Grande 50: Part III

GABRIEL BARBOSA
  • Age: 20
  • Club: Inter Milan
  • Country: Brazil

The 20-year-old forward arrived in Milan dubbed the ‘new Neymar’, but like so many who have been before him, being labelled the next ‘anybody’ isn’t always a bonus and he has until now remained an enigma. With few chances to sparkle under two separate coaches, Inter fans have only been able to see momentary glimpses of his talent and have been left wondering if they will ever see him get a run of games under his belt.

Gabigol joined Santos at the age of eight, scoring 600 goals in the youth leagues to earn his nickname. Deeply embedded in the traditions and culture of Santos, his beloved hometown club, the question was asked if he had left for Italy too soon. Was he too young; was he too much of a hometown boy?

The Brazilian is slowly being integrated into the club, though Stefano Pioli believes his cavalier style, one festooned with tricks and flicks, may suit Brazil but isn’t enough for Serie A. If he can learn tactical discipline whilst keeping his fearless approach, then he could set the world on fire.

​FEDERICO CHIESA
  • Age: 19
  • Club: Fiorentina
  • Country: Italy

Son of the famous Enrico, Federico Chiesa is showing that he is potentially as talented as his father as he wows the crowds in Florence with his versatile style.

Promoted to the Viola Primavera in 2014, the 19-year-old has shown he can play across the midfield and has impressed with his fluidity and smooth transition with the ball. He made his debut against Juventus of all teams and, despite being substituted at half-time, showed how he could cope under such pressure.

He scored his first goal for Fiorentina in the Europa League against Qarabag, a game in which he also managed to pick up two yellow cards and get sent off, thereby showing a different side to his personality.

These are early days for the young midfielder but he has the talent to hold down a position in Serie A in the near future. He has yet to feature for the, Azzurri but has been called up recently to the under-20 squad.

FEDERICO DIMARCO
  • Age: 19
  • Club: Empoli (on loan from Inter Milan)
  • Country: Italy

What is it they say about buses? Two come along at once? Well in Inter’s case, this is the exciting position they find themselves in when it comes to left-backs. Frederico Dimarco has just as much potential as Senna Miangue (read below) in this position, yet he is a completely different player in style and stature.

At only 5’8”, he does not have the physical presence of Miangue, but he is arguably more technical and lightening quick. His style would be well suited to the English game – he distributes quickly and looks to drive forward. This does not mean he is tactically unaware, nor does it mean he is rash; he constantly wants to receive the ball and maraud up the field, but he manages the game well. He is also a tough tackler and, for a boy of his height, remarkably apt in the air.

Dimarco is currently on loan at Empoli, where he has added to his sole Nerazzurri appearance and the 15 outings he acquired at Ascoli. At only 19 years of age, he has a bright career ahead, whether that be with Inter or elsewhere. ​

ASSANE GNOUKOURI
  • Age: 20
  • Club: Internazionale
  • Country: Ivory Coast

The 20-year-old Ivorian was part of the Marseille youth system but was dropped in December of 2013. From there, he moved to Italy to play for newly established club Altovicentino, in calcio’s lower leagues. Fortune then smiled on the Gnoukouri family in the summer of 2014, as Assane and his brother Zate Wilfried Demoya were signed to Inter’s Primavera side.

Assane eventually broke into the senior team under Roberto Mancini and stood out in the Milan Derby of 2015. The young midfielder did not just go about his business with consummate ease, but ran proceedings in the center of the pitch. His combination play with Mateo Kovacic was outstanding – the duo looked like they had played together for seasons.

On the night, Gnoukouri’s relaxed running and superb vision enabled him to move in and out of space, always offering his team-mates a new option. His hunger to get the ball was refreshing (which is why it is hard to see how he has not been noticed by Pioli) and his quick turns and simple distribution had a huge effect on the rest of the team. This metronomic style of play allowed his team-mates to push forward and concentrate on finding killer passes.

Despite this excellent performance, chances since have been few and far between and Gnoukouri has become another victim of Inter’s reluctance to blood youth. It now seems a loan move away from San Siro is on the cards.

​SENNA MIANGUE
  • Age: 19
  • Club: Internazionale
  • Country: Belgium

Inter’s 19-year-old left-back certainly has the potential to buck the trend and break through to the first team. Whilst the Nerazzurri are notoriously poor at enabling their talented youth team players to break through, Senna Miangue is different.

The Belgian moved to Italy in 2013 from Beerschot AC and quickly made his name in the Primavera. His 6’3” frame is complemented by a muscular physique and to top it all off, he is fast and technical. These attributes helped him make his full debut this term against Palermo and he looks set to feature for the first team on a more regular basis.

His long-term future could also be strengthened by the poor offering the Nerazzurri have in the full-back positions, and he may even feature more this season as the position is the team’s Achilles’ heel.

The biggest advantage he has over the incumbent bunch is his quality of delivery. This is something for which his team-mates have been criticised, as when the wingers Ivan Perisic and Andrea Candreva look to cut inside, they often lack an overlapping option, which the Belgian certainly could provide. For Miangue, it is a case of watch this space.

​ANDREA PETAGNA
  • Age: 21
  • Club: Atalanta
  • Country: Italy

Perhaps it is a curse laid at the feet of both Milan clubs, but they are both guilty of letting their young talents go. Andrea Petagna is undoubtedly a regret for the Rossoneri, now forced to watch on as he plays an important part in Atalanta’s impressive season.

With three goals in 15 games he has not been prolific, but the work he has put in has shown him to be a workman-like and selfless centre-forward. This has also seen him recognised by the Azzurri, where he has made his under-21 debut. Milan promoted him to the first team in 2013, but the 21-year-old was quickly loaned out to Sampdoria, Latina, Vicenza and Ascoli, struggling to impress in the process.

Atalanta won his signature in 2016 and the young forward has instantly formed a relationship with Papu Gomez this term. His style is similar to Arsenal’s Olivier Giroud; he is 6’2”, strong and good at holding the ball up for his team-mates. He presses well and while not lethal in the area, he has the potential to increase his tally this term. If he can add that selfish trait in front of goal, then Milan may lament his departure even more.

ANDREA PINAMONTI
  • Age: 17
  • Club: Internazionale
  • Country: Italy

Interviewed after pre-season by Premium Sport, the 17-year-old Andrea Pinamonti stated, “I never imagined that I would train with great champions like (Stevan) Jovetic, (Mauro) Icardi and (Rodrigo) Palacio. They are helping me to improve and I want to thank them for that.” The young man was certainly not overawed by the experience and his hard work paid off as he made his debut in the Europa League against Sparta Prague.

The talented forward said that his debut was indescribable and Inter certainly have a player who is ‘one of their own’. The boy from Trentino models himself on Icardi and the work he is doing seems to be paying off.  The debut in Inter’s terrible Europa League campaign was one of the high points with Pioli stating that, “Pinamonti is very young, but has great quality and above all it’s not easy to find a youngster who is so humble, with his head firmly on his shoulders. He’ll have a great future,”

Pinamonti’s performances for the Primavera have been positive and the fact that he is as good in the air as he is on the floor is impressive. Along with his single-mindedness in finding the back if the net, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that this young man could emulate Icardi, with more humility that is.

​SIMONE SCUFFET
  • Age: 20
  • Club: Udinese
  • Country: Italy

At just 17 years of age, Simone Scuffet performed heroics as Udinese beat Milan 1-0 in March 2014. His display led to a deluge of praise that saw him labelled (yet another) successor to the ageing Gianluigi Buffon, a tag that helped turn the heads of many of Europe’s elite clubs.

One year later, the young custodian should have been on fire, but instead found himself benched and hardly featuring. A loan to Serie B Como soon materialised. Seldom has such a stunning rise been halted so quickly.

Shortly before Scuffet’s move to Como, La Gazzetta dello Sport had suggested that Fiorentina had tried to bring in Scuffet on loan, but wanted a buyout clause inserted, which the Zebrette rejected. Atletico Madrid had also been keen to get hold of the youngster, but after injuries and poor form, their interest cooled.

It certainly wasn’t that his potential was forgotten; after all, on 9 June 2014, Scuffet signed a new five-year deal with Udinese. The fact is that the club preferred to look for a more seasoned keeper instead of risking everything on this bright starlet. The 20-year-old has had to bide his time, but his chance will come.

​GIOVANNI SIMEONE
  • Age: 21
  • Club: Genoa
  • Country: Argentina

Being the son of the great Diego Simeone cannot be easy, but the young Giovanni is doing a good job of distinguishing himself from his namesake. The 21-year-old has been an instant success story since his arrival at Genoa last August – nowadays the chant ‘Forza Cholo’ echoes around the Marassi Stadium.

The former River Plate striker is showing great potential so far this term, netting six times in his first 15 games. He is hard-working and just like his father, he is not afraid of a tackle. Yet he also possesses an elegance and finesse that has seen him lift the Genovese faithful. Whilst there have been comparisons to Diego Milito because of the Argentine/Genoa links, the boy himself is another of Mauro Icardi’s disciples. Indeed, Simeone looks very much like one of the new breed of deadly number 9s who are interested in only one thing: goals.

The young Argentine has a big career ahead of him and has proved that he can cut it in Serie A. His brace against Juventus was the highlight of his career thus far as he helped down the league leaders 3-1 in November 2016.

​ELOGE KOFFI YAO
  • Age: 20
  • Club: Internazionale
  • Country: Ivory Coast

Eloge Koffi Yao, or simply Yao, is one of the most exciting players to come out of the Inter youth ranks. The Ivorian was signed from Parma in 2015 and has already got games under his belt after a loan spell with Crotone. The centre-back has a skill set that in time could see him become one of the most influential players in his position in European Football, if the Nerazzurri manage his growth correctly.

Like the aforementioned Miangue, Yao has an athletic physique and, despite only being 5’11” is strong, fast and has an incredible leap. As a defender, the most exciting aspect of his play is his technical ability and composure. An old-school defender who does not dive in, he prefers to usher opposing forwards away from goal. And, once he has the ball, he is not afraid to play out from the back.

This ball-playing centre-back has a touch of the old libero about him, with a style reminiscent of Ivano Blason. High praise indeed, but the potential is certainly there. In a world where central defenders are scarce and good ball-playing ones rare, the sky is the limit for Inter’s 20-year-old Ivorian.


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​Words by Richard Hall @Gentleman_Ultra

Richard is the founder of The Gentleman Ultra and an Italian Football Writer contributing to @Guardian_sport, @FootballItalia, @CmdotCom, @SiriusXMFC and beINSPORTUSA