Roma has an abundance of many things: works of art, pizza, naked men ensconced in marble, hills and even graffiti, which is probably an Italian word anyway, right? Well, another thing Roma has in spades, at least as far as the football club is concerned, is damaged and/or repaired knee ligaments. The next name up in our countdown is no stranger to any of those attractions, having grown up in Rome, nor is he unfamiliar with knee surgeries, nor will he be the last name on this list afflicted with ACLitis.
Number Seven: Luca Pellegrini
Current Club: AS Roma
Rank Last Year: N/A
Future Comparison: Gianluca Zambrotta
Who is He?
Well, a quick Google search reveals our younger Pellegrini to be quite the renaissance man. Not only did he lift three trophies with Roma’s Primavera squad, but he’s also a member of the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge specializing in macromolecular mechanisms of genome duplication and stability. In addition to that lofty ambition, Pellegrini also represented Italy in the pool at the 1988 Summer Olympics. Left back, scholar, swimmer and anachronistic time traveler. Luca Pellegrini can do it all.
Okay, back to reality. Our Luca Pellegrini is an 18-year-old born and bred Roman who joined up with the hometown team during the 2011-2012 season and has been an absolute stud throughout Roma’s youth ranks, so much so that super-agent/most hated man in football Mino Raiola wasted little time in signing him up. Pellegrini has been instrumental to Roma’s success in the youth ranks, capturing a Primavera title, a Coppa Italia Primavera title and a Supercoppa Primavera title.
Simply said, Pellegrini had nothing left to prove at the youth level, leading to his promotion to the senior side this summer, where he was seemingly tabbed by EDF to start at left-back until Emerson Palmieri returned from ACL surgery, so it was only natural that Pellegrini then tore his ACL. Such is life around Trigoria.
What Can He Do?
At such a young age, it’s a bit difficult to force him into a box, but Pellegrini’s foundation as an all-around full-back is about as good as it gets. Luca has decent size (he’s a touch under six feet), he can get up and down the pitch in a flash, he’s agile and has a solid grasp of the position. On the pitch, Pellegrini is fairly skilled with the ball at his feet, using his athleticism to create space, he can pick out a pass and deliver a decent cross. Defensively speaking his positioning and technique are advanced for a kid his age. Quite simply, if you were going to create a prototypical left back for the 21st century in a lab, it’d be Pellegrini.
Pellegrini can even move up the pitch in a pinch and has featured for Italy at the youth level, most recently the U-19s.
What Can He Become?
Well, we sort of just hinted at it. While he’s still so incredibly young, and we’ll have to see how he recovers from this injury, but the sky is the absolute limit for Luca. He has the size, speed, agility and technique on both sides of the ball to be an absolute star; Raiola ain’t no fool after all.
In the short run, as we said, we simply have to keep an eye on how quickly and how well he recovers from his ACL injury. Currently slated for an early winter 2018 return to action, Pellegrini’s immediate future is up in the air. Were it not for that injury, he surely would have garnered some first team minutes under Di Francesco. However, combine his injury with the signing of Aleksandar Kolarov and Palmieri’s impending return and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Luca back with the kids for the remainder of the season.
If all goes according to plan, Roma will have quite a decision to make. Between Pellegrini and Palmieri, the Giallorossi will have two supremely talented and two supremely young, well rounded left backs on their hands. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but for now, let’s just hope Luca recovers and that Raiola doesn’t eventually bleed Roma dry to keep his client.