Number 2: Gerson Santos da Silva
Age: 19 (Born May 20, 1997)
Position: Midfielder / Winger
Previous Club: Fluminense
Current Club: Roma
Future Comparison: Paul Pogba
Who Is He?
Gerson Santos da Silva is Roma’s superstar in the making, emphasis on in the making. It’s an indicator of his talent level that Gerson is number two on this list, sandwiched between two essential members of the senior squad. Born in Belford Roxo, Brazil, Gerson is a product of the Fluminense youth academy, where he showcased enough potential to garner both first-team appearances for the Fluzão and Brazil’s U-20 team at only seventeen years of age.
2015 was certainly Gerson’s breakout year: he built up a level of international renown, solidified his place in Flu’s first team, and garnered the attention of the usual suspects. Barcelona, Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Bayern Munich were all reportedly interested, yet Roma pipped them all to the teenager’s signature (perhaps by dangling the prospect of succeeding Francesco Totti?). But however Walter Sabatini managed to bring the wonder-kid to Roma, he’s here now (despite a short return trip to Rio), and everyone who watches Serie A is waiting to see how he pans out.
What Can He Do?
Gerson’s calling cards are his strength, power, speed and awareness on the field, and if he can translate his abilities to Serie A quickly, we may have a long-term replacement for Miralem Pjanić already in-house. While at Fluminense, he often played on the wing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but he’s also seen as comfortable in a more Perotti-esque role, controlling the center of the pitch and dictating play.
“Gerson is seen as the most promising U20 midfielder in the world – at least that's what clubs like Barcelona who wanted him at all costs have told us.” – Mauro Baldissoni, A.S. Roma General Manager
So far in actual Roma friendlies, Gerson has looked slightly timid, but his ability on and off the ball has still been easy to spot. It may take time for him to blend into the squad and become more comfortable with Luciano Spalletti’s style of play, but even with just his current level of ability you can expect him to make waves this year.
What Can He Become?
“I want to thank everyone who rates me as one of the best talents in my age group. That carries with it great responsibility but I’m ready to show what I can do.” – Gerson Santos da Silva
Why compare him to former Juventino Paul Pogba if he’s played on the wing so often? Versatility, for one. Like Pogba, Gerson has shown the ability to boss the middle of the field and also seems to have an eye for goal. Furthermore, Pogba at nineteen had many of the same flaws as Gerson does now. If Gerson is able to develop consistency and check his nerves at the door, he looks to be quite the talent. He may be no Francesco Totti, but he looks to be Roma’s best chance at filling the hole er Pupone will leave once he retires.
Only time will tell if Gerson takes the talent he has shown in his career to date and utilizes it to push his career into the stratosphere. But make no mistake. There is no other young player in the Roma system with as high a ceiling (Cristian Totti notwithstanding). Gerson looks determined to succeed in Italy as well, telling reporters that “I hope to contribute to (the side). I’m delighted to be here… and I’m sure that if give my all I won’t have too many problems.” Who knows, maybe Roma will have to pay out that fabled Ballon d’Or clause one day. I’m sure Jim Pallotta won’t mind.