Considering Roma’s historical black hole at fullback, the fact that the first two entrants in our 2016 prospect countdown play that position should hopefully be an encouraging sign. Much like our tenth rated prospect, Nura Abdullahi, the next man up in the countdown, Emerson Palmieri, profiles as a purely attacking fullback. While neither kid is bound to revolutionize the position, if their respective developments go as planned, Roma will have two offensively gifted players to support the attack.
In case you’re wondering, Emerson received the slight nod over Nura due to health and top flight experience.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Emerson Lake and Palmieri...sorry, I had to channel my inner Chris Berman for a second.
Number Nine: Emerson Palmieri
Previous Club: Palermo
Current Club: Roma
Future Comparison: A more gifted Marquinho
Who is He?
Hailing from Santos, Brazil, Emerson made his professional debut for his hometown club at 17-years-old and would make close to 20 appearances in the Brazilian Serie A before moving to the Italian version.
Emerson’s move to the more glamorous Serie A didn’t pan out as well as he’d initially hoped, as he struggled to find playing time even as a backup with Palermo. During the 2014-2015 season, Emerson racked up only 182 league minutes, as more often than not he was glued to the bench behind Achraf Lazaar.
As you may recall, Emerson was a rather under the radar signing for Roma last summer, brought on to serve as Lucas Digne’s backup. Considering Digne’s heavy workload last season, Palmieri’s home was on the bench once more, as he barely saw the pitch through the first three-quarters of the season. However, Emerson (I don’t know whether to call him Emerson or Palmieri) caught Luciano Spalletti’s eye down the stretch, garnering five of his nine appearances in the spring, giving hope of a larger role this coming season.
What Can He Do?
Given the relative dearth of match footage on Palmieri, it’s a bit tough to nail down exactly what sort of player he is and may become. Having said that, his skill on the ball is evident, as he’s adept at dribbling, holding and laying off the ball. Palmieri, it must be said, is not exactly a stout defender, so it’s not surprising that Spalletti has experiment with Palmieri in a more advanced role.
As you can see from the video, Palmieri profiles as the sort of player who can do a little bit of everything. He’s strong enough, skilled enough and quick enough to fill a variety of roles for Roma in the future, and although he won’t blow you away in any one arena, he should be a remarkably serviceable player.
What Can He Become?
Well, as we just said, Palmieri looks like the ultimate utility player, one who can fill in at left back, wing back, midfield and even as an out and out winger. While that’s not the sexiest CV in the game, players like that are indispensable in the modern, increasingly positionless game, especially when you’re competing in multiple competitions.
Palmieri’s loan was reupped for another year, so this could very well be a make or break year for him already. If he thrives in Spalletti’s shape shifting paradigm, he could very well prove a vital cog for years to come. He is by no means a superstar in the making, but having a player who can make two dozen or so appearances at several positions is an incredibly valuable asset.