We are reaching the end of this season and, inevitably, teams around Europe and worldwide are preparing themselves for the summer transfer window. The focus for many will be on exciting prospects and young talents from around the globe. Here is a list of 13 talented African footballers who are going to be high on […]
Generation Next is our regular section on Just Football scouting and reporting on the best upcoming young talents in world football today. In our most recent edition we looked at the Senegalese top talent Ismaila Sarr. Now we head to Italy to look at the Under-21 talent who’s made a big move this summer…
Sassuolo’s audacious and clever tendency of relying on talented youngsters is well-known and won the neroverdi their unlikely first-ever qualification to the Europa League in the 2015/16 season.
As part of this strategy, Sassuolo have tended to tap into Roma‘s youth academy (undoubtedly one of the best in Italy) to acquire a vast array of young prospects who have made their way from the capital to the heart of Emilia-Romagna. A wise move.
It’s a fruitful pathway, one that has allowed some talented players to have their place in Serie A with Sassuolo, something Roma has not always been able to grant them for various reasons. Matteo Politano, Luca Mazzitelli and Federico Ricci are just a few to tread this path.
In this bunch of Romans, there’s one player who has really made people sit up and talk. His name is Lorenzo Pellegrini.
Roma sold him to Sassuolo in 2015 but, in a forward-looking move, demanded the insertion of a buy-back clause in his contract. This allowed Roma to bring the boy home for €10 million by the deadline of 30 June 2017, which they have done this week. There, he will flesh out the Roman legion that, after Francesco Totti’s send-off, is now only composed of Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Florenzi.
— AS Roma (@OfficialASRoma) June 30, 2017
Name: Lorenzo Pellegrini
Date of Birth: 19 June 1996
Position: Central midfielder
Club: AS Roma
— Lorenzo Pellegrini (@LorenzoPelle48) June 30, 2017
Who is Lorenzo Pellegrini?
Lorenzo Pellegrini was born almost exactly 21 years ago in Rome. Son of Tonino, a former player who never hit the big time, he was enrolled by his father in his first soccer school. From there, he moved to Almas Roma, another local team, before planting his roots in Roma’s youth academy. He stayed there for ten years.
In the beginning, he was employed as centre-forward. It made sense, since he was often the tallest kid around. But then Vincenzo Montella changed his career. The former striker, who became the coach of Roma’s youth team in 2009, started to regard him as a midfielder. It brought his career to a decisive turning point which made Pellegrini stand out from the rest of the team.
By that time, unfortunately, something else happened in the life of the young Lorenzo. He was a young teenager when a cardiac arrhythmia was diagnosed. Naturally, it posed a serious threat to his career. But Pellegrini didn’t give up.
After four months out, he returned to the pitch. He conquered youth team captain’s armband and made it to the verge of the first team, before being sent to Sassuolo. In the black-and-green ranks he started to make a name for himself in the top-tier: 20 appearances and three goals in the first season, 34 appearances and eight goals in the second, earning the senior national team debut on 31 May 2017.
Let’s start with his shortcomings. Pellegrini has a tall and slender physique, which makes him a player without particularly explosive speed, nor with great strength. That’s why he will never play the role of the defensive midfielder satisfactorily.
He also lacks some tactical discipline, at least for the moment. On the other hand, he’s perfect for the attacking phase. What seems a rather slow body when running in the open field, is super nimble when moving in narrow spaces. This was illustrated by his marvellous goal at San Siro against Milan, when he got rid of Alessio Romagnoli with a sci-fi move.
His outstanding ability with both feet means he is always very confident when surrounded by opponents. Meanwhile, his technical command and elegance place him halfway between David Pizarro and Alberto Aquilani.
If we add to all this a knack for long balls and a vision which make a misplaced penetrative or cross-field pass a real rarity, and a precise shot from distance, we get an idea of why Lorenzo Pellegrini is considered one of the most promising young midfielders in the boot-shaped country of Italia.
What now for Lorenzo Pellegrini?
— AS Roma (@OfficialASRoma) June 30, 2017
As already mentioned, Roma had the right to buy Pellegrini back from Sassuolo. With his mentor Eusebio Di Francesco being the new manager of the giallorossi, the return of the talented midfielder to the capital was always more than likely.
By all means, for a Roman romanista like Pellegrini, going back to the Eternal City has always been a major objective. The player himself pointed this out to Corriere dello Sport last year:
“Okay, if there’s an aim, it’s just this: going back to Roma. But there’s still time, let’s wait for the conditions for this to happen to reveal themselves. I feel good now at Sassuolo, for real.”
Now that it’s happened, life won’t be easy for the Italian midfielder. He’ll have to struggle with giants like Radja Nainggolan, Kevin Strootman and Daniele De Rossi to find his place as regular, even if he can count on Di Francesco’s unconditional trust.
A couple words should be spent, in the end, about Pellegrini’s relationship with the national team. Despite being a pillar of Luigi Di Biagio’s under-21 team, with whom he played in this summer’s Euros, it’s not hard to imagine him being called by Gian Piero Ventura in the near future. His sensational overhead kick during the tournament in Poland was one of the competition’s stand-out moments.
If not for 2018 World Cup, Pellegrini will surely be fully mature for 2022. Then, together with a then-30-year-old Marco Verratti, he will surely be part of one of the most technically rich midfields of the tournament. Pellegrini will have to aim high, starting with the move to Rome.