Out of the Roma players who have yet to completely breakthrough into the senior squad, there’s no doubt that Cristian Volpato is the most intriguing long-term prospect. The sheer amount of depth Roma has already developed in the attacking positions (not to mention the potential impending signing of Andrea Belotti) might mean that we see less of Volpato than, say, Edoardo Bove next season. Still, make no mistake: there’s a reason why Sassuolo was trying to get this Aussie-Italian (Aussitalian?) in the Davide Frattesi negotiations, and there’s a reason why José Mourinho and Tiago Pinto have held on to Volpato despite his ability to unlock those negotiations.
There’s a lot of promise in Volpato’s legs, and although he might need to go to a smaller club for a season or two to truly fulfill that potential, there’s no reason to doubt his ability to shine at the senior level. All Romanisti need to do now is exercise a bit of patience (a challenge, I know).
Number Five: Cristian Volpato
Position: Trequartista, Winger
Shades Of: An Aussie Francesco Totti, David Silva
Who Is He?
Born in November 2003 in Camperdown, Australia, Volpato is a young attacking midfielder with the potential to play on the wing or even as a second striker as he develops. After making his way through various Sydney-based youth academies, Volpato was signed by Roma in 2020 to bolster the Giallorossi’s Under-18 squad, and bolster it he did. The 2020-2021 season saw Volpato score five goals and assist two across all U-18 competitions, which was enough to convince the powers that be that he was ready for the Primavera side.
The 2021-2022 season was when the potential Volpato displayed truly crystallized, however, as he combined lighting up the Primavera league with a scintillating glimpse of his future potential during his limited minutes under José Mourinho. We all remember Volpato’s 65th-minute goal against Hellas Verona, which, along with a later strike by fellow Youth Countdown member Edoardo Bove, allowed the Giallorossi to salvage a draw against I Gialloblu.
Yet his consistency in destroying Primavera defenses when he couldn’t get minutes at the senior level made Romanisti everywhere excited for what Volpato could become. In 28 appearances for Alberto De Rossi’s men, Volpato scored 11 goals and assisted four, putting him only behind Joel Voelkerling Persson (now of Lecce) for top scorer in the side. Not a bad resume for a guy who turns 19 in mid-November.
What Can He Do?
When Francesco Totti says a player reminds him of himself, you take notice, and by all accounts, Cristian Volpato does have a similar skillset to Capitano. Combining creative abilities, vision, and dribbling ability with a knack for goal, Volpato looks to be multi-talented on the pitch. Granted, a lot of what we’ve seen of him so far has been against teenagers who will likely never play significant professional football, but still... look at that highlight reel, listen to the whispers coming out of Roma’s camp about Volpato, see just how many clubs seem to be interested in his services, and tell me you’re not at least a little bit excited about the next chapter in his story.
What Can He Become?
It’s always quite hard to tell what exactly an 18-year-old prospect can become, no matter how much hype they have behind them. Remember, Nicolò Zaniolo had only just turned 19 when he joined Roma, and at that point in his career, he had practically the same resumé as Cristian Volpato currently does; for all we know, Volpato will have the same meteoric rise as Zaniolo and be the #1 player on our Youth Countdown for the foreseeable future. That’s not to say that Volpato is anything close to guaranteed to become a star, let alone a Serie A-level starter, but with a little patience, it sure seems like the next couple years could be Cristian’s time to shine.
This might be a contentious take when talking about the player Francesco Totti tagged as his spiritual successor, but part of me hopes that Volpato is sent out on loan (or sold with a buy-back option a la Lorenzo Pellegrini) within the next year or so. Sure, if he’s able to explode with Roma now, I’m all for it, but simultaneously, there’s a lot to be said for giving an exciting prospect like Volpato consistent top-flight minutes away from the blinding lights of the Stadio Olimpico.
For every Nicolò Zaniolo the Italian media nurtures into a star, there’s, well, a Nicolò Zaniolo that the Italian media then tries to tear down at every opportunity. Starting out at a smaller club, even if he’s still technically a Roma player, might give Volpato some breathing room and a chance to develop without the entire Romaverse calling for his head every time he makes a minor error on the pitch.
With Volpato looking to be staying around the first-team squad for the time being, my prescribed temporary move away might not be coming any time soon, and if he can blossom in Rome without a loan move, well, more power to him; given his talent, I just hope Volpato can find developmental minutes consistently in Rome. If he isn’t able to break through and get minutes over the likes of Paulo Dybala, Zaniolo, Tammy Abraham, and Lorenzo Pellegrini (at a minimum), then I hope Tiago Pinto does the right thing and finds him the right loan move, either now or in the winter mercato.