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Thursday, 15 September 2005

2303: Serie A’s Young Hopes: Five To

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by : Paul Grech

Following a summer of turmoil, the Serie A finally got underway. Everyone knows that the likes of Patrick Vieira, Kaka and Adriano will be the main attractions yet which young players will emerge over the next months to make a name for themselves? Paul Grech takes a look at five promising youngsters who could make their mark.

Alberto Aquilani (Roma)

When Alberto Aquilani was sent on a season long loan to Triestina two years ago, the then 19 year-old was expected to gain some experience in the Serie B, perhaps playing in a handful of games. No one expected such a young player to become a regular.

Yet, by the end of the season he had figured in 41 of Triestina’s matches, having imposed himself in the side quickly becoming the heartbeat of the team.

His vision and penchant for playing off the main striker inevitably led to comparisons with fan idol Francesco Totti. And, whilst it is too early for such judgments, Aquilani certainly has the talent to match the Roma captain.

When Bruno Conti - the man who has worked tirelessly to improve Roma’s youth set-up and who has already overseen the rapid progress of Daniele De Rossi – was appointed caretaker boss last season he gave Aquilani an extended run in the side. Conti has since gone back to the youth set-up but Aquilani should go on to establish himself as a regular for many years to come and perhaps the real reason why Roma don’t seem to be too bothered about losing Antonio Cassano.

Paolo Barreto (Udinese)

Udinese have a knack for discovering talented young players. Over the years they have put the likes of Abel Balbo, Marcio Amoroso and Oliver Bierhoff on the road to stardom. Last year’s historic qualification to the Champions League was also built on a similar strategy with practically the whole team being made up of players developed by the club.

Having signed in the summer, Paolo Barreto already looks set to become another success story. The 20 year-old was with Treviso in the Serie B last season where he scored 12 goals and was a primary reason behind their rise up the league.

By the time the Italian federation decided to promote Treviso to the Serie A instead of Torino and Genoa in mid-August, Barreto had already packed his bags for Udine.

Originally, the idea was for him to be the backup striker to the Iaguinta – Di Michele partnership. An injury to the latter, however, meant a change in plans. Barreto played in the first leg of their Champions League qualifier against Sporting Lisbon and earned the penalty from which Iaquinta scored the only goal of the game. Barreto then went on to score the third goal in the 3-2 2nd leg victory, his first for Udinese but undoubtedly not his last.

Gianluca Curci (Roma)

The recent injury to Gianluigi Buffon and the subsequent decision by national team boss Marcello Lippi to use Monaco’s Flavio Roma for the international friendly with Ireland alarmed many. Not only are Italians unused to the idea of anyone playing outside the Serie A being good enough for the Azzurri but Lippi’s decision also revealed the apparent dearth of quality Italian keepers.

Yet they need not worry as Roma seem to have unearthed a talent to match that of the Juventus number one. Gianluca Curci was thrown into the spotlight by his former mentor in the youth teams Bruno Conti and showed an impressive ability to cope under pressure. With the team playing badly and the defence giving him very little protection (suffice to say that they even turned to former Liverpool ‘defender’ Abel Xavier), Curci ended up getting beaten sixteen times in eleven games.

Yet a good keeper is judged by the goals that he saves and not those he concedes. In this respect, Curci showed his real class so much that Roma sent out former number one Ivan Pelizzoli on a season long loan with Reggina thereby virtually guaranteeing 20 year-old Curci his place in the side.

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