We hate to brag (not really—we love to) but last season was a banner year of sorts for the Honorable Mentions basement level of CdT’s annual youth ranks. We’d like to thank you for sticking with us down here as, together, we were the first to discover Ebrima Darboe back in 2019 before it was cool. We discovered Daniel Fuzato back in the same summer, though it was always cool to follow Fuzato from the very moment he set foot in Rome. You get where we’re going with this already.
Ultimately, it might be trendy right now to claim that Paulo Fonseca was the man holding this current Roma squad back (we’re always going to blame the guy who left since it saves us from having to confront the glaring flaws of the guys left behind) but Fonseca set the stage for an explosion of CdT U-23 countdown nominees into first-team football throughout 2020-2021. Before then, all we really had to make this list respectable was the presence of Lorenzo Pellegrini. But cracking the senior team is one thing; becoming a first-team regular like Pellegrini is another matter altogether.
Will that final rung in the ladder be grabbed by any of our unlikely names below?
Ranking Roma's Youth: Honorable Mentions
Prior Club: Pescara
Future Comparison: Alessio Cerci
We’re including Riccardi in this list because at least one of us on the writing team included Alessio in their top ten picks. Unfortunately, we don’t have any real updates or explanation as to why Riccardi was well and truly left in the dust at Pescara last season, other than the problems he has growing his physique ever since his Roma Primavera days.
Some players get a growth spurt, and some players don’t. But Riccardi is no longer in his teen years now, so he’ll really want to get some game time this season. He’s been most recently linked with Triestina, but then so have a host of Roma young players after the club traveled to the east of Italy for this summer’s pre-season friendly in Trieste. We know Riccardi’s game by now: He has an amazing right foot that can do anything from open play or set pieces, but there’s little else to his game (so far) beyond that. He gets the Cerci comparison.
Position: Defender/Midfielder/Utility Player
Prior Club: Roma U-19
Future Comparison: Federico Bernardeschi on Italy duty
Tripi’s inclusion is a similar story, in that, at least one of us on the writing team has him in their Top 10 picks for this season. I personally couldn’t tell you what to expect of Tripi, as he’s never stood out at Primavera level other than carrying the captain’s armband (which has too often been the cautionary tale of a future career spent in obscurity at lower-league level).
Tripi is just... there. He filled in at defense with the U-19s before filling in at deep midfield for Alberto De Rossi’s side, and he’s filled in at full-back for the senior team. He’s willing to do whatever is needed, and that’s not something we’re ever going to begrudge Filippo, Like Bernardeschi in the Italy squad, maybe Tripi is just a great squad guy to keep the morale high (it’d help if we knew whether Tripi could take a cracking penalty or not).
Position: Wide Forward
Prior Club: Roma U-19
Future Comparison: Ryan Giggs
Providence’s first season with Roma Primavera was absolutely nothing to write home about, which made it all the more impressive when the French wingman came back with a vengeance in his sophomore U-19 season of 2020-2021. For the first half of last season, Providence was a key figure in Roma’s 100% points run as they reigned supreme at the top of the table while Ruben strung together relentless take-ons down that left flank, driving the ball, carving open assists and goals. But then disaster struck once again at the beginning of 2021.
It can’t be a coincidence that Roma Primavera lost some of their confidence (and their lead in the league) the moment that Providence suffered a fractured foot ruling him out for the second half of the season. The Frenchman has yet to get back to full match action since then, and it’s more than likely he’ll be sold off by the club this summer—or at least sent out on loan. Again, though, one of our writers had him in their Top 10 picks and that’s understandable when you see the kind of virtuoso performances Providence put in last season.
Position: Complete Forward
Prior Club: EurAfrica Academy
Future Comparison: Radamel Falcao
I’ve mentioned it before but, while I’m not against Roma setting up youth academies around the world in non-big five league territories, there’s a lot of potential for Roma to turn into a scumbag club if done incorrectly. Either way, you can’t be pro-Roma global academies and be anti-Super League; they hold the same consequences. Felix is the closest Roma have come to directly poaching from the CAN-territory academies so far, and what a revelation he’s been in his first season with the Roma youth ranks.
The Ghanaian striker already won promotion to Primavera football a year ahead of schedule, last year, while finding the time to play in the Roma U-18’s title win over Genoa at the very end of the playoff season. He really gets all over the front line and needs very little support from teammates to make something dangerous happen. We don’t expect him to break into the senior squad this season, but a bench appearance or two could keep his confidence up.
Felix is also the first proof that Roma’s win over Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals of 2017 started a legacy, as the striker has publicly cited watching that match on TV as the reason he became a Roma fan and subsequently signed for the club.
Prior Club: N/A
Future Comparison: Dani Olmo
Sticking with names who’ve jumped a year ahead of schedule for a brief moment, we have to mention the talent that is Riccardo Pagano if you’re planning on catching any Roma Primavera football this coming season.
That’s because Pagano is still only 16-years-old (going on 17 this winter) but already cracked Alberto De Rossi’s U-19 team last season for a few appearances. We expect that he’ll become a more regular fixture with ADR this season, though any chance of seeing Mourinho’s squad must still be at least a couple of years away.
In his few years as a Roma youth, Pagano has done it all: U-18 league champion this season, U-15 champion with Roma a few years ago, and Roma captain at every step of the youth ladder so far. He’s even played central midfield, attacking midfield and up front as a false nine, showing what a mind Pagano has for finding time and space on the pitch already.
Prior Club: N/A
Future Comparison: A more confrontational Patrik Schick
I feel Ciervo would have rock-solid odds for making the bench in Jose Mourinho’s squad this year... if Roma weren’t already so stacked on the right wing. Though Ciervo is sometimes listed (and even pictured above playing as) a left winger, he’s spent nearly his entire Roma youth career marauding down that right flank—whether it be from the right-wide forward position or as a right wingback last season. Therein lies the problem.
Ciervo already has Nicolo Zaniolo and Carles Perez ahead of him at the right-forward role, as well as Rick Karsdorp and Bryan Reynolds taking up the spots at right-back. That said, Ciervo is a joy to watch on any given day. If you get to check out Roma Primavera’s playoff game against Atalanta a few months ago, it was Ciervo’s introduction at half-time that totally changed the chemistry of the match and brought Roma back level on the scoreline (even though they lost to an Atalanta wondergoal by the final whistle).
There’s nothing complicated about what Ciervo does: If he’s not running in behind you or straight past you, then he’ll run through you when necessary. His teammates trust him as that wide option to receive the ball whenever, wherever, and carry it upfield. That’s exactly what Ciervo did in that Atalanta game as he set up Zalewski for an equalizer on the day, but Riccardo’s been doing it a lot longer than that for Roma at youth level. He has the same languid physique as Patrik Schick but three times more determination on the ball.
Position: Central Midfielder
Prior Club: N/A
Future Comparison: Daniele De Rossi
We’re saving arguably the best for last, as I can’t shake the gut feeling that Edoardo Bove may just surprise everyone (including me) and carve himself out a permanent place in Rome. The kind of player Bove started out being in Roma’s youth ranks is a very different player to the one he’s become today, and what he is today is a combative midfielder who gives away absolutely nothing for free.
When we first mentioned Bove here in the U-23 basement, a couple of summers ago, he was arguably a future Jordan Veretout or Atalanta-version Bryan Cristante; meaning a young talent who showed an excellent sense of when to time runs off the ball into the penalty area and bury it into the back of the net. That took Bove to youth-league success with Roma, and even a European Alkass Cup final (lost on penalties to Rangers) the following season. Then recurring injuries hit Bove’s career for the last two years, yet he’s come back more fierce, more hungry, and fighting more duels each time.
Now Bove is a ball-winner, first and foremost. He wouldn’t look out of place in any position in midfield (whether deep or in an advanced role) because of his metamorphosis. He’s also not the most talented player of his or any other generation, but he’s got an iron-clad will that few (if any) of his peers can match. That’s exactly the attitude that Mourinho likes running through the spine of his team, and its not surprising to us that Bove has been mentioned in the media as potentially being “off” the transfer market in Roma’s eyes now, after the pre-season Bove just spent training and playing under Mourinho.
We don’t know whether those reports are true, as only two months ago Bove was continuously linked with a move to Serie B for the coming season. We’ll have to wait until the end of August to find out, but that’s really how it could shake out for Bove: His game isn’t based on jaw-dropping talent (at least not after so many injuries have held his development back) that he really could wind up in Serie B, but his heart is second-to-none and could just as easily have him winning over Stadio Olimpico crowds.