Would Roma have signed Sardar Azmoun if they knew they would be getting Romelu Lukaku?
Not only that, the recent revival of Andrea Belotti has contributed to a low appearance tally for the summer loan signing from Bayer Leverkusen. By the time of the October international break, in which he has scored for Iran against Jordan, Azmoun has played for just 19 minutes across three substitute appearances in Serie A. Granted, he had an injury when he came to the club, but the other options available in his position are making it an uphill struggle to get going with his new team.
As stated, the presence of Lukaku is one significant obstacle in Azmoun’s way. Bringing the Belgian in on loan from Chelsea would have been beyond Roma’s wildest dreams until very late in the transfer window, but now he is at Jose Mourinho’s disposal again, it could reduce the opportunities for fellow loanee Azmoun.
It is somewhat reminiscent of the situation two years ago, when Roma signed Eldor Shomurodov, thinking they had found an ideal player to rotate with Edin Dzeko. Then, Dzeko’s unexpected departure prompted the big-money signing of Tammy Abraham, who quickly found form and, while establishing himself as first choice, effectively rendered the addition of the Uzbekistan international less meaningful. Indeed, the purpose of signing Shomurodov completely changed once Abraham was on board due to the technical profiles of each player.
Shomurodov went on to score five goals in his debut season from 40 appearances, just eight of which were starts. He is currently on loan at Cagliari, for whom he came on against Roma in the last match before the October international break. Azmoun was an unused substitute for the visitors.
Even before Roma were getting Lukaku, there wasn’t a great deal of enthusiasm for Azmoun’s arrival. When he landed at Ciampino airport, only a small group of fans had gathered to greet him. In contrast, there was widespread elation among a massive crowd when Lukaku was welcomed the following week.
With Roma having to choose five of their seven new signings for their Europa League squad, Azmoun was – along with Rasmus Kristensen – cut out. In addition, as stated above, his gametime in Serie A has been minimal too.
It isn’t exactly what Azmoun might have been hoping for when joining Roma two years after they initially looked at him, in that same summer as the Abraham and Shomurodov deals. The Iran international only scored four goals for Bayer Leverkusen last season from 33 appearances.
Previously prolific with Zenit St. Petersburg, he needed a new lease of life after his spell in Germany, but he is effectively third choice at Roma already. By the end of the season, once Abraham recovers from his long-term injury, he could be fourth – and if the club revive their interest in Santos’ Marcos Leonardo in January, which is by no means a given, he might even be fifth.
The current injury to Paulo Dybala, which means Lukaku and Belotti are expected to start more games alongside each other, might work in Azmoun’s favour as he becomes the go-to striker off the bench. But it will only be the case for a brief amount of time. Seemingly a humble character, Azmoun will require some hard work to show why he was wanted by Roma.Embed from Getty Images
So, was he a panic signing or not? There are arguments either way.
Some could say yes, since he wasn’t Roma’s first choice and only arrived after attempts to sign Alvaro Morata or Gianluca Scamacca, and countless others, hit dead ends.
Some would argue no, since Azmoun is a player long admired by Mourinho, while Belotti could have been sold this summer.
Either way, Lukaku came shortly after on terms that Chelsea were never open to until late in the window. The former Inter hitman got a much bigger reception and has backed it up on the pitch, with seven goals in his first eight games for the club.
Lukaku’s form has been a big benefit for Roma, as has Belotti’s renaissance, but not for Azmoun. That said, can he start copying Belotti by becoming someone who can add a few goals here or there to top up Roma’s tallies?
For that to happen, he will have to wait for his chance to play.