“Good! You see what you get when you don’t pass it?” were the reported words of Alessandro Florenzi as Roma’s captain shouted across the Trigoria pitch (according to Il Romanista). Mirko Antonucci was the recipient of Florenzi’s tough love, as Antonucci lay in a crumpled heap after being pole-axed to the turf by a Gubbio defender.
The Roman youth was on a hat-trick at the time, though Antonucci had just kicked a ball well out of the grounds, in frustration at himself for missing a one-on-one chance on goal minutes earlier. That’s something you rarely see in a pre-season training kickabout, if ever. But that’s Antonucci’s determination to get noticed this summer.
Number Seven: Mirko Antonucci
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Current Club: Roma
Future Comparison: Angel Di Maria
Who Is He?
By now, Mirko Antonucci is that talent who nobody rates too highly and yet no one is willing to write off either. He’s been in that awkward space for a while and an ambiguous loan spell at Pescara last season didn’t help to change the course of his career in one way or another. In what’s becoming typical Antonucci style, he won a ton of admiring words in Pescara’s local press while he’d also fail to make an impression on the people that count: club, staff, teammates. The lot.
It doesn’t help that it’s hard to understand much of what he says. Antonucci has a surprisingly baritone voice for such a flaco-like figure, and he’ll likely be one of those players who lets his uninhibited side show on the pitch rather than conquering any front pages off of it. That suits most fans just fine. Paul Scholes was the same, and no one’s knocking Scholes for the playing career he put together.
Antonucci’s greatest achievement to date was winning a Primavera league and couple double under Alberto De Rossi in 2016. And those days are over.
What Can He Do?
Just about the only thing Antonucci can’t do is claim a god-given right to win headers or shoulder-barges. But for everything else, he’s there.
He sometimes played as a forward running off the shoulder of the last defender on the Pescara coast, and showed good enough movement to get himself through on goal frequently (though he drew a big fat blank in terms of goals). Other games were played on either right and left wing for the Delfini.
For Roma, he’s played as an inside forward on the left and come up with an assist on his senior debut. Antonucci would have also had scored a goal in that very same debut game away to Sampdoria, had it not been for Edin Dzeko’s interference. And now we’ve finally seen him play in the hole for Roma this summer.
What Can He Become?
Having to make do with “just” a brace on that day against Gubbio, Mirko would finish this Trigoria round of pre-season friendlies as the summer’s joint top scorer on 5 goals (along with Patrik Schick and Cengiz Under) as he heard the warning words of Florenzi ringing in his ear: Dial it back a bit with trying to get noticed by Fonseca and keep finding your role within the team.
That was Florenzi’s mentoring view on it. But if you ask me? Antonucci’s gone a good job at both individual and team play.
Outside of the imperious Javier Pastore, Mirko Antonucci has been the attacking midfielder to drag defenders out of their position with him and link up Roma’s midfield with the frontline. He can do 1-2 passes in tight spaces, dribble past his man, and he’s shown he doesn’t hesistate to pull the trigger inside the box. It helps that Antonucci is two-footed and can interchange all over the frontline. What more could Paulo Fonseca ask for?
We won’t pretend Antonucci could walk into the starting lineup of any tactical setup in world football. But in this Roma side under this coach, Mirko Antonucci has shown himself tailor-made to be one of the three trequartisti unlocking games for the Giallorossi.