6 Hottest AS Roma Youth Prospects
Roma have always been synonymous with developing young talent, and from Agostino Di Bartolomei and Bruno Conti to Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti, there's almost always been a core element of homegrown talent at the Olimpico.
It isn't just the famed youth academy at Trigoria that's known for producing the goods either, and a string of Serie A stars have got their big breaks by signing for the Giallorossi at a young age.
Now, manager Rudi Garcia has a squad full of young talent, and even established starters like Alessandro Florenzi, Mattia Destro, Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman and Miralem Pjanic are all only in their early or mid-20s.
Right behind those first-team regulars, there's also a host of even fresher talent, all eager for their chance to shine at a club that should not only be challenging for domestic honours this season, but also turning some heads in the Champions League, too.
When Zdenek Zeman added Alessio Romagnoli to his roster in 2012, there was plenty of excitement and perhaps also a little bit of surprise. He was just 17 at the time, and defenders rarely feature in Serie A at such a tender age.
The Roman didn't disappoint, however, doing far more than just making up squad numbers. His debut goal against Genoa sent the Roma faithful into raptures, because it was clear that Zeman, who'd been so influential in Francesco Totti's early career, had introduced them to another player with the talent and the personality to become the latest in a line of iconic homegrown players for the club.
Romagnoli's development has continued under Rudi Garcia, and last season he made 11 appearances in the centre and as a full-back for the French coach.
The Giallorossi have made some impressive moves in the transfer market of late, but the 19-year-old remains part of their long-term plans, with the club tying the youngster to the club with a contract until 2018. Romagnoli's still far from the finished product, but he's currently one of the most interesting prospects in Italian football. If he continues developing at his current pace, it won't be long before he's a regular not just in a Roma shirt, but with the Azzurri as well.
Juan Iturbe's a new arrival at Roma, but after a stunning season with Verona, the Argentine merits inclusion here because he's currently one of the hottest prospects in Italian—and possibly European—football.
Last year, Garcia actually highlighted the 21-year-old as a target, telling the Corriere dello Sport, "Iturbe is a quality player and in the future we’ll need a left-footer up front. He’s one of the players we’re watching. He could arrive at the end of the season."
The Giallorossi weren't the only club who wanted Iturbe—I've written in the past about interest from Juventus and why he was worth a big-money move—who many believe can be the next big thing. The left-footed wide forward is known for his pace, his dribbling ability and his shooting prowess.
With eight goals in 33 games for Verona last term, he's proven that he's already got what it takes to be a success in Serie A, but should only get better with Roma, a club that has an enviable track-record in getting the best out of young talent.
Iturbe should also be an instant hit with the Curva Sud, because last season he scored twice against rivals Lazio.
Adem Ljajic is just 22, which seems hard to believe because we've been talking about him as a future star for so long.
Since bursting onto the scene in 2008, with Partizan back in his native Serbia, Ljajic has gone on to impress at Fiorentina before moving to the the capital last summer.
Ljajic is best in a central role, but he can comfortably operate out wide and has been used in a variety of positions at Roma. That versatility might be holding him back somewhat, but his intelligence, speed and dribbling ability is unquestionable. If Garcia can find a definite position that works best for the player, there's no telling just how good he could be if given the playing time and the confidence in his own abilities that he needs to develop.
Iturbe's arrival in Rome might put the Serbian under some pressure, but his agent recently told the Gazzetta dello Sport (here in English via Sky Sports) that the player would definitely remain at the Giallorossi despite interest from AC Milan, Liverpool, Manchester United and Schalke.
With a push for the league title and Champions League football on the cards, Garcia will want as many attacking options as possible. And it's worth noting that despite not always being happy with his supporting role, Ljajic was among the most influential youth players in the league last term according to Squawka.com, just behind Mateo Kovacic and Paul Pogba.
Federico Viviani has been with Roma since 2007, but the 20-year-old is originally from Lecco, a small city in Lombardy, more than 600km north of the Italian capital.
The son of a former Lazio forward, Viviani is a regular in midfield for Luigi Di Biagio's U-21 Italy side, which also features the likes of Domenico Berardi, Stephan El Shaarawy, Mattia Di Sciglio and his Roma teammate, Alessio Romagnoli. He was also brought to a senior training camp earlier this year by Cesare Prandelli.
At club level, Luis Enrique gave him his senior start for the Giallorossi in 2011, but he has since been gaining experience in Serie B with Padova, Pescara and Latina. With the Roma youth team, he won the 2010-11 Campionato Primavera and the 2011-12 Coppa Italia Primavera.
Several papers, including the Express, are reporting that Leeds are interested in bringing the young midfielder to England, but there will be plenty of fans in Rome hoping that after being such an integral part of the youth setup for so long, Viviani can get a chance to impress with the senior squad.
Links to those two clubs alone is usually enough to suggest that a young player is an exciting talent, and the fact that he chose Roma over staying at the Camp Nou or moving to London suggests that behind the scenes, the Lupi are doing plenty to attract and develop tomorrow's stars.
Sanabria is just 18, but he's already been capped at senior level by Paraguay and has left Barca in search of regular first-team football. Whether Garcia can promise him that at Roma, or he'll leave the capital on loan to gain experience first, is still unclear but he's definitely one to watch.
Before the arrival of Morgan De Sanctis, Roma had been struggling to find a reliable goalkeeper for far too long. Maarten Stekelenburg had come the season before with a big reputation but didn't really settle in the Eternal City, and in the end he was little better than the likes of Doni and Julio Sergio who'd gone before him.
Targeted as a long-term solution, Tomas Svedkauskas was signed from FK Suduva in Lithuania when he was just 18—and he is tipped to make a big impression on Serie A in the coming years.
De Sanctis has been reborn since leaving Napoli for Roma, and based on last season's form he looks like he could comfortably hold on to his starting spot for another couple of seasons—even though he's 37. During that time, everyone at the club will be hoping that Svedkauskas can develop, fulfil his potential and be ready to deliver when the time comes.
Who else do you look forward to seeing develop at Roma? Let Colin O'Brien know on twitter