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Alessio Riccardi: Roma's 'New Totti' on Juventus' transfer radar

12:00 BST 18/06/2020
Alessio Riccardi NxGn
The 19-year-old has been likened to the Giallorossi legend for his passing and shooting ability, but has struggled to break through at Stadio Olimpico

For any young attacking midfielder in the Roma academy, the pressure to succeed is huge.

The shadow of Francesco Totti continues to hang over Stadio Olimpico as the Giallorossi attempt to find the next homegrown star who can take up the former Italy star's mantle.

One such player who could fit the bill is Alessio Riccardi. A fantastic dribbler, expert passer and with a penchant for a shot from distance, the 19-year-old has long been mooted as one of Italy's most promising teenage footballers.

It has therefore come as something of a surprise that Riccardi - who in March was named in Goal's NxGn list of the 50 best teenage footballers on the planet - has made just the one first-team appearance for his boyhood club, with many believing that he is ready to start making an impact on Serie A.

Born in Rome just a month before Roma last won the Scudetto in 2001, Riccardi actually began his footballing education by playing for Lazio's five-a-side team, only to be spotted at the age of eight by 1982 World Cup-winner Bruno Conti, who in his role as the head of Roma's youth academy enrolled the youngster into the club's youth programme.

Having worked his way through the early age-group sides, Riccardi's talents came to the fore at the age of 13 after he was named player of the tournament at the prestigious Ielasi Memorial competition, with the No.10 inspiring his side to victory over Inter in the final.

From there he was encouraged to play in teams above his age, with his debut for the club's Under-19 side coming when he was just 16. From there he has become the leader of the club's Primavera side, scoring 22 goals and providing 13 assists since the start of the 2018-19 campaign.

He also captained Italy during their run to the final of the U17 European Championships in 2018, with Riccardi scoring in the Azzurrini's 2-2 draw with Netherlands in the final before they lost out on penalties to the Oranje. He has since been promoted and handed the armband for the U19 side, for whom he has eight goals in 21 caps.

Back at club level, Riccardi's impressive performances in the summer of 2018 and during the group stages of the UEFA Youth League in the autumn, where he scored five goals in six games, saw him earn a promotion to the first-team squad. He was named on the bench for two Serie A matches ahead of the winter break before making his senior debut as an 82nd-minute substitute against Virtus Entella in the Coppa Italia in January 2019.

"As a Roman it is a very emotional moment," he said following his first-team bow. "I was already shaking when I was named on the bench, so to come on only intensified that."

He continued to be a regular name on the Roma team sheet for the remainder of the campaign, though he was never anything more than an unused substitute under Claudio Ranieri.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Un pareggio che ci sta un po’ stretto,ora continuiamo a lavorare tutti insieme!💛❤️🐺

A post shared by Alessio Riccardi (@riccardi_alessio) on Mar 8, 2020 at 3:56am PDT

Ranieri was replaced by Paulo Fonseca last summer, and despite starting the season by scoring four goals in his first two Primavera matches, Riccardi has slipped down the pecking order.

He has been named on the bench just twice by Fonseca, though he has been called up to train alongside the first team in recent weeks as Roma prepare to resume their Serie A campaign following the coronavirus-enforced shutdown.

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Regardless, rumours of a potential move away from the Italian capital continue to swirl. Juventus are fans of the teenager, and attempted to sign him as part of a swap deal that would have seen Daniele Rugani move in the opposite direction in the summer of 2019.

The Bianconeri have continued to monitor Riccardi's progress as they aim to ensure as many of Italy's best young stars are tied to Turin while other lesser Serie A clubs are reportedly keen, with the presumption that they can offer a better chance for the midfielder to play first-team football.

For now, Riccardi is solely focusing on his own development. Comfortable playing either centrally or out wide behind a striker, he has strived to improve the defensive side of his game after being deployed as a more traditional central midfielder in recent seasons as coaches bid to take advantage of his outstanding passing ability.

Regardless of where he plays on the pitch, the 'new Totti' tag is likely to follow Riccardi around for some time. He certainly has the talent to live up to it - now he just needs to be given the opportunity to show it.