20 Midfielder AS Roma (on loan from Fenerbahçe) Turkey
2014 has been...
Déjà vu. Born in Marmaris a town in the Muğla Province well known to holidaymakers from Western Europe, Salih Uçan quickly became an in demand player after emerging from the junior ranks at Bucaspor.
A prodigiously talented youth, it didn’t take long for some of Europe’s biggest clubs to set their sights on the 18 year old midfielder. Schooled at the Izmir club’s reputed academy, the tall and elegant Uçan regularly stood out in matches with his strength and wonderful close control frequently hurting opposition defences. With offers from abroad on the table, Uçan opted to remain in Turkey and became the most expensive teenager to transfer between two Turkish clubs when he joined Fenerbahçe in the summer of 2012.
Over the course of the next two years, the well hyped Uçan was a regular name in Fener’s match day squads, but seldom started a game for the first team. He made his debut in a fairly wretched 3-1 home defeat to Antalyaspor in October 2012, but would score against the same opposition in a 2-1 victory the following March. In and out of the team, Uçan would continue make progress through the international scene for Turkey and had reached under 21 level by the end of the 2012/13 season. With coach Aykut Kocaman relieved of his duties in May last year, Uçan may have expected a more prominent first team role under Ersun Yanal, but the pressure to win titles for Turkey’s biggest clubs rarely lends itself to affording emerging talent extended runs in a side.
Uçan is very much a modern midfielder, adaptable, muscular and capable of creating chances as well as ensuring opposition advances are snuffed out. But despite all the ingredients being in place, Uçan rarely did enough to displace one of Sow, Kuyt, Meireles, Topal or Belözoglu on a regular basis.
We really felt that this would be the year that Uçan came to the fore, but Yanal persevered with his experienced midfield and delivered a league title. The young midfielder was a passenger as his club claimed success, but still did enough to attract interest from across Europe. With Fener unable to make any long term commitment to a starting place, Uçan sensibly moved on and his loan transfer to AS Roma was a considerable step up for a player that has yet to truly deliver.
Roma had long tracked the young Turk and agreed a two year loan with an option to buy at €11m. Uçan is a talent and the club were understandably proud to show their man off in the summer but he is nothing if not enigmatic, and while capturing such as gifted player might have looked a smart move in the summer, things look a little more fuddled now.
And here we go again. Last season saw Uçan used infrequently, this season, he’s not been used at all. That Rudi Garcia wanted to secure his services is testament to his talent, but there are just too many rough edges in Uçan’s game to see him trusted with a more significant role in Serie A yet, or at any point in the immediate future. With talk continuing to do the rounds that Roma will go all out to snap up Adrien Rabiot from PSG, Uçan‘s opportunities of breaking into one of the most gifted midfields in Europe looks a significant task.
The problem, to us at least, often looks like Uçan’s own making. This kid genuinely has serious talent, but there’s a good chance that he might need one ball while the rest of his team uses another. There’s time to get that worked through, and that appears to have been Roma’s starting point, but after failing to make any kind of dent on the first eleven so far, Uçan might quickly run out of options. Despite Adem Ljajic’s exceptional form this season, I Giallorossi have been without the exceptional Kevin Strootman and if Uçan can’t take advantage now, will he ever?
There’s already talk that Roma may try to pass his loan onto another club - Cagliari have been mentioned - which might turn out to be a good thing, but there’s an underlying feeling that a great opportunity may just have passed Salih Uçan by.
"A gifted prospect, Uçan has yet to be given substantial playing time at Roma, which is understandable given their depth. Has all the tools to succeed once given his chance." - Adam Digby
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