Dutch wonderkid Kluivert enduring a difficult first season at Roma

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Justin Kluivert and his father Patrick share a dream, that the 19-year-old will one day play for Barcelona.

"If you see your son following in your footsteps," the former Blaugrana striker said last year, "that's a great feeling."

Watching his son struggle in Serie A, though, has been less enjoyable, and brought up a lot of painful memories.

After all, Kluivert senior endured a similar experience himself just over 20 years ago, going down as one of the biggest flops in AC Milan's history after a dismal and solitary season at San Siro.

Back then, the 21-year-old Patrick was an even bigger star than his NxGn-winning son Justin.

He was Netherlands' new goalscoring sensation, the prodigious talent who had fired Ajax to Champions League glory in 1995, netting the only goal in a 1-0 win over Milan in Vienna at just 18.

Two years later, he was snapped up by the Rossoneri – and on a free transfer too. It looked like the bargain of the century.

Instead, he proved one of its biggest flops, with Kluivert sold to Barcelona just 12 months later after only six goals in Serie A.

Patrick, therefore, couldn't be better placed to help his son through what is proving a difficult first year at Roma, whom he joined from Ajax last summer for €17.25 million (£14.9m/$19.5m).

Justin has featured in 25 games in all competitions – as many as fellow teenage sensation Nicolo Zaniolo – but he has started only 12.

What's more, whereas Zaniolo is certain to start Wednesday's crunch Champions League last-16 second leg against Porto, Kluivert is expected to sit on the bench, where he has spent the entirety of Roma's last two Serie A games.

Justin Kluivert Roma PS

This was not what he was expecting after turning down a host of top European clubs to move to the Stadio Olimpico.

Indeed, his frustration was evident as early as September, when he made it clear, politely, that he wanted more game time.

"I want to become a starter; I have joined Roma for just that," he declared.

"My time has not yet arrived, but I have played several minutes and I'm happy. I'm also satisfied with the training sessions. Things are heading in the right direction.

"My house is almost ready and everything is going as planned.

"Everyone knew that the start in Rome would be difficult because they expect so much.

“At Ajax I was freer on the field, while here I have to play more centrally. I feel more and more comfortable, though."

Bizarrely, the longer the season has gone on, the less settled he has looked.

His first few months in Rome couldn't have gone much better. He was immediately made to feel at home by Daniele De Rossi.

"When I arrived, he was on vacation yet he immediately sent a message to welcome me," Kluivert enthused. "That motivated me. He is a phenomenon, on and off the field.

"It is an honour to be allowed to play with him. He can also speak English well, so I talk to him a lot."

After his Serie A debut, though, everybody was talking about the jet-heeled Kluivert, who had come off the bench to set up Edin Dzeko for a late winner at Torino.

Two months later, he became Roma's youngest ever Champions League goalscorer after netting in a 5-0 rout of Viktoria Plzen.

He also started Roma's final three group games but saw just a minute of action in the 2-1 first-leg win over Porto three weeks ago, having now fallen behind Stephan El Shaarawy and Zaniolo in the pecking order.

Patrick Kluivert Justin PS

It would be easy cast Kluivert’s development in an unfavourable light next to Zaniolo but it is worth remembering that not even Monchi – who shrewdly made the trequartista a part of the deal that saw Radja Nainggolan move to Inter – expected the Italian to become so important, so quickly.

His progress has been truly extraordinary.

It is not as if Kluivert has failed to show any promise in a talented but inconsistent Roma side either: there have been two goals and five assists in all competitions.

He has simply, understandably, taken time to adapt to a new league and a new country.

Of course, his father had even warned him against making the same mistake he did by leaving Ajax at such a young age.

"If you're 19 and you're going to another country, it's not easy,” Patrick stated last summer.

"I personally said to him maybe it's better to stay one more year at Ajax, to get some more miles on the clock, to be important for the team.

"But he's 19 years old. He's still young. He makes his own decisions, and as a dad, I have to stand behind all the decisions that he makes."

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As his dad, Patrick will also be there now to get him through the first big test of his fledgling career; to help him escape the feeling that he should have been in that Ajax team that dethroned Real Madrid as European champions on Tuesday night.

Patrick will be the first to point out that even though he himself failed in Italy, he still succeeded in Barcelona.

Justin seems to be listening, too. His confidence in his own ability remains unaffected: “I know that sooner or later my time will come.”
Maybe even against Porto on Wednesday night.