Serie A Scouting Report: The Youngsters Ready to Rise
The international break can be interpreted in two ways.
It is either a nuisance, as it stagnates the momentum that a team has achieved, or it can provide a welcome break to regroup and better prepare for the next run of games.
Furthermore young players often get an opportunity to work with the manager more closely as many of the senior players will be away with the national teams. It could be the case where the players are already seasoned first team members looking for a little extra playing time, or the coach requires extra numbers during the sessions over the break, and the best of the Primavera players are offered a chance to mix it with the first team.
During the past week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit several Serie A clubs and examine how they have been preparing during the break. Clubs with several absentees due to a high calibre of players in the squad paying their national team dues, as well as those with the usual allocation of players and an extended period of time to work on specific tactics with the group.
Here are the most interesting young players that I highlighted.
Daniele Baselli, Atalanta
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Daniele Baselli has featured sporadically for Atalanta this season, starting two matches and featuring as a substitute on two further occasions.
The 21-year-old has been compared to Andrea Pirlo and Riccardo Montolivo, two players that the Azzurrini international has stated as inspirations to the way that he tries to play the game.
With quick lateral movement and a tendency to offer angles to his team mates to continue working the football, Baselli is certainly at home when asked to perform the role of the regista.
Stefano Colantuono has even played the youngster next to Luca Cigarini—a player of a similar ilk—pushing La Dea to use a doble cinco at the heart of their midfield.
Baselli rose to the occasion against top class opposition such as Napoli and Fiorentina and while his passing was neat and tidy, he was also able to push forward with the safety of Cigarini, Carlos Carmona and Giulio Migliaccio tucked in behind him.
The latter two will be players that Baselli will compete for a start against, and the faith that Colantuono has shown in the former Cittadella starlet suggest that he has a good chance to establish himself as a regular starter later in the season.
Having got a feeling of how La Dea intend to use Baselli moving forward, it appears that his excellent form in pre-season prompted the Mister to fast track him into the first team.
Performances against Lumezzane in a friendly, where Baselli found the back of the net with crisply struck long-range shot, his side's third goal, as well as the masterpiece of a free-kick in another friendly versus Udinese showed that he is already ready to play.
The character to demonstrate his bravery to step up for a dead ball piece, as well as taking aim from distance in open play lead many to believe he can eventually rise to become an Azzurri international and a key player for one of the leading Serie A sides.
Ryder Matos, Fiorentina
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A player who will be little known to the majority of European football fans, but behind the scenes at Fiorentina, Ryder Matos is receiving rave reviews.
A handful of appearances this season, forced through injuries to the majority of the Viola's attack, have put Matos into the limelight.
In fact, Matos may be one of few players in the history of the game to make his professional debut and score with his first touch of the football, after the Brazilian came on as a substitute in a 3-0 victory against Pacos Ferreira.
Staff at the Stadio Artemio Franchi are becoming excited by the potential of the former Bahia attacker and they hope to tie the 20-year-old down to a long-term contract in the very near future.
After Giuseppe Rossi and Mario Gomez, both of whom have missed chunks of the season already through injuries, Matos is actually considered on par with or superior to the more experienced Oleksandr Iakovenko, who arrived from Anderlecht in the summer, as well as the other young striker Ante Rebic, who cost a sizable transfer free in joining from Split towards the end of the summer window.
Matos is more comparable to Rossi than Gomez and is adept at dropping into the hole and linking with the midfield.
In the limited action I have seen of him on the pitch and in training, perhaps the player's greatest asset is the way in which he times his run into the penalty area.
This was apparent against the Portuguese outfit in the Europa League, as Matos was able to react quickest to a launched pass by Gonzalo Rodriguez and offer a willing runner into the box when the Viola manage to push the ball into the wide areas.
Vincenzo Montella will welcome the return of Rossi, but Gomez remains out for a little longer, which could lead to more minutes for one of the jewels in Italian football to shine.
Adrian Ricardo Centurion, Genoa
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Adrian Ricardo Centurion, sometimes referred to as Ricky, is perhaps the player who will take longest to break out in Italian football, but his talent is as high as the others mentioned in this piece.
But it appeared a strange move as rookie manager Fabio Liverani was intent on using a narrow 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 formation to begin his managerial career in Liguria.
The decision meant that former Gialloblu manager Gian Pier Gasperini (pictured) returned to the helm where he guided the Grifone to European football.
This could boost Centurion's chances of eventually settling into life in Italian football, as the preferred formation of Gasperini is the 3-4-3, which will allows the Agrentine under-20 international to play high up the field from the left flank. This was not possible under Liverani.
Despite not making his debut yet, Centurion was mightily impressive this week in training at the Centro Sportivo in Pegli.
Gasperini worked particularly hard on releasing the ball short from the back to his defenders and building the play through a regista—predominantly Francesco Lodi and Matuzalem.
Upon receiving possession, Gasperini likes his centre-midfielders to launch arching balls to the wide areas where Centurion consistently made darting runs to get in behind the full-backs.
A box of tricks that he is yet to fully utilise in the correct situations, Centurion is particularly dangerous in one-on-one situations, with an ability to cut inside and shoot, or drift to the by-line and drive towards goal.
Gasperini has the more experienced options of Giannis Fetfatzidis, Mario Santana and Adrian Stoian, but Centurion will be used at some point in order to assess whether he is worth keeping on a permanent basis.
Under Gasperini, Centurion has the right manager to help him develop into a fine winger that can eventually become a success in Italy.
Juan Manuel Iturbe, Hellas Verona
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Juan Manuel Iturbe is most likely to have a stand-out season and begin to prove what all the fuss has been about over the past couple of years.
Iturbe has experienced a strange career thus far. After breaking through in Paraguayan football, he faced the tough decision as to which nationality he wanted to represent in his career, with Los Guaraníes keen to secure his services, as they played a pivotal role in his footballing education.
After relations soured with the Paraguayan set-up and the player, the 20-year-old opted to pledge his future to the country where he was born, Argentina, although he is yet to represent the Albiceleste at senior level.
With a diminutive frame, Iturbe certainly fits the stereotypical enganche position.
With close control and the confidence to carry the ball over large distances, Iturbe can take the game away from the opposition when at the top of his game.
After struggling to adjust to life in Portugal, Porto decided to loan the player to River Plate, where he played more than 20 matches.
The extra game time prompted the Dragoes to move to the next stage of his development and regular football at a lesser level in Europe.
Hellas Verona is his club for this season and Andre Mandorlini has already found a role for Iturbe, who has played from the right wing, or tucked in behind Luca Toni as a number 10.
Iturbe is yet to master the Italian language, I was told, sticking with Spanish speaking Juanito Gomez and Alejandro Gonzalez in training.
But with his short shorts—cut high up in the style that Cristiano Ronaldo tends to fashion during training—and his entire right calf covered in tattoos, Iturbe was impossible to miss at the luxury training complex in Peschiera del Garda.
Quick feet and a explosive burst of speed over 10 yards were on show and evidently a key part to what makes Iturbe such an exciting prospect.
In fact, there are two other young stars who will be worth keeping an eye on at the Gialloblu this year, as Jorginho and Iturbe's countryman Ezequiel Cirigliano are further evidence to the grander ambitions of Verona, who are clearly looking to more than just surviving relegation.
If his start to life in Italian football is anything to go by, Porto will be itching to see Iturbe return to Portugal next year.