Fabio Miretti: Juventus wonderkid aiming to become 'The Italian De Bruyne'

Fabio Miretti NXGN GFXGOAL

Italian football is in a strange place right now.

Internationally, they boast the champions of Europe, but are still coming to terms with the Azzurri missing out on a second successive World Cup.

At club level, meanwhile, Italy boast one of, if not the most competitive of Europe's top five leagues, but have had just one team – Atalanta – reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League in the past three seasons.

Fans around the country, therefore, are hopeful that a new generation of Italian footballers can help lead both the national team and its most historic clubs back to the top of the world game.

Though using youth football results as a means of predicting the future is a dangerous game, there have been some encouraging signs so far in 2022.

Italy qualified with ease for the upcoming Under-19s European Championship, and will be considered one of the favourites to win the competition in Slovakia when it kicks-off in mid-June.

Juventus, meanwhile, have become just the second Italian side to reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Youth League since its inception in 2013, and will face Benfica in Nyon on Friday for a place in the final.

And one player at the heart of both those sides around whom there is plenty of excitement is midfielder Fabio Miretti.

The 18-year-old has been with the Bianconeri for 11 years, and having made his first-team debut already this season, there is genuine belief that Miretti can go on to become a star at the Allianz Stadium.

It was he who scored the opening goal for Juve as they beat Liverpool 2-0 in the Youth League quarter-finals, while he also netted in two of Italy's three elite-round qualifying matches to earn their spot at the Euros.

Such decisive actions suggest he already has the mentality to succeed, and follow in the footsteps of his footballing idol, Kevin De Bruyne.

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"What impresses me is his technique, but also his vision," Miretti told Tuttosport when discussing the Manchester City star.

"He always knows where to pass the ball. He is a champion, a complete midfielder in every aspect."

Miretti certainly displays plenty of those same traits in his own game, with the teenager most comfortable playing as a No.8 in either a midfield three or diamond formation.

"Miretti has enormous football intelligence, excellent technical qualities and has grown a lot in how he covers the field, in terms of both intensity and stamina," Juventus U19s manager, Andrea Bonatti, told Tuttosport.

"He has creativity, goals and is a positive influence in the dressing room. He feels the pleasure of contributing towards his team-mates scoring and winning."

Miretti joined Juventus in 2011 after being spotted playing for Cuneo, around 60 kilometres (37 miles) away from Turin.

Torino were also keen on enrolling the youngster into their academy, but Miretti – who once refused to cut his blonde hair as a boy so he could look more like his hero, Pavel Nedved – chose Juve over their city rivals.

Working his way through the various age-group sides, he began to appear on the radar of the Old Lady's more die-hard supporters as a 16-year-old, when he scored 16 goals and laid on six assists in 17 games for Juve's U17s side in 2019-20.

He has since gone onto captain the Primavera (U19s) side while appearing regularly for Juventus U23s, who play in the third tier of Italian football. So far this season, he has three goals and four assists in Serie C.

Having first caught the eye of Massimiliano Allegri during pre-season, Miretti made his first-team debut in December, when he came off the bench for the final minutes of Juve's Champions League win over Malmo.

He followed that up with a Serie A debut in March, and it is expected that he will earn more chances in the final weeks of the season as Weston McKennie, Denis Zakaria and Arthur Melo spend time on the sidelines nursing injuries.

Capable of playing any midfield role, Miretti has been taking advice from Manuel Locatelli when training as part of the senior squad, and there is hope that the pair will one day be the key pieces in the Juventus engine room.

Miretti's commitment to his boyhood club was confirmed in January when he signed a new contract that will keep him with Juventus until 2026, in turn ending the hopes of clubs in the Bundesliga, Premier League and Ligue 1 of signing him as interest began to ramp up.

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Other Serie A clubs have also reached out to Juve to enquire about Miretti's potential availability, but the 36-time Italian champions are not yet ready to let one of their academy's prized assets leave, either on loan or permanently.

Instead, they are hopeful that he can lead them to Youth League glory in the coming days, which in turn could be the catalyst for a new generation of Italian stars to emerge at the very top of the game.

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