With 15 goals and 12 assists in two seasons at the Primavera level, Nicola Zalewski was one of Roma's most-renowned prospects, but football chews up and spits out U-23 players with alarming regularity; it's just the nature of the beast. So when Zalewski was tabbed to fill Leonardo Spinazzola's shoes late last season, we weren't sure what to expect. Zalewski had the pedigree, the local roots, and the skill to be a contributor, but playing out of position and under the bright lights (and for José Mourinho, no less) was a daunting proposition.
After essentially stealing the left wing-back position from Matías Viña last spring, Zalewski responded with an impressive 24-match run down the stretch, chipping in two assists during the Giallorossi's march to the first-ever Europa Conference League title. While Spinazzola has resumed his place in Mourinho's starting eleven this season, Zalewski has slowly wormed his way back into The Special One's plans, garnering three starts in the past week alone.
While we don't know what the remainder of the season has in store for the 20-year-old Polish international, Zalewski's C.V. received a boost earlier today:
After making the initial 40-man list for Tuttosport's European Golden Boy award, given to the best U-20 talent in Europe, Zalewski was named to the final 20-man shortlist earlier today, joining the likes of Bayern Munich's Ryan Gravenberch, Barcelona's Ansu Fati, and Juve's Fabio Miretti, to name a few.
The final vote will occur later this year, so be sure to vote early and often!