Mohammed Abid provides a detailed scout report on Cengiz Ünder, Roma’s latest pocket rocket
Cengiz Ünder falls in the newest batch of hot prospects coming out of Turkey. At 20 years of age, the speedy winger has already made 5 appearances for his country, scoring twice. Ünder has played for the U18, U19 and U21 of Turkey’s national youth football team. Still at the age of only 19, he received his first call-up to the Turkish senior squad to face Kosovo in November 2016.
Thereafter, Ünder had his first senior international goal for Turkey in a friendly against Moldova, Still at the age of 19. The career of Cengiz Ünder has sort of gone under the radar, but that is mainly due to some of the personnel of his age group such as Mbappe, Asensio and Rashford and what they have accomplished since their ascension to stardom.
Who is Cengiz Ünder?
Cengiz Ünder was born in Sindirgi and took his initial steps in football at Bucaspor during 2007 and 2013. The Turkish international then moved to Altınordu and turned pro in 2014, when he became a regular for the club, making 51 first-team appearances and scoring 11 goals over the course of two seasons.
Thereafter, İstanbul Başakşehir had to fight off firm competition for his signature in the summer of 2016. Cengiz Ünder is a versatile winger having played on both wings whilst at İstanbul Başakşehir, he is also equally adept to playing the number 10 position. With the winger being left-footed, he will develop into a natural at the right wing position where he will get the opportunity to carve out opportunities for himself and others. That being said, Ünder’s versatility will be an asset to him during his development and increasing his skill set.
In the 2016-17 season, Cengiz was presented the opportunity to come sign for İstanbul Başakşehir, who themselves have seen a similar rise to success to that of Nice and RB Leipzig. In that season, İstanbul Başakşehir performed strongly, falling short of the title only to city rivals Beşiktaş by four points.
Ünder’s breakthrough moment for İstanbul Başakşehir came in the form of a volley in an away game against city and title rivals Beşiktaş during a counter-attack. Playing in vastly intimidating stadium is no easy task and it was a massive confidence booster for Ünder. The youngster played an integral role in the campaign, starting 32 times whilst racking up 7 goals and 5 assists. This had caused alarm bells to ring from some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Manchester City and Tottenham. Eventually it was AS Roma who seemed to want Cengiz the most and offered the Turk a five-year contract. Ünder himself is part of a wider project at Roma, who seem to be implementing a similar blueprint to that of Borussia Dortmund, AS Monaco and Benfica, where players are purchased for a low fee and are developed at the club and sold for a much higher price.
What is his Style of Play?
Paulo Dybala is one of those players who has been compared to Ünder, though Ünder himself has distanced himself from the Juventus player. Quick and direct in his style of play, Ünder can play on either wing as he is proficient with his less favoured right foot. The Turkish teenager showcases a maturity and calmness beyond his years.
Following the departure of Mohamed Salah to Liverpool, who really made the right flank position his own, Ünder should be a good fit for Roma during the counter-attacks with his pace, dribbling ability and long distance shooting. Furthermore, with Roma playing with a traditional target man up front in Edin Dzeko, the striker will benefit from Ünder’s wide range of crossing. The Turk has a preference of cutting the ball on to his left foot when on the right flank and whipping one in. Ünder loves to beat a man with his close ball control and this could prove key in unlocking defences in tight games.
He also shows great determination and mental strength when a 1v1 opportunity presents itself. The winger is positive in his decision making, always looking to run at defences or try killer through balls. When playing on the right flank, Ünder will look to cut in and get a shot off outside the box as any traditional inside forward would. However, he does not panic in these situations and almost takes his time and evaluates the reaction of the defender so a better opportunity to shoot or pass arises.
What are his Strengths?
In an attacking sense, Ünder is pretty well rounded as he specialises in many departments. Being a winger, requires you to have good crossing and Ünder still believes in this ideology as his deliveries are often put into dangerous areas where teammates can thrive upon from.
For his age, Ünder is extremely composed and calm on the ball whilst relying on his speed to give him an extra yard or two on a defender. Ünder is a level headed individual with mental strength who seems to have his feet firmly set on the ground despite enduring the relative quick success.
“There are lots of experienced players in our squad, but I didn’t struggle to adapt. I think it’s to do with my character: I am generally comfortable and don’t get overexcited,” he once the UEFA website.
The versatility of Ünder is another strength and he has developed his game. He can operate on the right and left flank as well as playing in behind the striker and due to his attributes, he is more than capable of playing in all three of the positions.
Ünder seemed unfazed by his breakthrough at İstanbul Başakşehirk, and his style of play reflects that to a greater extent. He is not afraid to express himself which can be seen when he attempts killer balls to open defences or when he shoots from distance. This implies the self-belief the player has in himself and in his ability as a footballer.
What are his Weaknesses?
The problem with some of the modern day wingers is that, at times they are one dimensional, implying that they may try to take on a defender on too many occasions and become predictable. Ünder faces this struggle to some extent.
If he wants to develop as a player further, then he needs to strike an equilibrium between when it is acceptable to keep your head down and run at the defence and when to look up to find an open teammate. This makes Ünder blind in some situations and hinders his attacking play.
For Ünder to adapt to the Serie A, he will need to become stronger so he can retain the ball or win free-kicks. The Serie A is well known for its stubborn defending and great strength plays a role in this. Thus, it could mean Ünder may need a season just to have a physique ready to play in the Serie A.
Naturally, a player will need time to adjust to a different country, lifestyle and style of football. But Ünder has taken huge leaps in such a short period of time in his career, which suggests his ambitions and long-term vision. Ünder will no doubt want to conquer Rome. İstanbul Başakşehir opened their doors to allow Ünder to leave as they understood this was big chance and would be the perfect project for the promising Turk.
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- Scout Report: Cengiz Ünder | Roma’s latest pocket rocket - October 26, 2017