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Ranking Roma's Youth, #10: Alessio Riccardi

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Riccardi has the skills and potential to be the club's next great Roman and will test his mettle with Pescara before returning home.

As Roma U19 v FC Internazionale U19 - Primavera 1 Photo by Silvia Lore/Getty Images

This summer marks the seventh year in which we've counted down the Top 10 U-23 Roma players; a span that has seen players as disparate as Juan Iturbe, Tin Jedvaj, Mattia Destro and Nicolo Zaniolo make the list. AS Roma may not be the biggest club in the world, but they are no doubt a cosmopolitan outfit, regularly featuring top talent from nearly every continent on the globe. Yet it's the local boys—the born and bred Romans—that earn the highest praise and receive the greatest scorn from fans and pundits.

It's a symptom of a rather strange psychological quirk in which the anxieties of a city that should, for all intents and purposes, not only be the seat of political power in Italy but wield equal influence in sport, finance, fashion, science and medicine. However, for reasons well beyond the scope of this article, Roma's historical significance hasn't carried over into all facets of modern day life.

And it often feels like those insecurities come home to roost when we're dealing with the city's best known football club, where every frustrating loss, every blowout, every injury, every stadium delay and every insult flung from the north only serves to exacerbate those feelings of inadequacy.

So when a kid with a bit of talent makes a prophetic rise from the city's streets, their future often gets conflated with all the hopes and anxieties of the club and city itself. And while we can't exactly quantify any of this, when a Roman suits up for the club, it's just...different.

It's a phenomenon that has made heroes out of players like Agostino Di Bartolomei, Francesco Totti, Daniele De Rossi and Elisa Bartoli, but has crushed the likes of Alessio Cerci, Aleandro Rosi and so many more.

It's into that maelstrom that 19-year-old Alessio Riccardi steps. And as a flashy, attacking player, he'll likely earn even more scorn and/or praise than he's due. It's not an easy situation for any player to enter, but Riccardi's bag of skills are as impressive as any kid to come along over the past decade.

All of which makes him our number ten prospect this season.

Number Ten: Alessio Riccardi

Age: 19

Position: Midfielder

Prior Club: Roma Primavera

2020 Club: Pescara (loan with an option to buy, Roma retain buyback rights)

Future Comparison: Totti is too lofty for him, so let's stick with Isco-lite.

Who is He?

Born roughly one month before Roma's last Scudetto triumph in 2001, one might say that Riccardi was destined to suit up for AS Roma, but his first steps in the sport were actually with Lazio's five-a-side youth teams. Fortunately for Riccardi, he soon caught the eye of Bruno Conti, who quickly snapped up the youngster and enrolled him in Roma's youth program.

Riccardi's climb up the Roma ladder has been a quick one since then, frequently playing against competition two to three years older, debuting with Roma's U-19s at only 16-years-old.

Undaunted by this challenge, Riccardi quickly cemented himself as one of Italy's best teenage prospects, showcasing a dynamic blend of scoring and creativity in the Primavera ranks and even captaining Italy at the U-17 and U-19 levels.

With 11 goals and two assists in last season's Primavera, Riccardi has nothing left to prove in the youth leagues and will spend the upcoming season with Pescara in Serie B.

What Can He Do?

With quick feet, a soft touch and vision for days, Riccardi is comfortable slotting in as a traditional number ten but can also play out-wide on either side in support of a striker. You want goals? He's got ‘em, 35 at the youth level to be exact. You want assists? He's got those too, 16 to be exact.

Put simply, Riccardi is an attacker, full-stop. He can pass, he can shoot, he can dribble and he can create. Put him in the right set-up with a patient manager and Riccardi could be the future of Roma, serving as the primary creator and secondary goal-scorer with almost Totti-like precision.

What Can He Become?

This is the million dollar question for all these kids, and it can't really be answered until they have at least three years under their belts, but with Riccardi the question seems particularly important in 2020.

Riccardi has been thrown into all sorts of transfer rumors over the past two seasons, but there was something about his inclusion into the club's negotiations with Napoli over Arkadiusz Milik that seemed particularly unsettling. Napoli have practically no leverage in the negotiations given that Milik's deal expires in one year, but that hasn't stopped Aurelio De Laurentiis for asking for the moon and the stars, which in this case would be Cengiz Ünder, €20 million in cash and Riccardi.

That taste of vomit in your mouth is justified, largely because Riccardi looks every bit the fantasista the club has been missing since Totti “retired.” He can't and likely won't ever hold a candle to Totti, but if he can reach his potential, he can serve the same role as peak-Totti: becoming the straw that stirs the drink.

Riccardi has a nose for goal and the technique, vision and close control to make those around him better. He can be the proverbial tide that lifts all of Roma’s boats

So, in their quest to land a new striker this summer, let's hope Roma don't throw this beautiful little Roman baby out with the bath water. {This was written prior to his Pescara loan, but thankfully Roma were smart enough to retain Riccardi's permanent rights}.