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CdT’s Under 23 Prospect Countdown Preview

Our third annual U23 prospect countdown is around the corner, but before the arguments begin, we take a look back at last year’s top ten.

Italy U21 Training Session Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images

Considering how much growth CdT has experienced recently—we have “staff” stretching from coast to coast and on either side of the Atlantic—you’d think I’d have every detail, every post and every sentence mapped out to the Nth degree, but that’s simply not the case. So much of CdT is run by intuition and memory. Take for example our annual U23 prospect countdown. While the smart move would have been to create some sort of outline or at least a calendar reminder telling me it's coming up, it's more a case of “wait, there’s something I’m supposed to do now, isn’t there?”

And hey, wouldn’t you know it, my intuition was pretty accurate, as we’re rolling out this primer almost exactly 365 days after last season’s. While we’re still ironing out the kinks in this countdown, the rules remain largely unchanged from last year. Players must be 23 or younger by opening day—and yes before you point it out or criticize, there will be several players who turn 24 shortly after the season starts—and can either be full Roma property or simply loanees we hope will soon make that transition.

The rankings are are a collaborative effort between the CdT crew and weighs current production and future potential in varying degrees. The rankings and projections are made in isolation; that is to say, they don’t take into account current roster construction, so while Federico Ricci may never get a starting spot in this current lineup, our projections assume he will; in other words, we assume each player will self actualize regardless of current circumstances.

If you want a good laugh, go back and read out inaugural 2014 countdown in which Juan Iturbe took the top honors, but for a more recent trip down memory lane, here’s how they shook out last season.

  1. Gerson
  2. Mohamed Salah
  3. Salih Uçan
  4. Lucas Digne
  5. Juan Iturbe
  6. Leandro Paredes
  7. Antonio Rüdiger
  8. Antonio Sanabria
  9. Daniel De Silva
  10. Lorenzo Pellegrini

How’d They Do

Given the nature of this exercise, you have to expect mixed results, and that’s precisely what we received. If we were to re-rank them, Salah and his 14 goals and 6 assists would immediately vault over everyone and take top honors, but Gerson simply held (and holds) so much intrigue, he won out, but at only 24 years old, the sky's the limit for Salah.

Beyond Salah, Rüdiger took us all by surprise, turning in (ironically) his first fully healthy season, forming a fearsome central pairing with Kostas Manolas. His size and athleticism always gave him an advantage on the prospect ladder, but as last season progressed, Rüdiger’s freakish athleticism was imbued with a keener understanding of the game; he’s going to be a good one, that’s for sure.

Lucas Digne’s story is well known around CdT. Roma’s resident hipster turned in an astounding 2,800 minutes of action last season, third among outfield players, while chipping in three goals and three assists. Digne may not be a world beater, but he’s well on his way to being among the best at his position. Congratulations, Barca.

Beyond those three names, the top ten was really a mixed bag. Uçan never got a chance last season, Pellegrini was okay but not outstanding on the youth side, Iturbe was sent packing only to return this summer, De Silva disappeared, while Sanabria and Paredes made the absolute most of their loan spells and figure to have bright careers ahead of themselves.

Who’s Coming Back?

As we just mentioned, Salah was undoubtedly Roma’s best young player next season, but at 24-years-old, he has aged out of our countdown. Digne, De Silva, and Sanabria are no longer part of the family, so they’re out as well, while Pellegrini probably won’t be up to snuff this time around.

We’re not exactly spilling the beans here by telling you that Gerson, Paredes and Rüdiger will be returning to the top ten, but the remaining seven names are very much up in the air. Federico Ricci did enough last season with Crotone to warrant a return to the top ten, ditto for Ezequiel Ponce and Umar Sadiq, and while Stephan El Shaarawy seems like he’s 30, he’ll still be all of 23 when the season starts and is sure to make some noise in this year’s countdown.

Our tentative plan is to get this sucka rolling later this week or weekend, but either way, you’ll know the top prospect prior to opening day.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Any names we should consider?