Barely seven months into his signing with AS Roma, Cengiz Ünder turned in a phenomenal performance for the Italian side. His assist and two goals for the team against Benevento in a Serie A game on Sunday night captivated fans and Italian media who called Ünder a "Turkish gem."
The 20-year-old midfielder, who rose to the fame with Turkish side Medipol Başakşehir, has left the Istanbul-based club last summer to a record fee of 13.4 million euros last summer.
Roma was looking to make a foray into first four in Serie A when it took on Benevento at the bottom of the league and Ünder's goals helped it to snatch the fourth place from Lazio.
Turkish international assisted Edin Dzeko for Roma's second goal in the 60th minute and two minutes later, scored himself after tackling a pass from Diego Perotti. After his goal, Ünder gave a military salute, in reference to Turkish soldiers fallen during Operation Olive Branch in Syria. Fifteen minutes after his first goal, Ünder scored his second goal, with a difficult to perform bend, to the cheer of fans.
Ünder's stellar performance came about one week after he scored his first for Roma against Verona. Federico Fazio and Gregoire Defrel were other scorers for Roma while Benevento's opener in seventh minute was by Guilherme, followed by a 76th minute goal by Enrico Brignola. The win against Benevento elevated Roma's points to 47.
Ünder was voted player of the match by AS Roma fans in a poll on the club's official site. "Cengiz did well tonight. Mentally, he is in a great place. He managed to convert everything that fell to his feet," Roma coach Eusebio di Francesco was quoted by club's website. "He can become a leader, but he needs to improve. He's doing additional training as well. I like players who grow into leaders on the pitch. I need players who can take responsibility, like he did today," di Francesco added. "There are many players like Cengiz, who is 20 years old. He comes from a different football culture and a different world, we need to be patient. We're not used to being patient with young Italians, let alone foreigners. We build them up and knock them down very easily. I'm helped when working with youngsters, but the truth is always somewhere in between: you have to be patient with some players," the coach also said.
Ünder rose to prominence last season when he scored seven goals in 32 appearances for Medipol Başakşehir.
He scored his first goal for the Turkish national team against Moldova in March. Football pundits have likened Ünder to Juventus's 23-year-old Argentine forward Paulo Dybala, both in appearance and rapid rise to fame as talented players.
Incidentally, Ünder is the first Turkish player after Emre Belözoğlu, a veteran Başakşehir player, to score a double in Serie A after the latter scored two for Lazio in 2002.