While the women of Roma haven't endured quite the same level of top-to-bottom turnover as the men have over the past few years, each new season still brings with it new players, new problems, and new solutions. However, the one constant through it all has been Annamaria Serturini. With 75 appearances and 30 goals scored, no other Roma player has played more or scored more than Serturini since the club's inception in 2018.
For all those reasons and more, she stands as our top-rated U-23 player.
Number One: Annamaria Serturini
Future Comparision: Lieke Martens (Barcelona)
Who is She?
Well, when you consider that she’s been the best (or at least most effective) player in Roma's brief history in women's football, she really needs no introduction, but Serturini is remarkably accomplished for a player her age.
Born in Alzano Lombardo on the outskirts of Bergamo, Serturini joined Brescia's famed youth academy before graduating to the first team during the 2014-2015 season. After making her debut in November of 2014, Serturini would truly gain a foothold with Brescia the following season.
As a 17-year-old midfielder/forward, Serturini scored four goals in only 528 minutes for Brescia during the ‘15-’16 season, providing a tiny helping hand in the club's domestic treble-winning side. She'd remain a bit player the following season, scoring three goals in another 562 minutes of action, before linking up with Pink Bari for the 2017-2018 season.
Serturini signed with Roma in the summer of 2018 and broke through in a major way during the 2018-2019 season, scoring 11 goals and earning a trip to the 2019 World Cup with Milena Bertolini's Azzurre squad.
For her efforts, Serturini was recently rewarded with a new contract through 2024.
What Can She Do?
I'm not sure that I've ever seen one single clip that encapsulates a player more than this shot of Serturini's killer goal against PSG earlier this month. At this still nascent stage of her career, Serturini's calling cards are speed, agility, and an almost insane ability to change directions on a dime—all of which are on full display in that clip.
We've been covering Serturini for three years now, and I'm 100% confident in this claim: she is the fastest player in the league. Whether she's bursting through the midfield or galloping down the flank, Serturini can outrace any player in Serie A, and it's not just top-end speed either, she has a lightning-quick first step. Speed and acceleration are easily confused terms, but Serturini has both in equal measure, which makes her practically impossible to stop. She can breeze past players in wider and/or open spaces but if you press up on her, she can reach her top speed quicker than most players, so she'll still leave defenders gasping in her wake. Thanks to this rare combination, she can break any defensive setup, be it a zonal approach or a woman-marking scheme.
Speed and acceleration are great but without stop-on-a-dime agility and yogi-like balance, it’s a bit like barbecuing without sauce; the end product wouldn't taste quite right. Fortunately, Serturini is able to embellish her pace and acceleration with an almost otherworldly ability to change direction at a moment's notice.
Watch nearly any Roma match and you're bound to see Serturini racing down the left flank before stopping and cutting in around 20 yards from the goal. And unlike so many other pacey and crafty wingers, she has enough skill and touch to bend the ball towards either corner, while still retaining enough shot power to bury the ball in the back of the net. She doesn't yet rack up assists on the regular, but she is capable of using the same skills and techniques to fire crosses into the box or slip through balls into the penalty area for Roma's strikers to feast on.
Annamaria Serturini has accomplished an awful lot in her brief career, but she’s not yet a finished product, which leads us to...
What Can She Become?
Like most young wingers, Serturini has the direct approach down pat. As we just illustrated, there isn't a defender in the league that can stop her from getting down the left flank, cutting in, and firing a shot at the keeper, or pumping a nice low ball across the face of goal. She uses these same physical traits to slice through the middle as well, but to date, her playmaking hasn't kept pace with her scoring.
Part of this single-minded approach was due to former manager Betty Bavagnoli's tactical preferences and, if we're being honest, the lack of quality at the other two forward spots. In Serturini’s three years with the club, she's played with five different center-forwards and while her opposite number on the right flank, Agnese Bonfantini, was incredibly talented, she couldn't contribute enough to lighten the scoring load on Serturini. Considering all that, she may have felt more compelled (or even instructed) to seek out her own shot in the final third.
With proven goalscorers like Benedetta Glionna and Valeria Pirone added to the roster this year, perhaps Serturini's final figures will be more balanced than in years past, but she has all the requisite skills and abilities to become Roma's Lieke Martens; a pacy, über-athletic winger capable of scoring 10-12 goals and chipping in five or six assists, depending on the breadth of the league schedule, which is set to change in the near future.
Even if she doesn't become a dynamic double-double threat, given everything we've discussed, she can still become an unstoppable wing scorer in the mold of someone like Martens or even another swift-footed Dutch dribbling machine, Arjen Robben.
With new manager Alessandro Spugna bringing a wing-focused 4-3-3 to Roma, and thanks to a fresh injection of attacking talent in the forward ranks, Serturini has every chance in the world to emerge from the 2021-2022 season as a legitimate MVP candidate.
And if she continues along this path, she could very well become the face of women's football in Italy.