The 10 Best Youngsters In Serie A
Who would have thought in August that at the beginning of November Udinese and Napoli would be at the top of the Serie A table?
In what is thus far one of the best seasons in Italy in decades, there have been players getting attention that might normally be unknown.
However, before the season started, how many people would have known about them?
This is a list, in no particular order, of the ten best players who play club football in Italy.
Mauro Zarate, striker, Lazio
The talented 21-year-old Argentinian joined Qatari League side Al-Sadd in 2007, but was still on the outskirts of the world football radar. He joined EPL side Birmingham City during the January transfer window, making 14 appearances and scoring four times. Despite that, he still wasn't known amongst most football followers.
Having joined Lazio on loan from Al-Sadd, things may be changing. He is the second leading scorer in Serie A behind Fiorentina's Alberto Gilardino, and his performances thus far are one of the main reasons why Lazio is off to such a strong start, leading the league for much of the early goings.
Alexandre Pato, striker, AC Milan
One of the most hyped signings in years, Pato has certainly done nothing to diminish his high rating and €22 million price tag.
He scored in his Milan debut against Napoli back in January, and although the signings of more experienced players (Ronaldinho, Andriy Shevchenko) by the Milan board, Pato is certainly the future of the club.
Despite being 19, he is already a regular in the Brazil national team and was a member of the bronze medal team at the Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Sebastian Giovinco, midfielder, Juventus
The crown jewel of Juventus' youth system for some time, Giovinco has dominated every level both domestically and internationally.
After impressing during his loan spell last season at Empoli, Giovinco returned to his hometown club with sky-high expectations. Although many Juve fans feel like his loan spell wasn't even needed, Giovinco will be the first to tell you that it was the right decision.
And although playing time has been tough to come by so far this season, the "Atomic Ant" has certainly a bright future ahead of him. You certainly have to be good to be compared to Leo Messi.
Claudio Marchisio, midfielder, Juventus
After being a standout throughout the Juve youth ranks, Marchisio made his mark during the Bianconeri's one-year spell in Serie B in 2006/07. His performances earned him a call to Italy Under-21 side, where he has been one of the most consistent performers ever since.
Marchisio spent last season on loan at Empoli with fellow Juve youth product Giovinco, and while the diminutive other got most of the headlines the 22-year-old midfielder went somewhat under the radar, making 26 appearances.
After the season, Marchisio was recalled back to Turin despite concerns that first-team football might be hard to come by, considering who was ahead of him in the Juve midfielder pecking order.
With the help of some injuries, Marchisio has gotten his chance, becoming one of manager Claudio Ranieri's most consistent center midfielders.
Mario Balotelli, striker, Inter Milan
Born to Ghanaian parents in Italy, Balotelli is quite the story. He burst onto the scene last season when Roberto Mancini was at the helm of the Italian champions.
When Jose Mourinho took over at Inter, Balotelli was supposed to be one of the players to blossom under his 4-3-3 system. However, it hasn't really gone so well as planned. Playing time has been hard to come of lately and rumors have that Balotelli wants out, but who really knows what is going on. One day he wants a transfer and the next day he is starting, so maybe those rumors are just the Italian media trying to start some drama.
There is one thing that is certain and it's his talent. He is only 18 and the sky is the limit. He scored in his first game with the Italian U-21 and has formed quite the partnership with Sebastian Giovinco with the Azzurrini.
Marek Hamšík, midfielder, Napoli
Before it is all said and done, the 21-year-old Slovak might be one of Napoli chairman Aurelio De Laurentiis' best signings, having nabbed the talented midfielder from Serie B side Brescia for only €5.5 million before the 2007/08 campaign.
Hamšík finished his first season in Naples as the team's leading scorer, finding the net nine times in 36 games. His efforts last season have drawn interest from some of Europe's top sides, but De Laurentiis has stated on more than one occasion that he has no reason to sell his talented midfielder.
Ezequiel Lavezzi, striker, Napoli
Along with the man above him on this list, Lavezzi is one of the main reasons why Napoli is atop the Serie A table at this point of the season.
Lavezzi joined Napoli in 2007 after they were promoted with Juventus back to Serie A. Ever since he has donned the sky blue, he has done nothing more than be sensational. Because of his efforts, he has been compared to another former Argentine who played for Napoli, Diego Maradona.
He was also a part of Argentina's gold medal team in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Fabiano Santacroce, defender, Napoli
Another Napoli player hits the list as Santacroce is maybe one of the best Italian defensive prospects for quite some time. Although he was the born in Brazil, his father is Italian, which allows him to play for the Azzurri.
Santacroce, who was a teammate of Hamšík at Brescia, moved to Napoli during the same summer transfer period as the Slovak midfielder. After a successful opening campaign in Naples, Santacroce was drawing comparisons to current AC Milan and former Italian international defender Alessandro Nesta.
The 22-year-old center back, who can also play on either wing, earned his first call-up to the Italian senior squad for 2010 World Cup Qualifiers against Bulgaria and Montenegro.
Alexis Sanchez, midfielder, Udinese
One of the youngest players in the Udinese side, the 19-year-old Sanchez is emerging as one of Serie A's hottest prospects after having a breakout campaign so far this year.
Want to know how good this Sanchez guy is? It was rumored that if Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United to go to Real Madrid this summer, the Red Devils would have swooped for the Chilean winger. However, the Zebrette were quick to knock down those rumors, stating that they have no plans to part with Sanchez any time soon.
Gianluca Curci, goalkeeper, Siena
Called the next great Italian goalkeeper when he made his debut with Roma at the age of 19, Curci has always had tons of talent, but limited opportunities at the club level. Even though he was the regular between the pipes for the Italy U-21 team, Curci never broke through for regular time in the nation's capitol.
Curci joined Siena this summer on a co-ownership deal and has been the first choice keeper there since he arrived.
Even though he is blocked on the national level by Gianluigi Buffon and Marco Amelia, Curci is still just 23 and still growing as a goalkeeper.
Do you agree or disagree? Feel free to add your thoughts on who you think should be included on this list.
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