When Roma signed 18-year-old Juventus center-back Dean Huijsen on loan last month, no one was quite sure what to expect. In the throes of a four or five-team fight for Italy's final Champions League place, it seemed odd that Roma would bother taking on such an inexperienced kid—and on a dry loan, no less. There was no doubting Huijsen's talent or potential, but apart from being a warm body to occupy the bench while Evan Ndicka was on international duty, this transfer didn't offer Roma a lot of upside.
That was until we saw him play. Apart from a few minor hiccups here and there, Huijsen has looked remarkably composed for a teenager getting his first legitimate run in a top-flight league. While it's still somewhat jarring to see a lanky, 6'4" defender floating around Roma's backline, Huijsen makes effective use of his long limbs, gently gliding into position and using his reach to dispossess attackers before using a surprisingly deft touch to clear the ball from danger.
Considering all that, it didn't take long for Huijsen to transform from an intriguing curiosity to a potential piece of the future, which reached a fever pitch after Monday's 4-0 win over Cagliari, where Huijsen headed home his first career goal off a Leandro Paredes corner kick.
There's just one small problem: Roma has no option to buy Huijsen at the end of the season. However, according to reports from the Gazzetta dello Sport, that doesn't mean Huijsen's return to Juve is a fait accompli. From a simple return to Roma on a one-year loan to a potential €25 to €30 million sale, which has pulled in clubs like Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund, the Gazzetta offered a range of outcomes for the 18-year-old center-back.
With Ndicka returning soon from the Africa Cup of Nations and Chris Smalling slowly working his way back into the first team, Huijsen may find minutes harder to come by down the stretch run. Still, with Ndicka, Smalling, and even Diego Llorente potentially playing elsewhere next season, Huijsen could play significant minutes for Roma in 2024-2025.
With nearly four months left, this story is bound to take multiple twists and turns before the curtain drops on the season, but one thing is for sure: his future looks incredibly bright.