Richard Pike profiles 20 of the best Under-20 players to watch in the Serie A for the 2020-21 season, one from each club!
As the start to the 2020/21 Serie A season draws ever closer, the tension and excitement amongst spectators continues to build. A new season give fans a chance to see established stars go once again alongside new signings. However, it also gives fans an opportunity to see young talent. Such talent could be youngsters debuting or those who we have already seen establishing themselves as regular first team stars. Here is one such player from all 20 Serie A clubs to watch in 2020/21.
Juventus FC // Dejan Kulusevski // 20 // Sweden
A perfect indication of how high expectations at Juventus FC are were emphasised after their Champions League last 16 exit to Olympique Lyonnais and the sacking of manager Maurizio Sarri despite leading the club to their 9th straight Serie A title. Andrea Pirlo has been piloted into the managerial hot seat despite no previous senior coaching experience and he inherits a talented yet ageing Bianconeri squad. However, one young player who Pirlo may turn to is Dejan Kulusevski. The 20 year-old Swede spent the whole of the 2019/20 campaign on loan at Parma from first Atalanta and then Juventus, who signed him from the Bergamo outfit in January 2020. Kulusevski has terrific pedigree, 10 goals and 9 assists in 36 games for Parma saw him voted Serie A Young Player of the Year.
FC Internazionale Milano // Lucien Agoume // 18 // France
2019/20 will ultimately go down as a season of frustration for FC Internazionale Milano. They looked well placed to claim a first Scudetto since 2009/10, however, Nerazzurri’s inconsistency let them down and they eventually finished runners-up to Juventus. New summer signings such as Alexis Sanchez and Achraf Hakimi give Inter fans hope of Scudetto glory in 2020/21. Alongside these new signings, Inter possess in Lucien Agoume a talented young midfielder who could have a breakthrough 2020/21. Agoume made three substitute appearances for Inter’s first team in Serie A in 2019/20 alongside frequent appearances for their Under 19 Primavera team. Prior to signing for Inter in the summer of 2019 Agoume had already aged just 16 made 15 appearances in France’s Ligue 2 for Sochaux in 2018/19 alongside 25 caps for France at Under 17’s level.
Atalanta BC // Ebrima Colley // 20 // Gambian
2019/20 saw Atalanta’s remarkable rise under manager Gian Piero Gasperini continue. A second consecutive third place Serie A finish secured Champions League football for a second straight season in 2020/21. To top it all off, they reached the Quarter Finals of the Champions League and finished as Serie A’s top scorers with 98 goals from 38 games. As Atalanta gear up to go again in 2020/21, Ebrima Colley is a young prospect Gasperini may seek to integrate into an already talented attacking unit. The 20 year-old Gambian made five Serie A appearances all as a substitute in 2019/20 and scored his first goal for the club on Matchday 33’s 6-2 home victory against Brescia. Colley was a vital member of Atalanta’s 2019/20 Under 19 Primavera title-winning side scoring 12 goals and noting 4 assists from a variety of positions, including his preferred left wing role and centre forward.
SS Lazio // Andre Anderson // 20 // Italian
2019/20 will forever go down as a “what could have been season” for SS Lazio. Prior to the Covid-19 enforced stoppage, Alquilotti were within points of Juventus at the top of Serie A, however, the enforced congested fixture calendar post-Covid stoppage took its toll on a thin squad. With Champions League football to juggle alongside Serie A commitments, Simone Inzaghi will have to utilise his squad to the maximum this coming season. One player who could see his minutes increased is 20 year-old attacking midfielder Andre Anderson. Born in Brazil yet capped by Italy at Under 20’s level, Anderson made six substitute appearances for the Roman outfit in 2019/20 after spending 17 games on loan at Serie B outfit Salernitana in 2018/19.
AS Roma // Roger Ibanez // 21 // Brazil
5th place in Serie A in 2019/20 represented a steady debut season at AS Roma for Portuguese manager Paulo Fonseca. With new ownership having recently arrived in the shape of American billionaire Dan Friedkin, expectations have risen in the Italian capital for 2020/21. Giallorossi possess on the whole an experienced Serie A squad, however, there is a small contingent of young players looking to make their mark. One such player is Roger Ibanez, the 21 year-old central defender featured 11 times for Atalanta in all competitions in 2019/20 and arrives in the Italian capital on a season-long loan to add depth to Roma’s defence.
AC Milan // Matteo Gabbia // 20 // Italian
After a disastrous start to 2019/20 which saw AC Milan lying in 12th in Serie A, Rossoneri hired Stefano Pioli as new manager, who following a strong finish to the campaign led Milan to an eventual 6th placed finish. Throughout the latter end of last season, it was speculated that Pioli would be moved aside as manager at season’s end for German Ralf Rangnick. However, Pioli’s results and Milan’s considerable improvement throughout the season meant the veteran 54 year-old was retained for 2020/21. One player who debuted for Milan in 2019/20 and could see more football as Milan juggle both domestic and European commitments in 2020/21 is central defender Matteo Gabbia. The 20 year-old Italy Under 21 international debuted and made 9 appearances for Rossoneri in 2019/20. With fellow central defenders Mateo Musacchio and Leo Durate injury prone, Gabbia has a great chance to establish himself as first choice reserve to regular central defensive pair Alessio Romagnoli and Simon Kjaer.
SSC Napoli // Eljif Elmas // 20 // North Macedonia
Despite an impressive Coppa Italia triumph, 2019/20 will go down as a season of disappointment for SSC Napoli in Serie A, as they finished a disappointing 7th place, missing out on Champions League qualification for 2020/21. Gennaro Gattuso will begin his first full season in charge knowing the pressure is on to return to Europe’s elite club competition as quickly as possible. One young player who could become a cornerstone of Gattuso’s Napoli going forward is 20 year-old North Macedonian central midfielder Eljif Elmas. In his debut season in Serie A in 2019/20 since arriving from Turkish giants Fenerbache SK, Elmas made 26 appearances in Serie A, equally split as a starter and a substitute. Increasing his minutes and starts will be the target for Elmas in 2020/21.
US Sassuolo // Hamed Junior Traore // 20 // Cote D’Ivoire
Now into their 8th straight Serie A season, modest US Sassuolo, hailing from the eponymous town of Sassuolo with a population of just over 40,000 inhabitants continue to overachieve in Italian football. After an 8th placed finish in Serie A in 2019/20, manager Roberto de Zerbi’s troops will have difficulties trying to dislodge one of the big guns in Serie A in 2020/21 and qualify for European football. However, as aforementioned, defying the odds suits Neroverdi just fine. One player who Sassuolo will hope continues to progress in 2020/21 is Hamed Junior Traore. After a breakthrough 2018/19 at Empoli, Sassuolo signed the 20 year-old Ivorian attacking midfielder on a two-season loan in the summer of 2019. After 4 goals and 1 assist for Sassuolo in 31 Serie A games in 2019/20, Traore will be hoping to further impress in the second season of his loan at Sassuolo to make his move to Neroverdi permanent.
Hellas Verona // Marash Kumbulla // 20 // Albanian
Another candidate for team of the season alongside the aforementioned Sassuolo in 2019/20 were Hellas Verona. The 1984/85 Serie A winners finished 9th in Serie A last campaign, a remarkable achievement for a newly promoted club. Notoriously, during this successful campaign, a promising youngster broke through in the shape of Marash Kumbulla. The 20 year-old Italian-born Albanian international debuted and made 25 appearances for Gialloblu during 2019/20. Had it not been for infrequent injuries, this appearance number could have been higher and this and further development will be targets for the young central defender in 2020/21.
ACF Fiorentina // Dusan Vlahovic // 20 // Serbian
After the disastrous 2018/19 campaign which saw them nearly relegated from Serie A with a 16th placed finish, ACF Fiorentina rebounded nicely in 2019/20 finishing in an upwardly mobile 10th place. Giuseppe Iachini’s troops will be looking to improve further in the second year of Italian-American businessman Rocco Commisso’s ownership of the Florence outfit. One young player who could become central to maintaining Fiorentina’s upwardly mobile curve in 2020/21 is 20 year-old Serbian forward Dusan Vlahovic. After arriving at La Viola in the summer of 2018 from Partizan in his homeland, Vlahovic broke out in 2019/20 with 6 goals and 1 assists in 30 Serie A matches with an equal playing time split between being a starter and a substitute.
Parma Calcio 1913 // Andrea Adorante // 20 // Italian
2019/20 marked Parma’s second straight season back in Serie A after a traumatic period which involved bankruptcy, reformation and climbing back up through the leagues. An eventual 11th placed finish built nicely on the 14th place achieved in 2018/19 and ensures Crociati are permanent furniture in the Serie A living room once more. One young player who looked like he was going to have a breakthrough 2019/20 for the club was forward Andrea Adorante. After a breakthrough 2018/19 at Internazionale’s Primavera Under 19’s where he was a frequent goal-scorer, Parma paid EUR 3.6 million for Adorante’s services in July 2019. However, cruciate ligament rupture and knee injuries meant the young forward is still yet to debut for the Emilia Romagna outfit. Faced with competition for a starting spot in the striker roles from Roberto Inglese and Andreas Cornelius, can Adorante make up for lost time with a breakthrough 2020/21 campaign?
Bologna FC 1909 // Andres Skov Olsen // 20 // Danish
With finishes between 15th and 10th over the last five Serie A seasons (one of those being last campaign’s 12th place finish), Bologna FC 1909 are garnishing a reputation as a steady mid-table outfit in Italy. One of their young talents who will look to really progress in his second season at the club is 20 year-old Denmark Under 21 International Andreas Skov Olsen. Signed from Nordsjaelland in his homeland in the summer of 2019 for a fee of EUR 6 million, Olsen made 26 appearances, scoring just a solitary goal in 2019/20 for Rossoblu with many of the young Dane’s appearances coming as a substitute. Establishing himself as a more permanent fixture in Bologna’s team in place of recently capped Italian international Riccardo Orsolini 2020/21 though will be no easy feat.
Udinese Calcio // Mamadou Coulibaly // 21 // Senegal
A 13th placed finish in 2019/20 saw Udinese Calcio once again confirm their presence in Serie A for the following campaign. 2020/21 will be Udinese’s 26th straight season in Italy’s top flight, an impressive statistic for a modest club. Manager Luca Dotti’s troops will be hoping to continue this remarkable run in addition to moving further up the standings. One young player who could break through for Le Zebrette in 2020/21 is Mamadou Coulibaly. The 21 year-old Senegalese central midfielder spent the 2019/20 campaign on loan at two Serie B clubs, Virtus Entella, where he struggled to make an impact and Trapani, where he emerged as a first team regular.
Cagliari Calcio // Sebastian Walukiewicz // 20 // Polish
Cagliari’s 2019/20 campaign was the classic tale of two halves. A strong opening half saw the Sardinian outfit lying in 6th place after 19 games. However, a tough second half of the campaign saw Isolani plummet down the standings to an eventual 14th place finish. For 2020/21, Cagliari have made a bold managerial appointment by naming former Sassuolo and Roma manager Eusebio di Francesco as new manager. One promising young player who the new manager could turn to is 20 year-old Polish central defender Sebastian Walukiewicz. The youngster signed for Cagliari from Pogon Szczecin in his homeland in January 2019 and played 14 times in 2019/20. The majority of these appearances came in the second half of the campaign for the Sardinians. Walukiewicz will hope to increase this figure and become a first team player for the entirety of 2020/21.
UC Sampdoria // Mikkel Damsgaard // 20 // Danish
After seven matches of the 2019/20 campaign, it looked like UC Sampdoria were a good bet to be relegated at season’s end as Blucerchiati sat bottom of the Serie A table. Samp’s board took the brave call to appoint veteran Claudio Ranieri as new manager. The Tinkerman worked wonders for Sampdoria in 2019/20. The Genoa-based outfit will now hope for a less-stressful 2020/21 and new signing Mikkel Damsgaard could play a part in pushing Samp up the standings. 20 year-old left winger Damsgaard joined Samp this summer from Danish club Nordsjaelland for a fee of EUR 6.5 million. The young Dane enjoyed a breakthrough 2019/20, noting 11 goals and 7 assists in 37 games in all competitions.
Torino FC // Vincenzo Millico // 20 // Italian
2019/20 was a season of struggle for Torino. Il Toro finished an eventual 16th in Serie A, only 5 points clear of 18th placed relegated outfit Lecce. Demanding an improvement in 2020/21, Torino have appointed a new manager in Marco Giampaolo, who is looking himself to recover his reputation after his brief and unsuccessful 7 game stint in charge at AC Milan in 2019/20. One young player who the new coach could turn to is Vincenzo Millico. After a prolific scoring record for Torino’s Primavera Under 19’s side, 20 year Millico, who is capable of playing on the left wing and up front made 16 appearances in all competitions for the first team last term, with all of them as a substitute.
Genoa CFC // Andrea Pinamonti // 21 // Italian
2019/20 represented arguably the most difficult campaign of Genoa CFC’s 13 consecutive season streak in Serie A. The Genoese outfit only avoided relegation on the very last day of a traumatic campaign which saw Aurelio Andreazzoli, Thiago Motta and Davide Nicola all occupy the managerial hot seat at some point throughout. Il Grifone’s new manager for 2020/21, Rolando Maran will likely look to 21 year-old youngster Andrea Pinamonti for inspiration. Pinamonti noted 5 goals and 2 assists in 32 Serie A matches in 2019/20 on loan from Inter Milan. Genoa this summer made Pinamonti’s loan permanent for a fee of EUR 19.5 million a fee which puts pressure on the Italy Under 21 international to deliver in 2020/21.
Benevento Calcio // Daam Foulon // 21 // Belgian
After a two season absence following relegation to Serie B in 2017/18, Benevento Calcio returned to Italy’s top flight for 2020/21 by emerging as Serie B champions in 2019/20. After a rough start to his managerial career with unsuccessful spells in charge of Milan, Venezia and Bologna, 47 year-old Flippo Inzaghi finally showed signs of major promise by guiding Benevento back to the elite. One player who could see a breakthrough into Benevento’s first team squad in 2020/21 is 21 year-old Daam Foulon. The young Belgian left back is a summer transfer from Waasland-Beveren in his homeland where he made 23 appearances in all competitions in 2019/20.
FC Crotone // Gian Marco Crespo // 19 // Italian
2017/18 proved a historic season for FC Crotone. The Calabria region outfit played their first-ever season in Serie A and managed to survive. Despite dropping back down to Serie B at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, Gli Squali managed to win promotion back to Serie A for 2020/21 after finishing second in the 2019/20 Serie B. One young player who could have an opportunity to break into Crotone’s first team is Gian Marco Crespo. The 19 year-old started his career at Udinese before leaving to join Serie C club AC Gozzano in the summer of 2019. After impressing there, Crotone bought the young goalkeeper for EUR 600,000 in January 2020 before loaning him back to Gozzano for the remainder of 2019/20. After 22 appearances for Gozzano in 2019/20, Crespo returns to Crotone to possibly challenge veteran Alex Cordaz for the number one goalkeeper position.
Spezia Calcio // Lorenzo Colombini // 19 // Italian
The final team to comprise the 2020/21 season of Serie A is a debutant, Spezia Calcio, who having reformed in 2008 after bankruptcy have embarked on a remarkable rise up through the leagues. Based in La Spezia, in the province of Liguria, the club is owned by 77 year-old Italian-born Nigerian citizen Gabriele Volpi, who also owns Italian top flight water polo team Pro Recco. Spezia’s objective having come up through the playoffs and subsequently having had less preparation will simply be survival. One intriguing move from the newcomers in the transfer market has been to sign 19 year old left fullback Lorenzo Colombini from Inter Milan’s Primavera Under 19’s team on a free transfer. Colombini arrives at Spezia with some pedigree being a current Italian Under 19 international.
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