? What was Liverpool's budget when they won the CL in 2005!?!? What was the status as Jose & Rafa as managers??? IF Italian managers continue with this LOSER play it safe first mentality, Serie A will NEVER even get back to how it was even 15 years ago, let alone 25!
on the 21st February, 2018 at 5:51pm
Hmmm. 2 blogs about Cengiz in 4 days.
I can't even imagine how it is in the Italian media.

Let the man flourish in peace.
on the 21st February, 2018 at 5:25pm
Oh come one now Calcio Cup. Under is only 20, and he's certainly not a physical specimen. The kid probably doesn't have it in him to play so frequently at a high pace. He will probably come in for the last half hour. Hopefully, he can start, who knows what his physical condition is like.
on the 21st February, 2018 at 4:37pm
@Calcio Cup,
I guess you haven't seen Juve play for the last 3 years if you think Allegri is some new breed of manager, lol. Its too early to judge EDF and Inzaghi though. They operate on half the budget and don't have an unused ferrari parked in the garage like Allegri does. They have shown brilliance so cut them some slack and lets see where the chips fall later.
on the 21st February, 2018 at 4:25pm
Latest reports are that Under would be left on the bench tonight in the CL!!! This just reeks of old time negative Italian thinking...People like Allegri,EDF,S.Inzaghi were supposed to be a new breed of Italian managers,but there is NO difference between them and the likes of Trap,Herrera etc...Italian football is 20 years behind the top leagues,and these people just won't learn!Say what you want about Mourinho, but he is a FOREIGNER&last manager of an Italian Euro win play with 4 forwards!
on the 21st February, 2018 at 1:32pm
He looks like Dybala and scores more than Dybala lately... Juve probably try and buy him too and Roma will sell once again!
on the 21st February, 2018 at 11:54am

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