Whisper it quietly, but there are suddenly loads of ace kids in Serie A
We have good news for anyone who still misses the days of Serie A in the 90s – it’s been ace this season and there are a sh*tload of potentially world-class youngsters breaking through.
Once the strongest league in Europe, Serie A has taken a bit of a battering over the past decade and did not even have four automatic Champions League places until 2017, but things are on the up.
Atalanta finishing third has been one of the stories of the season across the continent, and the emergence of some brilliantly talented under-21s could just be the start of Serie A reestablishing itself as the league we all love to watch…
A player we have all known about for a number of years, yet Donnarumma is still just somehow 20 years old.
The Milan goalkeeper has had to contend with the pressure of being anointed the heir apparent to Gianluigi Buffon for the last four years, but he has gradually continued to develop in a position noted for players peaking in their 30s.
Coming up to almost 200 appearances for club and country, we could still have another 20 years of Donnarumma to look forward too.
One of the new kids on the block, Paqueta joined Milan in €35million January deal from Flamengo and has already caught the eye with his Brazilian flair.
The 21-year-old drew comparisons to Kaka in his native Brazi and has been given the stamp of approval from the Milan legend.
“Seeing this relationship between Milan and Brazil is beautiful,” Kaka told Sky Sports earlier this year. “Paqueta grew up in Brazil, played in Flamengo and is now bringing this union between the Rossoneri and my land.
“The number 10 of the Brazilian national team? It is nice for him, he will write a great story. I think he is ready.”
READ: Lucas Paquetá’s rainbow flick shows he has no plans to compromise on flair
A player regularly linked with Manchester United over the past year, Milenkovic has been a first-team regular at Fiorentina for the past two seasons after joining from Partizan Belgrade in 2017.
The defender has already won 12 caps for Serbia, so expect plenty of ‘the next Nemanja Vidic’ headlines.
Kean’s name has been known for some time now after he became the first player born in the 2000s to appear in one of Europe’s top four leagues, but this has been the season in which he truly announced himself for both club and country.
The 19-year-old had to bide his time at Juventus but grasped the opportunity of a first start of the season in January by scoring against Bologna – and he hasn’t looked back since.
He’s added six more goals for Juve, including winners against Empoli and Milan, made his mark on the international stage with two goals in his first three Italy appearances, and even stood up to racists at Cagliari. We love him.
READ: Moise Kean channelling Pippo Inzaghi to show his clutch credentials for Juve
Milan may have endured a difficult season, with missing out on Champions League qualification ultimately costing Gennaro Gattuso his job, but they can take plenty of encouragement from the number of promising youngsters they have on their books.
Like the aforementioned Donnarumma and Paqueta, Cutrone should only get better, having scored 27 goals for the club over the past two seasons.
The striker mainly had to operate from the bench in 2018-19, especially after the arrival of Krzysztof Piatek, but he has already shown enough to suggest he can still be a valuable asset for Milan.
One of the breakout stars of the season in Europe, Zaniolo has become one of the most in-demand teenagers around thanks to his performances for Roma this season.
The youngest player since Francesco Totti to score three Serie A goals, Inter could live to regret selling the 19-year-old to Roma in the summer for just €4.5million as part of the deal which saw Radja Nainggolan, whose season has been marred by disciplinary issues, move in the opposite direction to the San Siro.
Previously compared to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard by Inter Primavera coach Stefano Vecchi, Zaniolo has bagged six goals from midfield in his debut campaign, including a brace against Porto in the Champions League.
READ: 10 of the best breakthrough stars in Europe in the 2018-19 season
The youngest Turkish player to score in the Champions League, 2018-19 has been a disappointing campaign for Under, but that’s only due to the high standards he had set himself in his debut season with Roma.
Form and fitness issues have disrupted the attacker’s 2019, but reports suggest there is still plenty of interest in the 21-year-old, who Roma may need to sell in order to balance the books.
Chiesa sits in the middle of a popular venn diagram of players who are both some of the best up-and-coming talent in Europe and also the offspring of footballing greats – think Justin Kluivert and Gio Simeone too.
The son of former Serie A favourite Enrico Chiesa, the Fiorentina winger has become an Italy regular in the last 12 months, attracting attention from Inter and Juventus.
READ: Federico Chiesa & a generation of sons making us nostalgic for 90s football
A number of clubs around Europe reportedly want to sign Barella, whose performances in midfield for Cagliari have seen him break into the Italy set-up.
Chelsea were mooted to have had a bid for the 22-year-old accepted in January, but he is thought to want to stay in Italy – with Inter a possible destination for a player who has been compared to Daniele De Rossi and Paul Pogba in recent seasons.
“De Rossi is the most similar to me in terms of characteristics,” Barella told Sky Sports. “Pogba was Balon D’or worthy at Juventus and I look bad in comparison.
“In my role you have to know how to read the game and everything in advance. I have also played as a playmaker this season and it helped me to see my role as a mezzala in a different light.”
The spotlight has been on Martinez at Inter in recent months after the Mauro Icardi soap opera led to his fellow Argentine needing to step up.
Martinez is still getting accustomed to life in Serie A after moving to the San Siro from Racing Club in the summer but has gradually improved, scoring six goals after the turn of the year, twice as many as he managed for Inter in 2018.
Lautaro Martínez was directly involved in eleven goals in his 34 matches for Inter Milan across all competitions in 2018/19:
⚽ 9 goals
🎯 2 assists
A decent first season in Europe. pic.twitter.com/OYnbhF0gz6
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 21, 2019
Another 20-year-old goalkeeper, Fiorentina signed Lafont from Toulouse in the summer, allowing him to compete with Donnarumma in a battle to see who is the best young stopper in Europe.
Any avid Football Manager players should be making Lafont one of the first names on their transfer shortlist.