This website has gained a reputation as one of the best sources for reading up on the young talents of World Football. Attracting readers with our extensive Scout Reports on some of the best young & rising football stars, we have decided to continue our focus on the next generation. We were instrumental with our comprehensive reporting on the hugely popular U21 European Championship this summer, with our Tactical Player Reports. Keeping in tune with this focus, we are dedicated to educating readers on the best young talents to watch out for with our latest feature.
In the 90’s, the dominant clubs in Europe all hailed from Italy. That isn’t the case today, and the resulting reduction in financial power, coupled with the changing trends mean that the Italian leagues are now filled with younger players with talent and hunger. Aside from this, Serie A is also where many future stars of the Italian national team begin their journey. Here, we look to pick out a few of the rough gems, and present them to you.
Please note that this is a list of the less-established players who are likely to get a fairly regular run of games. All players on the list are 21 and below (and will remain so prior to August 31st, 2013).
UPDATE: Mid-Season Report
10. Brayan Perea
Colombia have produced some good strikers in recent times, and Perea has a rich heritage to live up to. He signed for Lazio in the close season for 3.5 million euros, and much is expected of the big man. He made a good impression at the recent U20’s World Cup, and will try to establish himself in the Lazio first team this term.
9. Mattia Perin
Perin is a youngster who is very highly rated in Italy. The Genoa man has proven himself in Serie A during a stint with Pescara last season, where he became a first team regular making 29 appearances. He has represented Italy at youth levels, and has also been called up by Cesare Prandelli to the senior squad. He will be a vital cog of the Genoa engine this year, as they look to beat the drop.
8. Domenico Berardi
Position: Striker/ Winger
Another who is going to be a key player for a team that will probably be battling relegation. Berardi is an attacking player who can play across the front line, and is the “undoubted star of Sassuolo”. The youngster has played for Italy U19’s as well, contributing a goal and 2 assists in 3 appearances. He was also crucial in Sassuolo’s promotion to Serie A, scoring 11 times, and setting up 6 goals as Sassuolo topped the division.
7. Mateo Kovacic
Mateo Kovacic is a prodigal talent in midfield for both club and country. The Croat made his debut for Dinamo Zagreb at the age of just 16, and has won a number of awards during his short career, including the Croatian Football Hope of the Year in 2011, a nomination to the Golden Boy award in 2012, and the Gentleman Revelation of the Year award at the end of the season. He is known for his passing ability, and can dribble with the ball too in the middle of the park. Kovacic has become a fixture in the Inter team, and Mazzari will surely need him to be on form this season.
6. M’Baye Niang
Club: AC Milan
The fact that Niang made 20 Serie A appearances for a club of the stature of AC Milan last season is an achievement in itself. The 18 year old has been described as “a phenomenon”, and possesses power and pace. He has also been blooded by Milan in big games, such as the second leg of their tie against Barcelona at the Nou Camp, and this experience will stand him in good stead. Due to the competition for places though, Niang will have to be a back up to the likes of Balotelli. He can play as the central striker and on the wings stands him in good stead, and he will be looking at winning a place this season.
Club: Hellas Verona
Despite being only 21, Jorginho has been a regular in the Hellas Verona team since the 2011-12 season. The Brazilian born player generally plays in deeper areas of the pitch, and was important in Hellas’ promotion campaign, making 41 appearances. It’s no surprise AC Milan intensively tracked the youngster in the last window. Once again, they will be looking at him to lead their challenge to stay in Serie A.
4. Nicola Sansone
Position: Secondary Striker
Sansone is a product of the Bayern Munich youth academy, having been born and brought up there. The youngster however, has represented Italy at all youth levels, most notable at U21 level, where he has been a regular member of the side, making 7 appearances. He possesses good technique on the ball and a good footballing brain, which makes his movement quite precise. Sansone is a regular for Parma, and made 26 Serie A appearances for them last season, contributing 6 goals and 3 assists to the cause.
3. Ishak Belfodil
Ishak Belfodil is yet another exciting player in an Inter team that is brimming with youth. Belfodil has had spells at clubs like Lyon and Bologna in the past, but he is best known for his stint at Parma last season. He made 33 appearances for the club, and scored 8, with 5 assists. Belfodil leads the line well, and his physical composition make him a tough cookie to deal with in the penalty box.
2. Mauro Icardi
Nationality: Argentine/ Italian
Icardi is the third Inter Milan player on this list, and probably the most exciting of the lot. The tricky forward player is a graduate of the famous La Masia academy, and his playing style is similar to that of another famous Argentine from La Masia. The youngster impressed at Sampdoria last season, putting in memorable performances, and ending up with 10 goals, and 4 assists in his 31 appearances.
1. Manolo Gabbiadini
Manolo Gabbiadini is a striker who is co-owned by Juventus as well, but will play at Sampdoria this season. The youngster impressed during the U21 Euros earlier this year, and will look to impress his bosses at Juventus. The striker played at Bologna last season, and scored 6 goals in 30 appearances. He plays best as a second striker, as his intelligent movement poses problems to all defenders. He has had a bright start at Sampdoria, scoring a brace on his debut in the Coppa Italia.
With Italian clubs going through a rethinking of their approach and insisting on development of their youth, providing them further exposure, the Serie A has become a store-house of some of the best talents in World Football. Narrowing down the list to a Top 10 obviously leads to a few talents being ignored. These players, by no means, should be missed out on.
Inter’s loan signing from Chelsea, Wallace, has a growing reputation in Brazil. It’s unclear what opportunities he’ll be given at Internazionale, but certainly early signs are that he is set for great things. Roma have continued their policy of signing youngsters with young Croat, Tin Jedvaj the latest addition. Another Croat, Josip Radosevic, made his loan signing to Napoli permanent this season and will be hoping Rafa gives him some regular playing time. Italian U-21 regular, Riccardo Saponaro, may turn out on a regular basis for AC Milan while their new Colombian signing Jherson Vergara promises a lot. AS Roma’s Alessandro Crescenzi is one of the most exciting Italian players at the moment. Fiorentina have plenty of youngsters in their squad, none more exciting than Poland international, Rafal Wolski. Lazio have added Santos talent, Felipe Anderson, to their ranks. Nicolas Lopez failed to make a name for himself at Roma, but Udinese have now given him a second opportunity. Marko Livaja has always been regarded as an exciting prospect, this season will be no different for the Atalanta man. Experienced 21-year-old, Saphir Taider recently joined Inter Milan, and has excited the Nerazurri’s fans. And finally, Francesco Bardi will be hoping to get a regular starting berth in Livorno’s side this campaign.
Is there any other player who we should pay special attention to? Let us know by dropping a comment below. Make sure you follow us on Twitter @OOTB_football and like us on Facebook. We’re on Google+ and Tumblr as well for those interested.