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Future stars shine as Barcelona pip AC Milan to the Memorial Scirea crown

Future stars shine as Barcelona pip AC Milan to the Memorial Scirea crown

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The Blaugrana left it late to clinch the prestigious youth title, but they overcame some talented sides whilst showing a glimpse of the club's future

SPECIAL
By Kris Voakes in Cinisello Balsamo

With penalties awarded to either side, thrilling skills enthralling the crowds, and a last-kick winner, the Memorial Scirea final between Barcelona and AC Milan bore all the hallmarks of a Champions League decider. But while these were players from the Under-14 category fighting it out, rather than Xavi, Lionel Messi, Robinho and Alexandre Pato, there were a whole host of stars on show who could well become just as well known to football fans in years to come.

The 23rd edition of the competition, played to commemorate the legendary former Juventus and Italy defender Gaetano Scirea, was as surprising, captivating and absorbing as any of the previous versions. Holders Inter were eliminated by Novara in the first group phase, while Juve slipped by the wayside after successive defeats in the second stage.

Barca's 3-2 victory over the Rossoneri in the final crowned a great run by the guest entrants, which saw them win all six of their fixtures over the 11 days of the tournament in Lombardy, including victories against Atalanta, Juventus and the Hungarian national side. But while the Blaugrana took home the trophy, the plaudits could be shared by many participants, and there were a number of players that stood out among the star-studded pack.

And, with big names such as Thiago Alcantara, Nigel De Jong, Sebastian Giovinco, Claudio Marchisio, Andrea Pirlo, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart having all previously graced the same stage, a star turn in the Scirea puts youngsters among exalted company.

Below, Goal.com takes a glimpse at some of the players you may well hear much more about in the future.

PATRICK CUTRONE
AC MILAN
FACTFILE
FULL NAME
POSITION
D.O.B.
NATIONALITY

A BIT LIKE...
PATRICK CUTRONE
CENTRE FORWARD
03.01.1998
ITALY

CHRISTIAN VIERI

Cutrone finished as joint-top scorer in the tournament, but it wasn't really until the latter stages that he was able to truly prove his worth as an all-round centre-forward.

With Milan largely having something to spare when negotiating Varese, Pavia and Novara, there was little occasion for a striker chasing down every ball, working hard to win back possession, going pound for pound with tough defenders and showing a knack for making his own chances. Yet in the semi-final against Atalanta and then the final against Barcelona he did exactly that.

He was clinical too, snatching an injury-time winner in the semi before grabbing both of his side's goals against Barca, gaining fair reward for his superb work-rate, desire and footballing brain in the last third.

BRAIMA FATI
BARCELONA
FACTFILE
FULL NAME
POSITION
D.O.B.
NATIONALITY

A BIT LIKE...
BRAIMA FATI
MIDFIELDER
03.08.1998
GUINEA BISSAU

ANDRES INIESTA

While Fati did not have the most convincing of games in the final, this was perhaps in part due to his magnificent form earlier in the tournament.

Milan regularly closed him down at the drop of a hat, with multiple markers employed to knock Barca's best midfielder off his stride. If a 14-year-old can have a reputation, then his clearly preceded him.

On the way to the final, he left opponents chasing aimlessly as his magnificent footwork, use of the body and eye for a pass meant he very rarely lost the ball and would regularly stretch defences with clever passes. He also proved a real danger when driving forward in the left channel in the same kind of energetic style which made him a key feature of the Blaugrana's eventual triumph.

SEUNGWOO LEE
BARCELONA
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FULL NAME
POSITION
D.O.B.
NATIONALITY

A BIT LIKE...
SEUNGWOO LEE
CENTRE FORWARD
06.01.1998
SOUTH KOREA

SAMUEL ETO'O

Think of the Samuel Eto'o of Barcelona and the Samuel Eto'o of his Inter days rolled into one. That knack for goals in almost any situation around the 18-yard box combined with the ability to play deeper, have a real influence on the building of attacks, and get involved in the rough and tumble. That is what Barcelona potentially have in Lee.

The false nine's movement, grace and sense of responsibility come right out of the top drawer, and he has the cocky arrogance that many great centre-forwards of the past have also exhibited. He also belies his lack of stature with a superb leap which can embarrass much taller defenders, and showed superb composure in netting the injury-time winner which handed the title to the Blaugrana.

As Asia begins to really make a mark at the top of the European game, it is a great boost to the continent that its best youngsters are also getting a look-in at the top clubs, and Lee's knack for goals which saw him finish as joint-top scorer is just the start of his list of attributes, as was evidenced by his being awarded the prestigious Player of the Tournament crown.

NICOLA LUCHE
ATALANTA
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FULL NAME
POSITION
D.O.B.
NATIONALITY

A BIT LIKE...
NICOLA LUCHE
RIGHT WINGER
28.04.1998
ITALY

ANGELO DI LIVIO

Luche may well eventually fall into the category of players discarded by top clubs for his lack of stature, but there is still hope that he could have a growth spurt in the years to come.

Height is about the only thing missing from Luche's list of attributes, with his willingness to get involved in the hard work down the right side making him a key asset.

But it is his pace and drive down the wing which made him a real stand-out for Atalanta, and he managed to make Juve left-back Andrea Granzotto, who until then had had a good tournament, look foolish in the least when starring in the Orobici's 4-0 second stage win. If Angelo Di Livio had Shaun Wright-Phillips' pace ...

LUCA MILANESI
BRESCIA
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FULL NAME
POSITION
D.O.B.
NATIONALITY

A BIT LIKE...
LUCA MILANESI
CENTRE FORWARD
21.02.1998
ITALY

GERMAN DENIS

Workhorse strikers don't make it to the top by accident, and Milanesi's exemplary work-rate and excellent feet suggest that he could well become a more than useful Serie A striker in the years to come.

His enthusiasm for the hard part of a centre forward's job was unparalleled during the tournament. Despite playing for one of the unfancied clubs, he was one of the truest competitors on display and also showed deceptively good ball control.

He never stopped running, and showed a great instinct for asking the kind of questions that defenders hate to be asked, with some fantastic runs both in the aim of getting on the end of a ball from midfield and also to play the role of decoy. At a time when most young forwards want to emulate the Lionel Messis and Cristiano Ronaldos of the world, it was Milanesi's thirst for the other side of the business that helped Brescia finish third in the tournament.

MIHAEL MODIC
AC MILAN
FACTFILE
FULL NAME
POSITION
D.O.B.
NATIONALITY

A BIT LIKE...
MIHAEL "MICO" MODIC
WINGER
14.01.1998
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

RYAN GIGGS

Brought over from his homeland along with older brother Andrej, it is Mihael who is said to have been the prize capture of the two in the minds of Milan's scouts. And on the form he showed during the Scirea, there is little wonder.

His blistering pace over a short run caught out countless defenders as Milan blasted their way into the later stages, with several Rossoneri goals being carved out from his position on the right. In their opening game against Varese, Modic took six corners, and Milan converted four of them in a 7-0 win.

When Atalanta had seemingly got the measure of him in the semi-final it simply prompted a switch to his more natural left for the final against Barcelona, and from there he continued to show a magnificent grace on the ball while working his way out of many a tight spot with sublime ball control and sheer confidence. Had Cutrone not been denied by a last-ditch tackle by a Barca defender, Modic would also have chalked up the assist of the tournament with an inch-perfect throughball that turned two opponents inside out.

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