Serie A has no shortage of young talent, but at Football Index Chloe Beresford has broken down five of the best players of 21 and under, all of whom are setting the league alight this season.
Federico Chiesa – Fiorentina (£3.39, here)
Federico Chiesa is constantly linked with a move to one of Europe’s giants, due to a mixture of sheer talent and his famous father. Enrico Chiesa played as a striker for the likes of Fiorentina, Lazio, Parma and the Italian national team, and his son – although a winger – is following in his footsteps.
The 20-year-old leads the league in terms of number of dribbles (2.6 on average), and his sublime technical ability alongside his pace allows him to beat defenders with ease. Chiesa has developed rapidly under the tutelage of Stefano Pioli at Fiorentina, however he has a way to go yet in terms of his decision making. Still, his displays have earned him a regular place in the Italy starting XI since boss Roberto Mancini handed him his first call-up back in March.
Nicolò Barella – Cagliari (£2.59, here)
Another player to have recently made his Italy debut is 21-year-old Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella. The youngster impressed during a 1-1 draw with Ukraine during the October international break, and reports suggest that clubs both home and abroad are interested in capturing his signature.
Liverpool, along with both Inter and AC Milan have been suggested as interested parties, undoubtedly drawn to his range of passing, energy and ability to play anywhere across the central area of the pitch. With seven goals in 42 Serie A appearances since the beginning of last term, it is already easy to see why he is so heavily desired.
“Cagliari received offers and turned them down,” Barella admitted back in September to La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I am happy to have remained with the club I support. If I had to choose between Serie A and the Premier League, I’d go for England, because I like the way they approach the game. Plus everyone there is just as irritable and prone to fouls as me!”
Cengiz Ünder – AS Roma (£2.70, here)
Moving from Turkish Super Lig side Başakşehir in summer 2017, Cengiz Ünder has quickly adapted to life in Italy with AS Roma, quickly becoming an important member of Eusebio Di Francesco’s starting XI. This term, the 21-year-old attacker has weighed in two goals and three assists in seven starts in all competitions, proving his worth in both the Champions League and domestic action.
Of course, such fine displays have not gone unnoticed, with Bayern Munich and Tottenham both said to be interested in capturing his signature in the forthcoming transfer window. For now though, it seems like Ünder is settled in the Eternal City. “I’ve got used to Italy and I like it, I love the fans and city,” he told A Spor. “We’re trying to improve so we can have a great season. I feel good right now and everything is going well.”
Nikola Milenkovic – Fiorentina (£2.08, here)
A shy and somewhat nervy defender arrived at Fiorentina last summer, the Serbian thrust into the side prematurely following the death of Captain Davide Astori. Such a shocking and unexpected event would’ve broken some young players, but Milenkovic rose to the challenge, playing at right-back for the Viola and in the heart of the defence for the Serbian national team at last summer’s World Cup.
Calm, assured, and already resembling a competent defender much older than his 21 years, Milenkovic is reportedly top of Jose Mourinho’s January list at Manchester United. Yet Fiorentina will be keen to hang on to such a dependable member of their backline, at least for as long as they possibly can.
Rodrigo Bentancur – Juventus (£1.77, here)
After a superb debut campaign with Juventus following his transfer from Boca Juniors, Rodrigo Bentancur is another player to show maturity beyond his 21 years. Playing in the Champions League as well as featuring for Uruguay during the World Cup did not phase him, his composure one of his greatest assets as he has made himself a contender for a place in a side that has won the last seven consecutive domestic trophies.
This term, the former Boca man has improved even further, his goal and overall display versus Udinese before the International Break drawing praise from Bianconeri Coach Max Allegri. “Rodrigo Bentancur impressed me in midfield,” the tactician revealed following the aforementioned victory. “Both from a tactical and technical perspective, then he obviously scored the goal as well.”
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