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Ranking Roma’s Youth: Honorable Mentions

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Warming up our top ten U-23 countdown with those who just missed the cut.

Italy v Netherlands - UEFA European Under-17 Championship: Final Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

I remember reading over last summer’s U-23 countdown thinking the club’s future talent had come a long way overnight.

This summer, I’ve got that same impression multiplied fives times over. Seriously, the quality of Roma’s prospects seems like it has exploded in just two summers. Take a look at the names below who we couldn’t even include in the top ten:

Mirko Antonucci

(by ssciavillo)

Age: 19

Position: Winger

Prior Club: A.S. Roma Primavera

Future Comparison: Angel Di Maria

Antonucci made an instant impact in his Roma debut, when he assisted Dzeko’s late equalizer against Sampdoria in January. At just 18 years of age, he showed a glimpse of the potential that he possesses. The fact that he came on as a sub during the second leg of Roma’s Champions League semi final with Liverpool speaks to EdF’s opinion of the kid. This season Antonucci will ply his trade with Pescara on loan in Serie B. That should allow him to get consistent minutes at the professional level and develop the talent that he has displayed with the Primavera. Antonucci has been in the Roma system since 2011 and will look to be an impact player for years to come when he returns from loan next summer.

Matteo Cardinali

(by ssciavillo)

Age: 17

Position: Keeper

Prior Club: A.S. Roma Under 17

Future Comparison: N/A

Cardinali may seem like a surprise inclusion on this list. However, he’s been turning heads both in the capital and abroad despite turning 17 just last month. Cardinali will be traveling with the senior squad for Roma’s United States summer tour after winning the Italian U17 title. Meanwhile, reports state that scouts from both Liverpool and Arsenal have set their sights on the youngster. He’ll ply his trade and look to develop further this season with Alberto De Rossi’s Primavera squad. But stash this name away because from all indications he’s got the physique and skill set to be a good one.

Alessio Riccardi

(by dallagente)

Age: 17

Position: Mezzala

Prior Club: A.S. Roma Primavera

Future Comparison: Andres Iniesta

It’s easy to go for the Iniesta comparisons just off the male pattern baldness alone, but Riccardi draws more parallels with his feet, use of the ball and use of space. The last trait is key to having a legitimate shot in a Eusebio Di Francesco side. We could fall over ourselves all day to talk about the dribbling and the finishes from Riccardi - seen not just in a Roma shirt but at every crucial step of his Azzurini career - but ultimately you have to be a threat off the ball and show yourself as a complete player.

In just 15 minutes against a Latina side (ok, it’s Latina) Riccardi did exactly that. He made the right runs, stretched his opposition off the ball, and it doesn’t hurt that he looks like he is gliding across the pitch whenever running with the ball at his feet, too. Magic.

Gerson

(by dallagente)

Age: 21

Position: Midfield

Prior Club: A.S. Roma

Future Comparison: Dunga

It feels inappropriate not to give Jimmy the last word on this one, and Gerson was set to make the top ten before Roma’s mercato dictated otherwise. At times, Gerson showed himself capable of risky and successful mid-to-long range passing to put teammates through on goal before thrown into a tunnel of self-doubt. Once he caught a second wind under EDF to really give a Roma career a go, Gerson looked like he relished tackling and defending. When trusted with a midfield role, he’s been a capable link-man in the passing network; yet too often his height was used as an excuse to shove him out wide. Now Gerson goes to Fiorentina for 2018/19 on loan, where hopefully he can become a protagonist.

William Bianda

(by dallagente)

Age: 18

Position: Defence

Prior Club: Lens

Future Comparison: William Gallas

Born in the 21st century, William Bianda became Monchi’s youngest ever signing for the Roma seniors this summer. Bianda spent pre-season being coached on body positioning when running back to goal from the halfway line (aka the nuclear button scenario when the midfield hasn’t done it’s job). He was also given a tremendous amount of respect whenever in possession of the ball during training matches - where other guys would press Manolas, they stood off Bianda. At one point, a panicked team-mate tanked a pass back to Bianda, who merely took a first touch to spin the ball dead into the air before his second touch was a half-volley pass up the field, putting his side back on the front foot.

Bianda has no problem going one-on-one to muscle his opponent away from the ball. He could play at any position along the backline to get game time. He will still need to be tested at reading opposition passes over the top and anticipating that threat in a high-line defence. Something which Monchi feels Bianda is best placed at Trigoria to learn amongst his fellow Roma players.

Daniel Fuzato

(by dallagente)

Age: 21

Position: Keeper

Prior Club: Palmeiras B

Future Comparison: Would it be too easy to say Aliss- oh nevermind!

Someone finally managed to put together a highlights vid of Fuzato’s time in Brazil, which is pretty impressive since he’s never actually played a senior game in his entire career. Nevertheless the video is gold and explains Roma’s goalkeeping conundrum. While Alisson’s save stats sound heroic in isolation, they weren’t leaps and bounds of the expected goals Buffon (and Szczesny) “saved” for Juventus last season. Yet no one is lamenting the loss of Buffon in Serie A (aside sentimental reasons).

The defensive side of the game will always be a goalkeeper’s bread and butter, but the real loss of Alisson was his contribution to Roma’s attack. We’ve heard everything about the need for a sweeper keeper in the modern game and Alisson was that man: aggressive in his reading of the game to keep the play up the pitch away from his goal, equipped with javelin throws to immediately put Roma on the counter-attack after a save, and even the footwork and distribution to help break past the opposition’s deep press. That’s a guy you pay over 70 million euros for in today’s game. Let’s not even mention his assist for SES’s goal at the San Siro.

Neither Mirante nor Olsen look like the guys to fill in those sweeper keeper shoes. They might do, who knows? Mirante brings plenty of other qualities to the dressing room and Olsen is impressive physically.

But the point is you can find keepers who are decent-to-great at reaction saves all around Europe or abroad - Doni comes to mind - while it’s rare to find a complete footballer willing to wear a pair of gloves.

All this being said, take a look at Fuzato’s highlights below...