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Ranking Roma’s Youth, #4: Justin Kluivert

Can Justin Kluivert make the leap during his third season with the Giallorossi?

SSC Napoli v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Franco Romano/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Like his friend Cengiz in the number five slot, Justin Kluivert is a player with an immense amount of promise who has yet to completely fulfill it in Rome. Also like Ünder, although there have been rumors of a move away for Kluivert, it looks as if the Dutchman may still figure into Paulo Fonseca’s Roma. This means that 2020/2021 will be a last chance season in Rome for yet another Giallorossi wonderkid; can Kluivert finally make the leap to stardom he’s seemingly been destined for since birth?

Number Four: Justin Kluivert

AC Milan v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images

Age: 21

Position: Winger

Previous Club: AFC Ajax

Future Comparison: Manchester United Cristiano Ronaldo, On The Left

Who Is He?

If you don’t know Justin Kluivert already from his two seasons with Roma, you definitely know his dad, former Dutch great Patrick Kluivert. Patrick is the fourth-highest-scorer ever for the Dutch National Team and came through the Ajax system before leaving for greener pastures, like his son. Justin made his first-team debut for Ajax in January 2017; a year and a half later, Kluivert used a soon-to-end contract to push his way to The City of the Seven Hills. Since then, Kluivert has racked up 66 appearances for Roma, scoring nine goals in total and continually looking as if he’s just a couple good chances away from breaking out into superstardom.

What Can He Do?

Kluivert is primarily a left winger but is able to play on both wings, and like many before him, he combines pace with dribbling and passing skills to demand respect from opposing defenders. In addition, this past season has seen Kluivert show off his defensive tracking ability, a skill that Cengiz Ünder is lacking by comparison.

Although he increased his goalscoring output for Roma in the 2019/2020 season, my review of him heading into that season still largely holds true:

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.

To add on to this, Kluivert has shown an ability to hit long shots and perform set pieces with aplomb at Ajax and elsewhere; because his role has been more limited in Rome, he hasn’t had as much of a chance to show off these elements of his game just yet.

What Can He Become?

Kluivert certainly showed more growth last season than Cengiz Ünder, yet his disappearance when the going got tough for Paulo Fonseca is certainly discouraging. Considering the injuries to Nicolo Zaniolo and the inevitable breaking-in period that Pedro will require, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kluivert rack up starts yet again when the season restarts. Simultaneously, the Dutchman will most likely be on a tighter leash than before, with the well-established Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the aforementioned Pedro more than likely to make him truly fight for his spot in the starting XI.

Given that, there’s a lot to look forward to with Justin Kluivert if he can cement his spot in the starting lineup and build off of a decent season by making 2020/2021 an excellent one. There’s a reason I compared him to Manchester United-era Cristiano Ronaldo; he’s still only 21, and you can see how he oozes ability and the potential for stardom whenever he’s on the pitch. Any player who can score nine goals and assist ten for Roma largely before he turns 21 deserves more time to show his worth. The potential departure of Edin Džeko would give a huge opportunity to the remaining forwards to force themselves into Fonseca’s plans. It remains to be seen if Kluivert could do that, but out of all of Roma’s forwards not nursing an ACL tear, it seems as if it will be Justin’s opportunity to lose.