Youth Spotlight – Where Next for the finest of our youth?

20 Apr

 

With the end of season curtain finally appearing on the horizon and first team issues now solely focused upon retaining the scudetto with a handful of games to spare, its high time I returned to the subject of our youth prospects…rather than solely reporting on their various achievements I will run the rule over where I expect the most promising players to be found next season.

 

Gabriel AppeltImage

 

The young Brazilian regista has enjoyed a solid season at the heart of the Pro Vercelli midfield. Two assists and a solitary goal may not appear impressive, yet he is naturally a defensive player and the fact that he has started twenty games in a position of great importance to any team is both worthy of praise and encouraging. Add into consideration the hairline fracture suffered in November, which kept him out of the starting line-up until the beginning of March and our cause for satisfaction gains weight and momentum.  With 5 games left to play, Pro Vercelli are 9 points away from any chance of survival. 

 

Season Rating – 7/10. Somewhat stunted by the injury issues, Gabriel has maintained the regista position whenever fit. A good showing for his first truly competitive outing in Italian football.

 

Where will he be next season?

 

The 19 year old will most likely be farmed out to another Serie B club, if not used in a co-ownership arrangement with a Serie A club. Of all the players owned by Juventus, there is a dearth of those who can play in the Pirlo role; sit in front of the defence, dictate the tempo of the game, offer a screen to the defence and act as a pivot for the team as a whole. Gabriel fits that mould.

 

Nicola LealiImage

 

Signed from Brescia last Summer for $3.8m the explosive goalkeeper was loaned to Serie B newcomers, Virtus Lanciano. Making his 32nd start of the season in his side’s 1-1 draw with Ternana last weekend, Nicola’s star has continued to shine too brightly to ignore. Credit is due to the shot-stopper, who only recently turned 20, for playing a prominent role in consolidating Lanciano’s position in the second tier. Outstanding performances, incredible reflexes, berserker bravery and a tendency to roar from between the sticks, organize his defence with a rage and ferocity loosely reminiscent of the Great Dane, Peter Schmeichel.

 

There have been some blunders, as must be expected of one so young and inexperienced, but the results of wonderfully high standard of natural talent put to very busy use, make this season one of great achievement for Nicola. Having broken into the Italy U21 set-up and owned the starting jersey at Lanciano, the future looks superb for the 20 year old.

 

Season Rating  – 9/10. Regularly astonishing.

 

Where will he be next season?

 

This kid is a phenomenon in the making. Its rare that I see a player at 20 years of age who already appears capable of denying an opposition single-handedly. Buffon does it now and then. Schmeichel used to do it often. Brad Friedel is the most modern example I can call to mind of goliaths between the sticks who on occasion, simply refuse to be beaten…It was a stroke of genius placing him at Lanciano, where he had a good chance of making the first team and would surely be bombarded with shots, game after game. He has stood up to the task like a Spartan.

 

The double save from the penalty against Reggina is one of many highlights of a campaign which more than confirms his talent at Serie B level and must surely push him into the welcome embrace of a Serie A team. …take a peek here>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcifgguRhKQ

 

It seems a shame to even consider a co-ownership, but it may be the surest way of seeing him play in Serie A next term. A loan would be ideal. He has more than earned an opportunity to fight for a starting jersey at Serie A level.

 

Alberto MasiImage

 

The elegant defender signed from Pro Vercelli last Summer, impressed in our pre-season showboating until finding himself back at Vercelli on loan for the start of their ill-fated Serie B journey.  A regular star performer for the team he helped gain promotion in the 11/12 season, he hit the ground running, doing what he could to stem the vicious tide threatening to drown his team from the off! As with Appelt and Buoy (who I will mention in my next What Next? routine) Alberto’s season has been staggered due to injury. Spending most of December in the sick ward, the centre-back only featured once more for Vercelli before been transferred to mid-table Ternana in January. By the start of March he was fit and firing his way into the first XI.

 

In the 7 consecutive games he has played for Ternana from the first whistle, they have managed 6 clean sheets. His presence has been well and truly felt.

 

His side lie 6 points from the excitement of the play-offs. If Alberto stays fit, they may well find themselves in the end of season knockout mix.

 

Season Rating – 7.5

 

Where will he be next season?

 

If Ternana were to go up, why not leave him there? Failing which, another season in Serie B isn’t going to do his development any harm. At 20 years old, with an increasingly solid looking first season in the second tier under his belt, a few appearances at Italy U20 level to be pleased with, Alberto could happily maintain his progress as it presently stands and perhaps do enough to earn a move to a Serie A club in the 13/14 season. Not many 20 year old defenders get a chance at a top club. Bonucci was 21 when first truly making his name as a player of serious potential with Bari.

 

I will cover Boakye and our representatives in Serie A in the next chapter of Most Promising Juve Youngsters. For now, with a shiny piece of silverware still warm from the hands of our primavera hotshots, it seems a perfect juncture to redirect the spotlight onto several players from our own U19 outfit…

 

Two factors come into play when pondering the potential moves of the members of our primavera squad next season. Firstly, there is talent. If a player is excelling constantly, forcing his name on the team sheet to first choice in his role, then his chances of swiftly finding a loan/ co-own club are increased dramatically. As technically sound as our youth coaching may be. As influential as it could prove to be training at Vinovo, rubbing shoulders with a senior squad who are fast becoming the dominant force in Italy…Primavera experience ranks below first team exposure at Serie B level.

 

Our primavera squad is huge. 36 players have turned out for them so far this season. The competition is great but there is also the clear need to move players on to more competitive pastures as soon as seems reasonable to roll that dice.

 

The other factor is age.

 

Magnusson, Schiavone, Beltrame and Pepic are already 20. With Branescu, Untersee, Ruggiero, Kabashi, Padovan, Leo Bonatini, Padovan and Lanini 19. I expect them all to move on this summer, to make way for the next generation as much as to test themselves in more brutal wars.

 

Stefano PadovanoImage

 

16 goals in 16 primavera league matches. Comparably potent efforts in the Nextgen and primavera coppa winning tournament, Stefano has been in brilliant form. His height and physique make him ideal in the target man role and it will be very interesting to see how he fares once put against bigger, stronger men. That’s the next step. And with the goals flying in with alarming consistency this season, he won’t be short of suitors come May.

 

Season Rating – 9/10.

 

Where will he be next season?

 

I’d love to say Serie A, but looking at how our slightly older, more established youth prospects have been forced towards Genoa and Bologna in order to fight for first team action, its more reasonable to expect a chance for Stefano to blossom at a mid-table Serie B side.  

 

Andrea Schiavone

 

The defensive midfielder cum Captain has been a rock of consistency in the team’s charge towards primavera coppa victory and 1st place in the league along with qualification for the knockout stages with 3 games to spare. Part of the Italy U20 set-up and soon to find himself ineligible for the U19s, Andrea must move on. Calm in possession, tenacious in the tackle. Never likely to smash one in from 30 yards but reads the game well and screens the defence with admirable zeal.

 

Season Rating – 7/10

 

Where will he be next season?

Hopefully a mid-table Serie B team. 

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