Considering how quickly Nicolo Zaniolo exploded on the scene and became Roma’s young hotshot of the future, it’s easy to forget the fanfare that surrounded Justin Kluivert’s signing last season. When he landed at Fiumicino, dallagente summed up the mood by saying:
Man... I just wanted to have my say on this one since it was the incoming signing I wanted the most - and truthfully I don’t even have much to say. If they called it a mercato and shut the gates tomorrow, we’ve made the one move I wanted this summer.
We’ve covered Justin Kluivert as a potential summer target just over a month ago but, even at that time of writing, I didn’t really believe in landing him. I certainly thought it would cost a lot more with Man United and Barcelona in the picture. But instead Monchi cozied up to Mino Raiola and gradually Kluivert’s arrival seemed not just realistic at the weekend but a foregone conclusion by yesterday evening.
Don’t take Kluivert sliding one spot down on the Youth Rankings as an indicator that his potential isn’t as dazzling as it was a year ago. Even experienced players coming to Serie A from a foreign league often have a transitional season; one Bosnian Diamond immediately springs to mind. Add in the fact that he’s still one of the youngest players to be gracing our rankings, and it should be clear that the future of the Dutchman is still incredibly bright.
Number Five: Justin Kluivert
Previous Club: Ajax
Rank Last Year: #4
Future Comparison: Eden Hazard
Who Is He?
Justin Kluivert is a 20-year old Dutch winger born in Zaandam, The Netherlands. He’s the son of legendary Dutch forward Patrick Kluivert, who was recently the assistant coach for the Cameroonian National Team. Most of Justin’s career to date has taken place at Ajax, where he graduated to senior sides in 2016. Following major interest from nearly every big club in Europe, a call from Francesco Totti to Patrick Kluivert pushed the younger Kluivert to leave Amsterdam for Rome, costing the Giallorossi approximately €18.75 million.
In his first season in Rome, Kluivert scored two goals and assisted six in 35 appearances, but half of these appearances only came through late-game substitutions.
What Can He Do?
Kluivert is primarily a left winger, but has the ability to play on the right as well. He’s one in a long line of pacy wingers that have called the Stadio Olimpico home in the past decade, following in the footsteps of Gervinho, Mohamed Salah, and current teammate Cengiz Ünder. Yet pace isn’t his only positive attribute; Kluivert also has strong passing and dribbling skills, and can give defenders headaches not just by doing a Roadrunner impression, but by outsmarting even tightly-wound defensive systems.
Although Kluivert’s knack for goalscoring hasn’t shown up yet in a Roma kit, it’s important to note that his time at Ajax suggested that he could grow into a goalscoring machine if given the opportunity. No matter what you have to say about the relative quality of the Dutch league, scoring in double-digits in any top-flight league at the age of eighteen is impressive stuff. Add in the fact that one of the highlights of Kluivert’s performances with the Giallorossi to date is his willingness to track back, and he seems ready to be a regular starter for Roma - and this is only at age twenty.
What Can He Become?
With the departure of Stephan El Shaarawy for China, it’s clearly Kluivert’s moment to dictate his own future, both in Rome and for his own career. Nobody’s expecting him to become Prime Patrick Kluivert at age 20, but you have to hope that Paulo Fonseca can unlock some of the talent that is obviously inside the Dutchman. If Fonseca can do that, don’t be surprised to see Kluivert casually stride to the top of next year’s Youth Rankings.
The comparison I made at the top of this article to Eden Hazard isn’t made lightly; Kluivert has all of the characteristics necessary to become an all-around superstar winger, perfectly in the mold of the superstar attacker du jour that super-clubs the world over crave. Does this mean that he’ll probably leave Roma if he reaches his potential? Yes, but he’s never been shy about saying that he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps to Barcelona. If Roma can get a couple star-level seasons out of him before he makes a mega-money move, the original €18.75 million investment Monchi made in Kluivert may look just as good as adding Nicolo Zaniolo into the Radja Nainggolan deal.