Manuel Veth –
Ezequiel Ponce will not return from AEK Athens to Roma. Signed by the Italian club from Newell’s Old Boys back in 2015 the striker has spent the last four years on loan at Granada, Lille and finally AEK Athens.
Finally, this summer the 22-year-old Argentine striker will move to a new permanent home as Roma have cashed in on Ponce’s strong season Argentina. In 27 games Ezequiel Ponce managed 16 goals and four assists, which means he was involved in 40% of AEK Athens goals this season. He added another five goals in seven Kypello Elladas games but was kept off the scoreboard in nine Champions League games (including qualifying).
Hence, his Transfermarkt value rose for the first time since he was originally signed by Roma. Worth €6 million in 2015 his value had dropped to just €2.5 million ahead of this season. But a strong season with AEK meant that his value is back on the up and Spartak Moscow were willing to buy the striker from Roma.
One question, however, on Friday was how much Spartak had paid. While some sources in Russia and Italy have reported that the transfer sum could be as low as just €3 million Transfermarkt had the price at €9 million.
Ezequiel Ponce never had a chance at Roma
“He was never really given a chance at Roma,” John Solano from Roma Press said in a text message to the Futbolgrad Network. “He suffered an ACL tear and then was sent out on loan to Granada and Lille and failed to make an impact at either side,” Solano added.
“Ponce then did well at AEK Athens this past season and vastly improved his finishing, which was one of his greatest weaknesses at Roma,” Solano said. “At €3 million, this has the chance to be quite a coup because I do think he has the potential to greatly improve as he’s still only 22. Given Roma’s financial constraints, it did not make much sense for them to keep hold of him,” Solano added.
Thomas Farines, who scouts players for the Futbolgrad Network in France and Greece pointed out that Ezequiel Ponce had a strong season, even if AEK finished third 23 points behind champions PAOK and 18 points behind second-placed Olympiacos. “He was somewhat absent when he played here in Thessaloniki against Aris,” Farines points out.
A downside to Ponce’s play can be, indeed his inability to be proactive when his team struggles. That was, in particular, notable when AEK played in the Champions League this season. Without service, Ezequiel Ponce fails to drop deep and create himself.
That could overall become a problem in the more physical Russian Premier Liga. Traditionally, a low scoring league forwards have to work hard in Russia to create chances and are often asked to put in a high work rate.
“I do believe he’s far from a finished product and can succeed in Russia,” Solano said. A point that is also shared by Ezequiel Ponce.
What does he bring to Spartak?
“I am ready to make the transition to a bigger club with a rich history like Spartak,” Ezequiel Ponce said in an official press release issued by Spartak. “I felt that the club interested in me. This is very important. As for my part, I am ready to do everything to score goals as often as possible for Spartak. I want to become one with the team and win along with it,” he added.
The question that Spartak fans will have, however, is what he can add to the Myaso?
Going by non-penalties goals scored this season Ezequiel Ponce easily leads the current crop of Spartak attacking players with 0.51 goals per 90 minutes. In comparison, Spartak’s two other top strikers Zé Luís and Luiz Adriano scored 0.32 and 0.22 non-penalty goals per 90 minutes, respectively.
It is not the only category in which Ponce will add significantly add to Spartak’s attack. The striker also scored more headed goals (0.19 per 90 minutes) than Zé Luís (0.13) and Luiz Adriano (0.13).
Hence, in Ponce Spartak add an effective goalscorer, something that neither Zé Luís and Luis Adriano could provide despite their physical presence. In fact, Ponce could be Spartak’s answer to Sardar Azmoun, who has been excellent for Zenit both on the ground but also in the air and has been the all-round forward the Myaso have been missing for years.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.