The ascension of Cengiz Ünder

Cengiz Under“The Turkish kid is going to be good.”

The first endorsement of Cengiz Ünder came from Roma president James Pallotta just hours after the young Turkish attacker completed his move to the Eternal City for a then Turkish league record €13.4 million fee. While fans were certainly excited about the player, especially given that he had the Monchi “seal of approval”, there is no doubt that Ünder represented a major question mark upon arriving to the Giallorossi.

Ünder seemed to have all the makings of a typical Monchi signing: a youngster with loads of potential, although, he was still very raw. At Ünder’s unveiling, Roma’s Spanish sporting director even conceded that while there were uncertainties surrounding the winger, he was very pleased to have won the race for his signature, “Perhaps among the players that arrived this summer, Ünder is the least known, but for me, it was an important challenge to bring him here because he was courted by big clubs and it’s an honor to have him here. I thank the President for trusting me to buy this player. He is an important player for the present and the future.”

Very early on, though, it was pretty evident that this was not your typical immature youngster. Upon arriving at Roma, Ünder displayed an incredible amount of poise and professionalism for someone only 20 years old, who was also making his first move abroad. At his unveiling, the Turk immediately stated his intentions of learning the Italian language while also revealing that he instantly accepted a move to Roma, despite also being courted by Manchester City, which was a breathe of fresh air for many.

cengiz-underEarly on, it was evident that manager Eusebio Di Francesco was going to take a conservative approach when it came to utilising the player. In Roma’s first 14 league matches, Ünder saw only 300 minutes of match time as he started four matches, made three substitute appearances, and was unused seven times. Despite the meager amount of opportunities, Ünder never wavered in his commitment, even going so far as saying in an interview in late October, “I would like to play in front of these fans and with this shirt for many years.”

As the season progressed, injuries started to take a toll on Roma and were coupled with the Giallorossi’s attack being woefully out of form as Di Francesco slowly started to hand the youngster more and more opportunities. Since Roma’s 1-1 draw against Sampdoria on 24 January, Ünder has started in every single one of Roma’s four league matches and has displayed moments of brilliance. While he still does have the tendency to drift in and out of matches, the Turk’s last two displays against Verona and Benevento are extremely encouraging signs as he’s scored three goals to go along with one assist. While Verona and Benevento are certainly not top opponents, Ünder was undoubtedly one of the best on the pitch in both matches.

He still has a long way to go and a lot of growing to do as a footballer, but Cengiz Ünder has quickly gone from unknown quantity to an important mainstay in Eusebio Di Francesco’s game plan.

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