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AS Roma Women U-23 Countdown, 2020 Edition: The Top Five Talents

Swaby, Giugliano, Bonfantini, Greggi, Serturini. Who will take the top honors this year?

AS Roma v Orobica Calcio Bergamo - Serie A Women’s Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The summer in-between Roma's first and second seasons in Serie A (2018-2019), saw the club make massive personnel changes, recruiting new players at virtually every position, rounding out a young and impressive squad with experienced players like Andrine Hegerberg, Lindsey Thomas and Kaja Erzen, among others.

But make no mistake, this is still an incredibly young squad—and an incredibly talented one at that. If Roma are to make continued progress in their third season in the top flight, the five names on this list—the top five U-23 talents on the roster—will play an enormous role carrying the Giallorosse forward.

Roma's future is incredibly bright and these five names have every chance to be star players in their own right.

#5: Annamaria Serturini

ACF Fiorentina v AS Roma - Women Serie A Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Position: Forward | Age: 22 | Roma Appearances: 38 | Last Year's Rank: 4th

That Serturini only slipped one spot in our rankings despite seeing her minutes halved thanks in part to the arrival of multiple veteran forwards is testament to Serturini's prodigious talent and enormous potential. Still just 22-years-old, Serturini has over 90 Serie A appearances, 26 goals scored and a cabinet full of six trophies (including one Scudetto with Brescia) and one World Cup cap to her credit.

Standing a slight 5'2”/160 cm, Serturini's paycheck is earned on the back of her outrageous speed, agility and change of direction. You won't find many players that can beat you off the dribble in close quarters, outrun you in open ground and unfurl 20-yard crackers, but Serturini can do all of that with ease.

While nominally a left-winger, Serturini is about as ambidextrous as they come. Watch the highlights above and you'll see a #15-shaped blur racing past defenders, ponytail dancing in the wind, putting in crosses from either side of the pitch with either foot. In some ways, she's everything we'd hoped Justin Kluivert or Cengiz Ünder would be—a dynamic and dangerous winger whose skills transcend tactics.

Without a doubt, the highlight of Serturini's club career was her breakout performance for Roma in the 2018-2019 season where she scored a club and career high 11 goals. Serturini was dealt a bit of a blow last summer when Roma rearmed their squad with several veterans, but her talent speaks for itself.

Despite the increased competition last season, Serturini still earned 12 starts and should be front and center in Betty Bavagnoli's forward rotation this season and beyond.

#4: Giada Greggi

AS Roma v Orobica Calcio Bergamo - Serie A Women’s Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Position: Midfield | Age: 20 | Roma Appearances: 34 | Last Year's Rank: 2nd

Another player short on stature but long on talent, Roman born and bred Giada Greggi—Italy's top U-21 talent of 2019—may just be the future of the club. Cut in the mold of players like Paul Scholes, Andrea Pirlo and her national teammate/contemporary Aurora Galli, Greggi brilliance rests in the understated: controlled possession, running, pressing, shadow pressing, knowing when/where/which type of pass to play, tackling, anticipation and intelligence.

One of the youngest members of the squad, Greggi has already racked up over 100 Serie A appearances (including nearly 90 starts) since making her debut with RES Roma in 2014. That's right, just like Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi before her, Greggi is a Roma lifer and has already ascended to the role of vice captain for Roma, serving under the watchful eye of fellow Roman, Elisa Bartoli.

Much like Serturini, Greggi was a victim of circumstance last season, seeing her minutes fall from nearly 1,800 all the way down to 538 league minutes. With savvy internationals Andressa Alves and Andrine Hegerberg joining the midfield last season, Greggi was relegated to the role of understudy, but that didn't prevent her from making (and scoring in) her Azzurre debut last November.

At 20-years-old, Greggi has ample time to hone her craft, and despite losing time to Hegerberg and Andressa, Greggi remains very much the future of her hometown club. One that looks particularly bright thanks to her steady and intelligent play.

#3: Allyson Swaby

AS Roma v Orobica Calcio Bergamo - Serie A Women’s Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Position: CB | Age: 23 | Roma Appearances: 22 | Last Year's Rank: 5th

Swaby could have easily ranked anywhere from 5th to 3rd but, in the end, Roma’s first-choice centre-back jumps up two places from last summer because she was one of the first senior players that the club chose to sign to a multi-year contract. Such is Swaby’s progression in the Eternal City, she’s bound to be a key fixture while Serie A Femminile turns full professional.

Swaby’s adjustment to Serie A football has been gradual, for coming in mid-season in 18/19 as a last-minute squad player, to becoming the first name on the teamsheet by last season. Throughout, Swaby has shown she leans towards direct football, choosing to launch forward passes straight through the middle of the pitch whenever she sees the opportunity to do so. Defensively, she can man-mark the best of them, having kept names like Valentina Giacinti humbled in the big games, for the most part.

What Swaby needs to carry into the 2020-21 season is a better understanding with her full-back, as herself and Erzen often got caught drifting out to sea, both when defending crosses from open play and being first to second-balls inside Roma’s box. Now that Swaby is looking at a potential partnership with Osinache Ohale at the heart of Roma’s defence this season, Roma could just dominate the air from the back before it even gets to second-ball chances. Don’t count out Swaby filling in at full-back duty this year, either. Her performances at right-back were good enough to earn her a crucial assist against Sassuolo in 18-19, and she knows how to move about the opposition from out wide.

#2: Manuela Giugliano

AS Roma v AC Milan - Serie A Women’s Photo by Matteo Ciambelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Position: Midfield | Age: 23 | Roma Appearances: 12 | Last Year's Rank: 1st

When Roma landed Manuela Giugliano last summer, who was off a stellar run with Italy in the 2019 World Cup and eventually won Player of the Year honors, we lauded it as arguably the most significant signing in club history, right up there with Gabriel Batistuta and Antonio Cassano. First, there was her talent, which is enormous and still not completely tapped, but what made this signing so significant was the fit—she was exactly what Roma needed.

Sure, Giugliano can play a killer long ball and thread the needle in the box, but she can also switch play, create from deep, manipulate space, get stuck in a tackle, crash the box, serve up a cross, play quick one-twos in the box and is a threat on set-pieces. In a word, she can do it all and may already be the best midfielder in the league.

Oh, and she can do things like this:

At the 15 second mark of that clip, you'll see another arrow in Giugliano's quiver: a thunderous and ridiculously accurate right foot, one that can gently drop a ball in the corner of the net from beyond the 18-yard-box.

In fact, she did it twice last season:

Giugliano only scored two league goals in Roma's abruptly canceled season, but both strikes were highlight worthy goals from distance, dropping the ball just past the stretched out hands of a helplessly outclassed keeper. She's settled into more of playmaking role in recent seasons, but Giugliano has 37 career goals to her credit.

Thanks to a series of minor injuries, Manu's first season in Rome wasn't as prolific we'd hoped; she was limited to only 963 minutes. Despite that minor letdown, Roma felt secure enough in Giugliano's talent and promise to extend her contract through 2023.

The sky is the limit for Giugliano and if she's fit and ready to go, Roma will be very, very dangerous this season.

Doubly so if she can link up with our top U-23 prospect a few more times this year...

#1: Agnese Bonfantini

AC Milan v AS Roma - Women Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Position: F | Age: 21 | Roma Appearances: 36 | Last Year's Rank: 3rd

Jumping two places to become our top talent for the 2020-21 season is Agnese Bonfantini, who—both figuratively and literally on the pitch—has the most direct path to the top level. The Italian forward has shown two different styles of play in her respective seasons at Roma, but maintains the same intuition and drive towards goal that makes her the envy of the league.

Now that she’s signed to a multi-year contract with Roma, our only question for the coming season is: When will Bonfantini crack double-figures in a Roma jersey?

Back in her debut season of 2018, Bonfantini played more like a winger, wasting no time showing breathtaking top speed at this level, as well as an ability to change directions on a dime that made her a dangerous inside forward. She could cut in, pick up passes through the middle, or choose to go out wide and run rings around defenders all the same. That style cost Bonfantini a lot of energy (and perhaps less goalscoring as a result), but the word was out, if it hadn’t been already, that Roma held one of the hottest attacking prospects in the country by the summer of 2019.

If defenders thought they were wise to Bonfantini’s act last year, this time they’d be not just outflanked but truly outgunned by Agnese’s growing ability to free herself of any markers. It’s true that Bonfantini struggled to get regular game time at the beginning of 2019-20, as teams began to try and isolate her from the rest of Roma’s play. But Bonfantini showed a maturity to then regularly switch positions with Thomas, Serturini and others mid-match, as and when required of Roma’s increasingly fluid front three.

Now playing as more of hybrid forward, Bonfantini rarely gives defenders a point of reference to mark her through 90 minutes of any game. She might appear on the right or the left, but invariably Roma’s taliswoman is going to be red-lining it through the middle by the time 90 minutes are up. And when you see Bonfantini running straight into your 18-yard box, you know you done messed up. Only a fool would bet on anything other than the Italian Alex Morgan slotting it right under the keeper, before she peels off for yet another goal celebration.

Despite being Roma’s first-ever Serie A hat-trick scorer, Bonfantini claims she still prefers to see herself as a winger. How she chooses to keep molding herself, in the next three years, will prove crucial to her shot at becoming the leading forward for both club and country.

When you look at all great sport's dynasties, be it Manchester United in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the New York Yankees from that same era, or all the great Spain and Barcelona sides of the past decade, they all had one thing in common: a strong core of homegrown talent. United had the Class of ‘92, the Yankees had their “core four” while Barcelona and/or Spain had almost too much talent to list.

We won't know for many years if the Giallorosse can join those ranks, but with top tier talent at nearly every position on the pitch, Roma's abundance of U-23 talent could set them up for long-term sustained success. Giugliano and Bonfantini already seem like stars in the making, while players like Greggi, Serturini, Swaby and Pettenuzzo each have incredibly high ceilings and, at the very worst, seem like decade-long starters at the club level.

You know what? Forget the false modesty. Let your dreams run wild. Roma are sitting on a powder keg. With speed, strength, technique, heart, hustle and commitment all over the pitch, the Giallorosse are a potential juggernaut waiting to be released on Serie A and Europe.

If they can keep this core together, if Bavagnoli can continue to get the best out of them, and if they can improve and enhance the squad when professionalism hits in 2022-2023, Roma have every chance to be a threat at home and abroad.

It won't happen overnight, but it will happen; this team is simply too talented to be held down for too long. Stick with us all season long—starting this Sunday—as we track and trace every step of their journey to the top.