Some say Italy is no country for young men. You may hardly disagree with them. Traditionally, Italy has believed in implementing a particular system to play football that requires a player to be flourished and mature to a certain extent. Players are expected to incorporate the proper knowhow of the system and it is widely believed the Italian way, in its entirety, cannot be practiced without reaching a certain level of maturity and hence unlike in few other European leagues, youngsters are hardly the focal points in Serie A.
Generally a player at Serie A peaks in the age of 24-26 and continues to play to the top of his abilities for a good 6-7 years before his role at the club starts to undermine. However, there has been an apparent change in the policies with which the Italian coaches are operating, especially since the latter half of the previous decade. The influx of youth has been deemed near inevitable in order to keep pace with the other leagues who quite evidently have superseded Serie A in stature and quality of football on exhibition.
The season 2012-13 therefore, that starts in two weeks’ time is all the more important to gauge the quality the younger players will bring to the table as a considerable number of clubs have not only identified but accommodated this idea of promoting the youth to the first team in their respective systems. While the more experienced lot will continue to represent the crux of their clubs, the energy, vigour and the pace that these younger players demonstrate in the opportunities thrown towards them will be extremely important to determine the manner in which the league progresses.
TheHardTackle lists down five young guns who are expected to have some serious impact over the course of the upcoming season.
A lot was speculated about the transfer of Mattia Destro and the product of Inter’s youth system has finally joined AS Roma. The philosophy of Zdenek Zeman generally grinds the best out of a potentially good striker and hence this should be the season that will see Destro meeting the world. Roma have found a perfect replacement for Fabio Borini who was sold to Liverpool earlier in the transfer window and Destro will add more quality to the roster.
Roma sought more organization and discipline in their play which was missing under Luis Enrique, but Zeman is hardly a man who promises that. His love for the attacking game is hardly a secret and the conditions are ideal for Destro to realize his true potential in the very first season. Given Roma do not possess many quality forwards and that Totti is surely not going to be playing for 90 minutes every weekend, Destro carries the burden of expectations of a set of fans you might not want to let down.
His season with Siena was pretty eventful and his move was always on the cards. There were rumours linking him with Inter, Milan and Juventus too but perhaps Roma is the best option for him at this stage in his career. Destro’s quality is unquestionable but the fact of the matter is this is the first time he will be representing a big Italian club. Against the supposedly bigger clubs, teams are extremely pragmatic and given the general levels of Italian organizations, their defence is extremely difficult to unlock. In order to do due justice to his billing, Destro will need to deliver in the very first season itself. He has got everything to prove and he’s at the perfect club under an ideal manager.
Stephan El Shaarawy
Highly rated Genoa youth product, Stephan El Shaarawy, many believe, is still a raw diamond and is about to explode and take the Serie A by storm. The Italy striker signed for Milan last season and in an already packed attacking lineup consisting of the world’s who’s who, he was quite understandably not offered the playing time he’d have liked. However, Milan are far depleted a team from the one they were last season and have lost the most potent weapon in their attacking armoury: Ibrahimovic.
Naturally, all the hopes are on the shoulders of Alexandre Pato but the number of months he spends on bench nursing an injury is always a matter of concern. Among other options, Robinho can engineer few moves and Cassano with his artistry is always a threat near the box but Milan need someone who assures goals and this is where El Shaarawy must step up and rise.
Initially, he might fail to unsettle the more established pecking order but should he be able to deliver in the opportunities that are presented to him, he may soon start to naturally select himself and have a significant say in the way the season pans out for Milan. While there are no signs of a big name signing due to the financial turmoil the club finds itself in, the answer has to come from within and El Shaarawy has to do his bit to fix the jigsaw.
Under the tutelage of Zdenek Zeman, Pescara not only grabbed the Serie B title but did it with some style. A host of players managed to attract attention of the bigger clubs and sadly the three of the most influential ones will no longer be featuring for them as they make their return to Serie A. Napoli’s Lorenzo Insigne is one of those with Marco Verratti and Ciro Immobile being the other two.
Insigne has made a return to his youth club where he is expected to fill the big shoes of Ezequiel Lavezzi who left for PSG at the end of last season. Napoli were particularly threatening with their classic front three and the replacement for Lavezzi must match the enormity of the Argentine. Insigne is still pretty young and had the luxury to play in Zeman’s system that is extremely supportive of the strikers.
It will be entirely difficult though to fit into Walter Mazzarri’s 3-4-3 and there’s a good likeliness of Chilean forward Eduardo Vargas being preferred in order to Insigne. Edinson Cavani will continue to be the focal point of the Napoli attack and Insigne will have to be more engaged into building the play up from the wings. He must be smart with his movement off the ball and create more space for Cavani in the middle – something Lavezzi so effortlessly did.
It must be noted Napoli are extremely vulnerable in defence and are often outrun in the middle of the park. Insigne might be asked to show a great work ethic and aide the defence by dropping deep from time to time. Players like Ezequiel Lavezzi are not easily replaced and the product of Napoli’s very own system might find things hard, howsoever romantic the idea of going back to the club of one’s roots seems to be.
Juventus are in dire need to add an attacking dimension to their roster and are considering various options. Amidst this, it is slightly surprising to know they never tried to exercise the option of graduating Ciro Immobile to the senior time who was nothing short of fantabulous for Pescara in their title winning campaign last season. The only reasonable explanation for Juventus not feeling confident about him already is he is too young and untested in Serie A.
As of now, Genoa have signed one half of his in exchange of which Juventus have partially signed Richmond Boakye – which is nothing short of perplexing. The Ghanaian too is far from proven in Italy’s top flight. Immobile however, must not lose his grip as far as his goal scoring form is concerned. The teams he will face in Serie A shall be much more competent, disciplined and hard to break. His ultimate objective is to lead the Juventus attack in a few years’ time and he better do it fast for his club to take notice of the progress that he has made.
Genoa were in deep trouble towards the business end of the last season and barely survived in the top division. Having lost Rodrigo Palacio to Inter has only added to their trouble and while dealing with this convoluted situation, the club heavily relies on someone like Immobile to add that spark to their attack and change the club’s fortunes. He will be playing alongside someone like Alberto Gilardino who is immensely experienced in Serie A but is definitely past his prime.
The association between Genoa and Immobile is certainly not going to last long and it is only a matter of time before he impresses Juventus enough. How soon he manages to do that remains to be seen and this one season with Genoa will say a lot about the things for the future.
Udinese have developed a very special model around them that allows them to keep producing the most cost-effective yet greatly efficient teams season after season. They have virtually sold all the important players from the last two seasons and are still believed to be one of the prime contenders for the Champions League spot in this edition of Serie A.
Of the new signings that the club has made in an attempt to replace those sold, Luis Muriel is the most notable one. Having been signed by Udinese back in 2010, Muriel is yet to make a senior team appearance for the club. After serving two different loan spells at Granada and Lecce – with the latter being particularly impressive – the Colombian striker has been brought back to the roster. With seven goals and five assists for Lecce, Muriel had earned enough plaudits to be picked by one of the first division clubs as Lecce were relegated at the end of the last season. Udinese will present him an opportunity to play alongside arguably the league’s most accomplished forward Antonio Di Natale who does not seem to age at all.
As ever, Udinese will be a tough nut to crack for the supposedly bigger teams and they have formed this habit of delivering their best games against big teams. Muriel will be an extremely important component in the Guidolin setup and in all likelihood will be sold to a bigger club in Italy should he impress this season.