Roma's struggles at fullback have been well documented here at CDT, so it is with much pleasure that we present Lucas Digne, Roma's new 22-year-old left back, as our fourth rated U23 prospect. Now, for the Leandro Paredes and Juan Iturbe lovers among you, Digne's positional scarcity gave him the slight nod in this countdown, as his path towards playing time, and hopefully stardom, is an easier road to ho than either of the aforementioned South Americans. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at what the kid with the hipster haircut has to offer his new club.
Who Is He?
As I'm sure you're aware, Digne is a Lille man through and through, signing with the club at the tender age of 12. Digne worked his way through Lil' Lillers (I think that's what their youth team is called) over the course of six years, finally graduating to the first team in 2011, making his professional debut in October against Sedan.
Digne would go on to make 60 appearances in all competitions for Rudi Garcia's Lille teams through the tail end of the 2012-2013 season before making his mega move to PSG. Seeing a chance to capitalize on the burgeoning young talent, PSG paid €15 million for the then 20-year-old Digne. Since making his move to the Seine, Digne struggled for first team action, garnering little more than 40 appearances in all competitions over the course of two seasons.
Roma, only last week, took Digne on an initial €2.5 million season-long loan, with an option to buy next summer, believed to be €15 million, showing great confidence in a kid who has spent more time on the sidelines than the pitch the past two seasons.
What Can He Do?
Well, if his debut against Juventus was any indication, quite a bit. At this stage in the game, Digne is most known for his offensive contributions, which were certainly on display last weekend. Digne won't drop any jaws with his athleticism or Ronaldinho style dribbling, but he has an almost effortless gait on the pitch that enables him to slip past defenders, while his passing and crossing, though lacking in accuracy at times, are far and away his strong suit.
Defensively speaking, Digne's calling card is his strength in the air, where he won 67% of his aerial duels in 2014-2015. Beyond that, Digne isn't exactly known as a defensive dynamo, averaging less than two tackles and interceptions per match, but he has cut down on his fouls committed in each of the last three seasons, so at least he isn't taking reckless chances.
LD will always be more renowned for his offensive capabilities, but if his tackling efficiency ever matches his aerial prowess, he has the potential to be one of the game's most complete fullbacks.
What Can He Become?
Well, we sort of just hinted at it right there, didn't we? Even after 90 minutes, we can probably already proclaim him the best left-back of the American administration, but throw in a few years of seasoning, some additional muscle mass and a keener defensive eye, and it's not hard to imagine Digne as Serie A's best full-back and a fixture for Les Bleus. Given his track record and the near-perfect situation into which he's just been placed, Digne has every chance to blossom into a star in Rome, and if we're talking strictly about immediate impact with the senior squad, Digne might be Roma's top prospect.
Provided Roma retains him next summer, Digne's talent, skill and positional scarcity puts him foremost among Roma's building blocks. Close your eyes and envision yourself at the Stadio della Roma five years from now watching Digne and Gerson bombing up and down the flank, pumping crosses and threading passes through to Ezequiel Ponce, Kevin Mendez or Antonio Sanabria.
It's going to be beautiful and it all starts with Digne.