Calcio Debate: Who Is The Best Youngster In Italy?

Serie A is blessed with a whole host of explosive youngsters, but who is the best of them all? Carlo Garganese offers 15 nominations...
In no particular order, all players are born Jan 1, 1986 or later...

Alexandre Pato (Milan)

September 2, 1989 – Forward

"For me he is potentially the strongest striker in the world," Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti said of the Brazilian last week after the teenager’s man-of-the-match performance against Udinese. The 19-year-old possesses all the attributes defenders fear – pace, power, balance, skill, a fine shot. Still needs to refine parts of his game, such as his movement and decision-making, but his potential is frightening.

Mauro Zarate (Lazio)

March 18, 1987 – Forward

A phenomenon who has been compared by more than a few people to the current best player in the world, Lionel Messi. Like his Argentine compatriot, Zarate is fast, elusive, creative, and at times it seems as if the ball sticks to his feet. However, Zarate is occasionally too greedy, and he needs to improve his attitude and team-work. Nevertheless, this is a player who is surely destined for great things. Real Madrid are keen, but Lazio appear to be in Zarate’s heart.

Marek Hamsik (Napoli)

July 27, 1987 – Centre Midfielder

Quite possibly the most complete young midfielder in world football, the Slovakian does not have a single weakness in his game. Can be compared to England’s Frank Lampard, in so much that he has the uncanny ability to make late runs into the box, and score crucial goals. Like Lampard, his scoring rate for a midfielder is prolific. The Slovak bagged nine last season, and he has seven already in Serie A this time around.

Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus)

January 26, 1987 – Attacking Midfielder/Forward
 
Painted as the heir apparent to the great Alessandro Del Piero, Giovinco comes in the mould of the old-fashioned Italian trequartista, who playmakes behind the front-two. The Atomic Ant possesses almost perfect technique, is scarily agile, two-footed, and a wonderful passer, dribbler and reader of the game. There are some who say that as he is only 165cm tall, he may struggle, but the truth is Giovinco is surely far too naturally gifted not to be a success. Needs some more time on the pitch though in order to grow.

Fabiano Santacroce (Napoli)

August 24, 1986 – Centre Back/Right Back

I take great pride in saying that I discovered this raw talent when he was a virtual unknown playing at Serie B side Brescia. Santacroce is the best young Italian defender coming through in the peninsula, and he has been compared to both Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta, mainly due to his brilliant anticipation. Lightning quick, brave, and a fierce tackler, it is surely only a matter of time until Santacroce is a regular for Italy. Rumour has it that Milan see him as the long-term replacement for Nesta.

Claudio Marchisio (Juventus)

January 19, 1986 – Centre Midfielder

The potential of the 'New Marco Tardelli' has been known for quite a while now, but he really came of age last month during Juventus’ 4-2 win over Milan in Turin, when the 22-year-old ran the game in midfield. A team player with very few weaknesses, Marchisio is equally comfortable defending and attacking, and has an eye for a pass. Has been enjoying a good run in the Juve team recently, next to Momo Sissoko.

Paolo De Ceglie (Juventus)

September 17, 1986 – Left back/Left Midfielder

Like Italy Under-21 team-mate Marchisio, De Ceglie caught the eye during the recent victory over Milan, when he terrorised the seasoned Gianluca Zambrotta down the left flank. A rampaging wing-man in the mould of Antonio Cabrini, De Ceglie still needs to improve his defending, and indeed his best position may prove to be at left midfield, where he can utilise his pace and excellent crossing ability.

Cristian Zapata (Udinese)

September 30, 1986 – Centre back

Zapata has suffered badly from injuries recently, but if he can recover his full fitness, it will surely only be a matter of time before the Colombian joins a big club. Milan, Juventus and Arsenal are all reportedly waiting to pounce for the centre back who can mark, tackle, head, is fast, and is also extremely composed, often bringing the ball out of defence and starting attacks.

Mario Balotelli (Inter)

August 12, 1990 – Forward

Teenage wunderkind who burst onto the scene towards the end of last season as a 17-year-old, and ended up playing an important role in Inter’s Scudetto run-in. Born in Sicily to Ghanaian immigrants, Balotelli is expected to eventually become the first African-Italian star of the Azzurri, however his fortunes this term have served as a warning that he will achieve nothing unless he improves his attitude. Carries himself around disgracefully - Jose Mourinho did the right thing by sending him to train with the reserves.

Stevan Jovetic (Fiorentina)

November 2, 1989 – Attacking Midfielder/Forward

Fiorentina fought off competition from a whole host of top clubs to sign Jovetic from Partizan Belgrade in the summer. The 19-year-old is slowly settling down in Serie A, and there are already enough signs that this is a true natural talent who, one day, will be absolute top drawer. A technically-gifted trequartista, who can dribble and create equally well, expect Jovetic to have more and more of an impact in Florence over the coming months.

Robert Acquafresca (Cagliari/Inter)

September 11, 1987 – Forward

Owned by Inter, but currently on-loan at Cagliari, Acquafresca was a key reason why the Sardinians escaped relegation last season, scoring 10 goals. This term he has so far found the net six times, and there were even reports that Inter may call him back this month, although this is unlikely. A tall striker, who is excellent in the air, but no mug on the deck, the half-Polish Acquafresca has been compared by some to Bayern Munich’s Luca Toni.

Jeremy Menez (Roma)

May 7, 1987 – Attacking Midfielder

Inevitably labelled as ‘the new Zinedine Zidane’, just like every other talented young Frenchman, Menez does have a similar languid style to the ex-Juventus and Real Madrid legend. The 21-year-old joined Roma from Monaco in the summer, and took time to find his feet, but he has been superb in the last month or so. A pacy, skilful, and creative attacking midfielder, who can play wide on the left, or through the middle, the future is certainly bright for the Roma man.

Vincenzo Fiorillo (Sampdoria)

Jan 13, 1990 – Goalkeeper

Much has been said about the lack of quality Italian goalkeepers coming through. There is one shot-stopper though who has been grabbing the headlines, and that is Sampdoria Primavera star Vincenzo Fiorillo. The 18-year-old has been tagged as the 'New Gigi Buffon’, and if you’ve watched him play, you will understand why. His style is so similar to the Juve man, it is almost eerie. Fiorillo, at 6ft 3in (and still growing), has a towering presence, and is cool and commanding in the box. Last year he won the Primavera league and cup double for Samp, and having already made his Serie A debut, he should soon become a senior regular.

Savio Nsereko (Brescia)

July 27, 1990 – Attacking Midfielder

Serie B side Brescia have churned out some amazing young talents recently, including Hamsik and Santacroce, and Savio could be the next. The 19-year-old Uganda-born German is making headlines in Italy at the moment, and is widely considered as a star of the future. The teenager can play as an attacking left midfielder, or up-front, and is known for his agility and elusiveness. He has been heavily linked with a host of top teams in recent weeks, including Juventus and Napoli, and it is very possible he will transfer in January.

Alexis Sanchez (Udinese)

December 16, 1988 – Forward/Winger

Shares some similarities with Milan starlet Pato, the Chilean is known as 'El Niño Maravilla' (the Wonder Boy), and is one of the most explosive young talents in Serie A, with pace, flair and dribbling among his best attributes. Equally comfortable on the wing or in an orthodox attacking position, Sanchez has scored two goals in Serie A this season, including a superb strike at Catania although, like the rest of his team-mates, his form has dipped recently.

Some other young starlets:

Edison Cavani (Palermo), Zdravko Kuzmanovic (Fiorentina), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Genoa), Stefan Radu (Lazio), Viktor Obinna (Inter), Simon Kjaer (Palermo), Mobido Diakite (Lazio), Alberto Paloschi (Parma/Milan), Domenico Criscito (Genoa/Juventus), Stefano Chuka Okaka (Roma), Eder (Frosinone), Lorenzo De Silvestri (Lazio), Fausto Rossi (Juventus)

What are your views on this topic? Who do you believe is the best youngster in Serie A? Which players do you believe to be destined for the very top? Which players will fail to fulfil their potential? Goal.com wants to know what YOU think...

Carlo Garganese, Goal.com