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Guest Article – Top Young Italian Talents

An International Break means there is no Serie A review this week but Filippo has been hard at work and has written an article the first part of an extensive article on the top young Italian talents. You can follow Filippo on Twitter here @FilippoFest. Over to you Filippo

As we approach Euro 2016, we start to understand each national team’s strength and weaknesses, as well as their core players. When we think about Italy, our mind goes to their constants, big stars in their 30s such as Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Thiago Motta and Marchisio, with a few shining examples of international players in their prime – Verratti, Darmian and Insigne above all. Italy has a great tradition of success in youth football, a success that rarely translated to top level tournaments, and once again they have a number of interesting talents that might shape the future of their national team in the years to come.

I’ve divided the 22 best and brightest Italian young players into two possible lineups, one featuring “known factors”, players that have been mainstays for their clubs, and the other with prospects that have just begun impacting Serie A and Serie B football. I did not include Verratti simply because he is already one of the best midfielders in the world – it would be like including Pogba in a list of developing talents, a waste of space.

Let’s start with:

The Stars

Mattia Perin (1992, goalkeeper, Genoa) is a national team regular as a subsitute goalkeeper, behind both Buffon and Sirigu, but with the first retiring soon and the latter being sidelined at PSG it’s likely that Perin will find a more fitting position, especially if (as it’s rumored) he will leave Genoa for a top team this summer. Standing at 6’2, he’s quite short for a modern goalkeeper, but he makes up for it with sheer athleticism and presence in the box.

Davide Zappacosta (1992, right back, Atalanta) is a rare sight: an Italian wing back, with a strong propension for long runs on the right. After his first Serie A season he already commanded an 11 million euros fee, which Torino gleefully played to make sure this explosive defender would be at the center of their project. Zappacosta is a regular in the U21 National Team, with 17 caps, and he is set to make his first NT appearances after Euro 2016.

Daniele Rugani (1994, centre back, Juventus) is so insanely calm and collected that he hasn’t received a single yellow card in two years of playing centre back in Serie A. The best part? He’s shown that he can still make big improvements, as during this season with Juventus he struggled a little in the few high profile games he was called to action. He would benefit from some more playing time, but considering how old and injury prone Juventus’ back line is, I’d say his next season will be great. Meanwhile, he’s already debuted with the NT.

Alessio Romagnoli (1995, centre back, Milan) is one of the most expensive defenders in the world, as AC Milan paid 25 million euros to snatch him from Roma. He’s the yang to Rugani’s yin, playing as a risk-prone centre back with a tendency to dribble and pass right outside his defensive box after a successful tackle. His qualities make him an unvaluable asset for any top team in Europe, and at 21 he has already shown an enviable maturity.

Mattia De Sciglio (1992, full back, Milan) is in his fifth consecutive Serie A season, and he’s starting to look like an underachiever. Still, even a fraction of the talent he hinted at when he debuted is enough to make him a stellar full back, capable of playing at equal level on both sides and of providing solid support on the offense while being a solid defender (employed, at times, as a centre back). He needs a good year in his best position (as a right back with licence to run forward) to show that he still got all of it.

Marco Benassi (1994, defensive midfielder, Torino) is the captain of the U21 national team, a true leader both with the Azzurri and with his club, Torino. A product of the Internazionale youth system – one of the best academies in Italy – Benassi is a holding midfielder with a creative touch, or a good playmaker who’s not afraid to get his hands dirty with some hard tackles. Benassi’s main quality is his presence in midfield, which allows him to step in any lineup and lead it.

Stefano Sturaro (1993, box to box, Juventus) has already made a name for himself as a regular starter/12th man for Juventus, both in Serie A and Champions League matches. His footwork might not be excellent, but he makes up for it with incredible energy, personality and tenacity. He’s a fighter, in Juve’s long tradition of tough midfielders such as NT and future Chelsea coach Antonio Conte, which makes him a perfect fit for the Azzurri as well.

Danilo Cataldi (1994, central midfielder, Lazio) is the most versatile name in this list, being perfectly capable of playing as a holding midfielder, a playmaker, a trequartista and even a wingback. A consistent player who earned his 12th man spot in Lazio despite the competition of Lucas Biglia, Cataldi’s strength are not explosive runs or key passes, but rather an old-fashioned composure and elegance on the ball.

Domenico Berardi (1994, winger, Sassuolo) has scored 37 goals in two and a half Serie A seasons, an impressive tally that makes him the star of the spectacular mid table team Sassuolo. A former Juventus youth player, Berardi was traded (with a gentleman’s option in Juve’s favour) for Zaza, but this hasn’t stopped him from lighting Serie A on fire. His key skill is an uncanny ability to cut inside and score 1vs1 with any goalie. His flaw? He’s often nervous on the pitch, collecting too many red cards.

Andrea Belotti (1993, striker, Torino) maybe won’t be the striker to end Italy’s attack crisis of the last ten years (after Inzaghi and Vieri retired), but he’s a hard-working technical forward with a great instinct for link-up play, as shown by his new partnership with Ciro Immobile. After a rocky start in Serie A, “the rooster” Belotti seems to have found his scoring groove, with six goals scored since Immobile arrived in January.

Stephan El Shaarawy (1992, winger, Roma) is reborn, long live the Pharaoh. This is what Roma fans must be thinking, as their January signing is proving extremely beneficial to their run for a Champions League spot. El Shaarawy looked lost in his last seasons at AC Milan, due to a series of injuries and personal crisis, and the move to Monaco did not seem to help. Now, however, the forward of Egyptian descent is back on track to prove himself as one of the best wingers in Europe. His best scoring season saw him put 19 in the back of the net and a lot of people are betting he will improve on that next year. As far as his skills go, El Shaarawy is the complete package, capable of setting himself up for chances and converting them, as well as assisting his teammates. He’s also a defensive workhorse, running down the side to cover the opposing fullback.

In part 2 of this article, we’ll look on some less proven talents to see if they can cut it at the highest level.

Thanks Filippo a very informative article there, no doubt we’ll all be looking forward to Part 2 and not to mention the next of Filippo’s Serie A reviews once the action picks up again this Weekend.

If you would like to have any content posted on here then please feel free to contact me at realfootballmanwordpress@gmail.com and hopefully we can get something of yours up as well.

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