Sebastiano Esposito - Inter's record-breaking teen striker sensation

NxGn Sebastiano EspositoGoal

You do not become the youngest debutant in Inter's illustrious European history by chance.

So, when Sebastiano Esposito stepped off the Nerazzurri bench at the age of 16 years and 255 days to try to salvage his side's Europa League hopes against Eintracht Frankfurt, fans all over Italy sat up and took notice.

Born in 2002 into a footballing family – Esposito's grandfather, father and uncle all played professionally – the forward was always set to follow in their paths, beginning his development at the same surroundings as Gianluigi Donnarumma had a few years previously at Club Napoli.

It was there where he was spotted by Brescia youth scout Roberto Clerici, who saw the striker dominate despite playing against boys who were two years his senior. Unsurprisingly, they wasted little time in snapping up the precocious talent.

Esposito spent two years with the Rondinelle before appearing on Inter's radar, and along with his brother, Salvatore, he made the move to Milan in 2013, with the aim to establish himself and eventually become a San Siro legend.

The first steps on that path have been overwhelmingly positive.

A title winner with Inter's Under-16s, this season he has split his time between the Under-17 side, for whom he has scored 16 goals in 14 appearances, and the Primavera (or Under-19s team).

His six goals in 16 matches for them led to Luciano Spalletti taking a chance on the teenager against Eintracht as he attempted to find the goals that would keep their hopes of continental silverware alive.

"Unfortunately, I was not at the stadium for work reasons but I still saw the game on TV," Esposito's father, Agostino, said following his son's first-team bow. 

"There was already great adrenaline and then the emotion hit me. I didn't expect to see him on the pitch. I was speechless and I cried with joy."

And while Esposito was unable to further write himself into Inter folklore with a debut goal, this is just the first step towards what many predict will be a highly successful career for both club and country.

Four goals for Italy as they reached the final of the Under-17 European Championship in early May only added to the growing belief that he will play a key role in the rebuilding of the Azzurri following their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Sebastiano Esposito NxGn GFX

Only France's record-breaking forward Adil Aouchiche (nine) found the net on more occasions than Esposito at the Euros.

Goals in each of Italy's first-round matches helped them take maximum points from a group containing both Spain and Germany before a stunning free-kick against France in the semi-finals saw the Azzurrini book their place alongside the Netherlands in the final.

And though the Oranje ran out 4-2 winners in Dublin to defend the crown they also won 12 months previously, Esposito's performances during the tournament in Ireland were enough to put some of Europe's top clubs on alert as to his potential.

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Paris Saint-Germain continue to watch his development keenly having previously been knocked back by the youngster's family, with it understood they felt it more advantageous for Esposito to remain in Italy during his teenage years.

Liverpool have also been in touch in recent months, but the thought of letting Esposito go on a permanent transfer to a potential European rival is something Inter have no interest in even considering.

There is the potential for the 16-year-old to leave on loan or even join a lesser club, with Inter holding the first option to bring him back to San Siro at some stage, but given his current contract runs until 2021, there are few concerns regarding any imminent departure.

Sebastiano Esposito Italy 2019

Inter are, of course, a club who have been burned before in the last 12 months when it comes to letting young talent leave.

Their desperation to land Radja Nainggolan in the summer of 2018 saw them allow Roma to take Nicolo Zaniolo to Stadio Olimpico as part of the deal.

Just over six months later, Zaniolo was scoring match-winning braces in the Champions League knockout stages and earning rave reviews every time he stepped onto the pitch. It is safe to say a lesson has been learned at Inter.

"Although he is still very young, he already knows what to do in the penalty area," said Spalletti when asked whether Esposito would be seen again in 2018-19 following his Eintracht cameo.

"He must create that armour that allows him to become a champion and a man; that armour that can defend him from external pitfalls. He needs some time."

And while there is plenty of excitement around San Siro regarding a man who may one day step into the shoes of Mauro Icardi and provide goals on a regular basis for Inter, time remains the operative word for a player who it is sometimes easy to forget is still just 16.

Give him that and the next star of Italian football may emerge around the turn of the decade.

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