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Introducing the 'new Balotelli': Juventus' 16-year-old sensation Moise Kean


Midway through last season, Moise Kean was asked how many goals he had scored for Juventus Under-17s. "I don't count them," he admitted to the Gazzetta dello Sport. The Bianconeri have been counting, though, and the striker's numbers at youth level are staggering.

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He struck 21 times in just 10 outings for the Giovanissimi before racking up 14 goals in 15 appearances for the Allievi Nazionali.

Last term, meanwhile, the Vercelli native netted 24 in 25 games - and this, in spite of the fact, that he only turned 16 in February 24, meaning that for a significant chunk of the campaign he was regularly facing boys two years older than him.

However, as Kean says: "For me, it's normal playing with older players. I don't find it difficult."

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He's proving as much again this season, having hit five goals in five games for Juve's Primavera. As a result, Kean has been included in Juve's first-team squad by Massimiliano Allegri for Saturday's Serie A game against Udinese.

Of course, Kean's rapid progression only makes the need to tie Kean down to a professional contract all the more pressing.

As far back as January, Juve were supremely confident of their most promising young player committing his immediate future to the club.

However, Kean is represented by a certain Mino Raiola, the self-styled super agent who masterminded Paul Pogba's world-record transfer from Juve to Manchester United during the summer.

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According to reports, Raiola is willing to allow his client to sign the three-year deal that the Bianconeri have proposed - but only if they agree to let the teenager go abroad on loan, preferably to either Netherlands or Belgium.

It thus came as no surprise that when recently asked by the Corriere dello Sport to offer up one potential mover in the 2017 transfer market, Raiola replied: "Kean. And not only because I'm his agent. He's just 16 but, if he continues like this, Moise can become a No.1. He can become one of Juve's big stars. He has talent, physique and self-sacrifice. He knows how big an opportunity that he has in front of him. He has frightening determination."

Indeed, Kean's belief in his own ability - which has led to rumours of him being difficult to manage - is matched only by his desire to make it to the top.

As a young black Italian striker of African extraction being coached by Raiola, the obvious comparison has been made with Mario Balotelli. However, while Kean has already professed his admiration for the Nice No.9, he is encouragingly determined to learn from his fellow forward's follies. "Apart from the stupid things that he does, I like him a lot as a player," the teenager told the Gazzetta.

They certainly share plenty of physical and technical attributes but there are some differences, with Kean arguably the more versatile of the two.

Having been initially used at under-age level by Juve as an out-and-out No.9, Juventus Primavera coach Fabio Grosso has also used him on the left flank to impressive effect. With his mix of pace and power, Kean excels when given open space to run into out wide before then cutting inside onto his favoured right foot.

Of course, he is by no means the finished article, there are plenty of rough edges. It is notable how many times that he manages to get past boys slower and older than he through brute force alone. That will change as he continues to step up in level.

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However, there is no denying that this is the most exciting prospect to emerge from the Juventus academy since Claudio Marchisio, as underlined by the fact that the likes of Manchester City and Arsenal have taken an interest in Kean's contractual situation.

If there is still a modicum of uncertainty over his future at club level, there is no doubts about whom he wants to represent in the international arena.

"My origins are in Ivory Coast and I don't forget it," he explains. "But I was born and raised in Italy. I want to honour the shirt."

Of course, it will be some time yet before he can start thinking about representing his country at senior level. Until then, he'll just focus on scoring goals for Juventus Primavera - not that he'll be keeping count of course.