Seeing a young Roberto Baggio, Ronaldinho, or Fabregas is always exciting, but noticing young players which in 5 years can become one of the world’s best is rare. With Serie A’s relative downfall compared to other European leagues, it’s time to find some new stars, starting from these eight prospects:
1. Phillippe Coutinho (Inter Milan)
While he looks a lot like AC Milan’s Brazilian wonderboy, Alexandre Pato, Coutinho is a different type of player, very similar to Ronaldinho. The young Brazilian has already scored for Inter in a friendly against Panathinaikos, a stupendous volley with his left foot. He can play in a variety of offensive positions: while his best would be behind the strikers as a number 10, he can also play as a second striker or start from the left wing and cut inside, like Ronaldinho used to do in his Barcelona days. Coutinho loves the acceleration of pace and isn’t afraid to shoot, and with already a very advanced tactical sense at 18 years-old, Coutinho will replace Sneijder in the future to then one day play for Brazil in the 2014 World Cup.
2. Davide Lanzafame (Juventus)
With Juve’s bad performance last season, the club has decided to rely on more Italian youth, and Davide Lanzafame has earned himself a spot in the starting 11 coming from Parma. He’s also played for Bari and Palermo at just 23 years-old, and his friends nicknamed him “Lanciafiamme”, which means flamethrower in Italian. Lanzafame is a winger, often playing on the left side of the midfield in a 4-4-2, but he can also play on the right side with little trouble. While Juventus are looking to buy Krasic for the left wing, maybe they could stick with Lanzafame for this season.
3. Abel Hernandez (Palermo)
Hernandez has big boots to fill, now that Edinson Cavani has left Palermo for Napoli, the new Uruguayan has to help Miccoli in attack at just 19 years-old. Hernandez has already had 27 appearances in Serie A for Palermo, and the youngster has also scored 7 goals for the Sicilian team. A fast center-forward who knows how to finish in front of goal, and next to an experienced and creative player like Fabrizio Miccoli, Hernandez will be an important player for Palermo this upcoming season, and maybe for years to come.
4. Andrea Poli (Sampdoria)
Poli has a very bright future ahead of him, at just 20 years-old the young Italian is what could be described as a “Spanish” midfielder. A player with a smart tactical mind, which was inspired by Fabregas and Gerrard, both great role models for a midfielder. While he could best be described as a mix between Xavi and Iniesta, he’ll be playing behind Cassano and Pazzini, ready to provide assists and maybe score a goal or two. While he still has a long way to go, Poli has already played in Serie B for Sassuolo where he scored 5 goals in 32 appearances, and if that isn’t enough experience, he lost a U-19 European Cup final playing for Italy, not bad for a 20 year-old.
5. Franco Zuculini (Genoa)
Zuculini was a relatively unknown name among Genoa’s super-transfers which now include Schalke 04’s Rafinha (paid about 9 million Euros), but after a few friendlies for the rossoblu, the Argentinean showed his worth. Zuculini was bought from German club Hoffenheim, where he had 7 appearances and one goal, which isn’t bad for a 19 year-old. While Zuculini would be classified as a defensive midfielder, like a new Thiago Motta, the Argentinean with Italian origins loves to serpentine up the field with great dribbling ability. While he might be slightly obscured in a midfield comprised of the new signings Miguel Veloso, and Rafinha, Zuculini shouldn’t be underestimated.
6. Adem Ljajic (Fiorentina)
Fiorentina have always cultivated young talented players, and now that one of their biggest stars, Jovetic, will be out for at least 6 months after damaging his knee ligaments in practice, it’s time for young Ljajic to step up to the plate. There’s an empty spot which the 18 year-old could fill perfectly, he plays as a “trequartista”, or number 10, and he would be a perfect player to put behind Gilardino in Fiorentina’s 4-2-3-1, next to Vargas and Marchionni on the wings. Ljajic is already being compared to Baggio, they say he has the same feet and the same eyes, and the way he curls the ball into the back of the net from free kicks is certainly a wonderful sight. At just 18 years-old Ljajic could be inserted into Fiorentina’s starting 11, playing an important part in replacing Jovetic, another player who once, was a prospect like Ljajic.
7. Libor Kozak (Lazio)
Kozak is Lazio’s gem right now, having scored seven times this pre-season in friendlies, the 21 year-old is an important player for Lazio’s future. The striker from the Czech Republic is a true center-forward, strong and tall, often using his head to score goals. Libor Kozak has already played for Brescia in Serie B where he scored four goals in 26 appearances, and while he might not play that much this season, he’ll grow to be an important player for Lazio’s future.
8. Alexander Merkel (AC Milan)
A young midfielder among an aging team, Merkel is a shining light for AC Milan who need to inject some youth and pace into the team. The 18 year-old with Belorussian parents was born in Kazakhstan, but then immigrated to Germany at six years-old, letting the player choose among three national teams to play for in the future. A player who runs and works in a midfield which is slowed down thanks to old players like Gattuso, Pirlo, and Ambrosini. Merkel is the beginning of a young generation that AC Milan hopes to bring through the ranks, and one day call the winning generation.
What are your thoughts on these eight players? Who are you most excited to see this upcoming season? Share your thoughts by commenting below!