Juventus' Moise Kean: The Youth-Team Star Ready for First-Team Action

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistOctober 11, 2016

MANZANO, ITALY - FEBRUARY 16:  Bioty Moise Kean of Italy U17 celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the international friendly match between Italy U17 and Serbia U17 at Stadio Comunale  on February 16, 2016 in Manzano, Italy.  (Photo by Dino Panato/Getty Images)
Dino Panato/Getty Images

“Moise Kean is the name to watch in 2017, and I’m not just saying that because I’m his agent,” Mino Raiola told the Corriere dello Sport (h/t Football Italia) last week. “He is only 16 years old, but has this determination within him that is just scary. He can become a big star at Juventus.”

The player’s representative is clearly not the best barometer of talent, with Raiola using that same interview to say another client, Mario Balotelli, is “among the best four forwards in the world.”

Yet his comments on Kean—a 16-year-old in the Bianconeri youth sector—are not only accurate, they are something of a warning to the Turin club who have risked losing the striker before he even turns professional.

Mino Raiola believes Kean will be a star.
Mino Raiola believes Kean will be a star.MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

Indeed, with the player yet to sign a contract, he could leave for minimal compensation in much the same way as Juve signed Paul Pogba from Manchester United back in 2012. Reports in both Italy and England have linked Arsenal and Manchester City with Kean, per TalkSport, but he is expected to sign a three-year deal with the Bianconeri soon.

That bodes well for the Old Lady given his progression over the past 12 months. But before going on to discuss the latest talented starlet to emerge from her extensive scouting network and youth-development programmes, perhaps it is worth recapping the full list of players who have graduated from it and gone on to secure a regular place in the Bianconeri first team.

  1. Claudio Marchisio.

That’s it. One player. A couple of others—including Paolo De Ceglie and Luca Marrone—have made fleeting and ultimately disappointing appearances, but for all the talk of improving that aspect of the club, Juventus have yet to reap the rewards, as many of their youngsters prove to be far below the standard required at a top European club.

In one of his first interviews with the Juventus Channel (h/t Football Italia), director general Beppe Marotta promised “to create a Juve in the style of Barcelona.” Yet perhaps most tellingly, he also noted that while it takes “instinct to find the most promising players,” it would also require “courage to give them a debut in the first team.”

The Bianconeri have yet to show any such bravery, instead farming out their players on loan while bringing in new members of the first-team squad at a rapid rate. As discussed in this previous post, young right-back Pol Lirola—who is thriving at Sassuolo—could break that cycle, but Kean may well surpass the Spanish defender this term.

Marko Pjaca’s recent injury means coach Massimiliano Allegri has only Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Mario Mandzukic to call upon in attack, although Juan Cuadrado may also fill in sporadically.

Marko Pjaca (left) was recently ruled out with a shin problem.
Marko Pjaca (left) was recently ruled out with a shin problem.Darko Bandic/Associated Press

As a result, the Calciomercato website (link in Italian) was among many to suggest Allegri would bring Kean into his squad after the current international break, a move that may well lead to yet more transfer speculation.

It is easy to see why. Born just outside of Turin in nearby Vercelli, the striker has not only continually played above his age group, he has also scored goals at an incredible rate no matter the opposition.

Even in isolation without ever seeing a minute of him play, the numbers laid out in the table below are staggering, and it bears repeating that Kean only turned 16 in February this year.

Adam Digby

Those figures mean that in the 57 matches he has played since the start of the 2014/15 campaign, Kean has scored a frankly ridiculous 56 goals. Last season, he played 1,890 minutes in all competitions for the Bianconeri, meaning he found the back of the net once every 75 minutes.

It is even more remarkable given that the sample size is taken over 30 matches, each of which was played against much older opponents, but the youngster boasts a stunning blend of pace and power while already being far more physical than those around him.

He has usually played in a central attacking role and led the line, something his 6'0" (1.82 metre) stature makes him suited to. The player told La Gazzetta dello Sport (link in Italian) back in January that his biggest strengths are his pace, aerial ability and shooting accuracy, which also allow for some tactical flexibility.

With the Italy under-17s, he has also lined up on the left flank of a 4-3-3, a position Juve Primavera coach Fabio Grosso has sometimes also deployed him in to great effect, with full-backs unable to cope with Kean’s powerful running in wide areas.

The phrase “man against boys” is often overused, but watching Kean in videos like the one above is to see that analysis incarnate, the 16-year-old bullying defenders who stand between him and the goal.

He does a fine job of holding up the ball if he finds his route blocked, while his seemingly limitless energy allows him to press and harass defenders whenever Juve lose possession, much to the delight of regular observers and the Juve coaching staff.

“Moise Kean is a huge talent, I saw him for the first time when he played in the under-15s with coach Claudio Gabetta and it was clear that he was a predestined for greatness,” JTV and Goal.com’s Romeo Agresti told Bleacher Report. “He's one of the best players born after 2000 in all of Europe and has so many positive skills.”

Yet there is also a clear feeling that, despite being so gifted, Kean still has much to learn. “Of course he needs to improve to become an important player in the future,” Agresti continued. “He started very well this season, and I think that Fabio Grosso is the best coach possible for him to improve as player and as a man. But he's amazing, and I'm sure that he'll play at high levels.”

That seems to be the general consensus, whether speaking to Juventus fans, reporters who follow the team or even Raiola, but perhaps the bigger question is whether or not he will do so in Turin.

Arturo Vidal, Kingsley Coman and Pogba all opted to move on, while Alvaro Morata was always destined to return to Real Madrid. It would be a huge step for Juventus if Kean not only turns out to be a star, but that he follows Marchisio’s lead and does so in those famous black and white stripes.

That aforementioned lack of developed talent is becoming an issue, particularly as UEFA continues to impose its quota system on Champions League squads. The Bianconeri need to begin to mirror Europe’s other top clubs in bringing youngsters into the first team from their own academy, and Kean would be a great place to start.

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