Outside of Alessandro Florenzi, Roma's vaunted youth system didn't bear much fruit last season, resulting in a very stilted rotation, one which disproportionally taxed the legs of Francesco Totti and Miralem Pjanic among others. Given the additional year of stress on the legs of Roma's core, and the uncertainty that surrounds the health of Kevin Strootman, Maicon and Leandro Castan, Rudi Garcia must incorporate Roma's youth ranks to a greater degree than ever before.
Despite the lack of returns last season, Roma still boasts an impressive collection of young prospects, and what better way to discuss them than to randomly and indiscriminately pit them against one another in CDTs second annual prospect countdown?
Last Year's List
Last Year's List
Before we delve into this year's list, we'll take a quick look back at our inaugural rundown from last summer, and give you a sneak peek at who made the cut for this summer's countdown.
Remember, the countdown only included prospects aged 23 and younger (by opening day) and measured them based on a proprietary amalgam of current production and future potential.
Last Season's Top Ten:
1. Mattia Destro
2. Juan Iturbe
3. Adem Ljajic
4. Alessandro Florenzi
5. Salih Uçan
6. Leandro Paredes
7. Antonio Sanabria
8. Tin Jedvaj
9. Federico Ricci
10. Alessio Romagnoli
How'd They Do
Well, as you may have guessed, the results were a mixed bag. Ljajic tied with Totti for the club lead in goals, but his eighth and final goal came in February, as he seemingly lost Rudi Garcia's confidence as 2015 carried on, so his place on this list, let alone the club, is very much up in the air. Florenzi, meanwhile, took a gigantic leap forward this past season, emerging as one the club's most important and dynamic players, so we certainly undersold him last summer.
Those are the only out and out positives among that list, though. Given his reluctance to fully integrate youth into his starting XI's, the mere fact that Paredes made 10 appearances was a victory in and of itself, while Uçan was solid enough in his cameo appearances to warrant an extended look this summer. We discussed Iturbe and Destro at various points this offseason. Manu was underwhelming following his big money move last summer to say the least, while Mattia was still good for a goal every other match before being booted to Milan in January.
With a €30 million price tag, Alessio Romagnoli's value to the club is clear as day, and much of that is down to his successful loan spell at Sampdoria this past season. Federico Ricci, on the other hand, exhibited little growth during his first year with Crotone, playing approximately 800 minutes for the Serie B club, scoring one goal and contributing one assist. Tin Jedvaj, meanwhile, was a revelation for Bayer Leverkusen this past season, making 25 appearances helping Bayer secure Europa League qualification, and all this at only 19 years old.
My gut reaction: Out of that top ten list, at this point in time, Florenzi has the best chance to become a star for Roma, while the future remains extremely bright for Romagnoli, Uçan, Paredes and even Sanabria. You know my stance on Iturbe, but he has a world of expectations and scrutiny to overcome before he fulfills his promise.
Who's Coming Back
As we mentioned, our countdown only includes U23 players, meaning Destro and Florenzi have aged out. Mr. Right doesn't appear to have a home in Rome, while Florenzi is already an unquestioned leader of this club, one whose stature should continue to grow this coming year.
Jedvaj is presumably a sale Walter Sabatini would like to take back; he may not be the total package like Romagnoli, but he's versatile and extremely athletic and he's already a fixture in a European side at only 19-years-old. Ricci, meanwhile, will probably not make the top ten cut this season, but he's only 21-years-old, so he still has time to grow.
While the rest of those names will most likely appear on the 2015 CDT countdown, look for some fresh faces to crowd them out. With prospects like Ezequiel Ponce, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Daniele Verde, Daniel Da Silva and Matteo Politano working their way towards Rome, the youth ranks are as crowded as ever, and we haven't even mentioned the likes of Gerson or Lucas Digne potentially joining this list.
So, look for this countdown to begin sometime next week, as we're trying to allot for any pending purchase or sales that might impact this list. Either way, there is no shortage of exciting prospects to pour over.