If you're the inquisitive type, or simply one who notices patterns, you probably figured out who has garnered the top spot in our second annual countdown of Roma's top ten U-23 prospects. What started several weeks ago with Lorenzo Pellegrini has now ended with a young man who holds as much intrigue as any teenager ever signed by Roma, Gerson Santos da Silva, otherwise known as Gerson.
Roma outwitted and outspent Barcelona to capture the 18-year-old Fluminense midfielder's signature this summer, forking over a reported €16 million in the process. And while Roma has a history of paying large sums for young South American attacking talents, this one takes the cake, both in number and sheer talent.
Gerson is set to arrive in Italy this winter, so let's take a look at what makes him so special.
Who is He?
Born outside of Rio de Janeiro, Gerson shot up through the Fluminense youth ranks to make his professional debut this past February at all of 17-years-old. However, It would be on the international stage that Gerson truly rose to prominence, as he featured in all but one of Brazil's six matches in the 2015 South American Football Championship, standing out among a disappointing crop of young Brazilians.
Building off that success, Gerson began to solidify his place domestically, scoring four goals in Fluminense's march towards the semifinals of last season's Rio de Janeiro's state championships. Due to this mini-ascension, and simply because of his innate talent, Gerson soon drew the attention of Barcelona, Manchester United and even Juventus.
Although the Catalans held the first option on Gerson, they were summarily outbid by Roma, who added the young midfielder to their impressive and expensive summer haul.
What Can He Do?
Gerson currently stands a shade under 5'10" and is famous for his strength, technique, and power on the pitch, all of which should make him a dominating presence in Roma's midfield in the not too distant future.
Gerson is unique in that he is a long strider, yet he can get past defenders with sudden burst of acceleration. Throughout his young career, he's shown the ability to play in a variety of midfield roles and formations, being pushed out wide as a right sided midfielder, centrally as a straight up attacker and even in a deeper, box-to-box role.
Watch the clips above and you'll see Gerson all over the pitch, digging it out of the corner, springing counter attacks, making diagonal runs, splitting the defense with a through ball and even scoring from distance; Gerson's ability to leave an imprint on a match are limited only by his imagination and his manager's tactical preferences. He is poised in tight spaces, he can provide service from the flank, he can beat you off the dribble, he can move without the ball, he can play one-twos, through balls, cheeky lobs and, as you'll notice, he was a wicked left foot.
What Can He Become?
Gerson's calling card will ultimately be his vision and impressive understanding of the game. Granted those are highlights reels above, but his vision and movement on the pitch are beyond exceptional for a kid his age, combine that with his strength and composure on the ball, and you have a highly skilled and unflappable midfielder on your hands, one blessed with size and speed to boot.
His adjustment to life in Europe and a tactically nuanced league like Serie A will go a long way in determining how soon he can contribute for Roma, but once he puts it all together, he can be anyone from Frank Lampard to Paul Pogba to Michael Ballack or even a more defensive minded version of Mesut Ozil or Angel Di Maria. No matter who he comes to resemble, Gerson looks like the total package; a player capable of contributing in all facets of the game.
He'll probably never lead the league or even the club in scoring, but his vision, technique and intellect will make him an indispensable part of Roma in the near future and arguably one of the world's most complete players, someone who can survive the tactical ebbs and flows of life in Europe and hopefully help marshal Roma up the next rung of European heavyweights.
Just for kicks, imagine this lineup five years or so from now--yes, some will be sold, options won't be picked up etc, but this is absolutely drool worthy: