Jaime Báez (Cosenza)
The 23-year-old Uruguayan attacker (whose birthday is this month) has been playing much better than we’ve ever seen him in Italy through the second half of this season. While he’s still only scored once, he’s added an impressive 8 assists, including 3 in his last 6 starts. Since things always seem to be tough for him somehow, he managed to get himself sent off against Perugia in February after setting up the game’s only goal. He’s also started to show a propensity for some rather, er, overzealous reactions to contact, which is not great. However, there’s no denying that he’s vastly improved over even the start of the season, showing confidence on the ball and a desire for responsibility that’s finally catching up to his physical gifts. With his pace, technique, and new-found feel for the game, he could wind up making himself a very good player yet. Fiorentina has him under contract for one more year, but barring a miracle, he’s probably gone by then at the latest. We wish him luck and continued improvement.
Gaetano Castrovilli (Cremonese)
The 22-year-old midfielder sure looks like he’s recovered from a meniscus injury, given the banger he scored against Livorno. He also set up the second for the Grigiorossi with a scintillating bit of work down the right wing, so keep watching that video.
Now dropped back into his natural midfield role, rather than forced out to the wing, he looked incisive for his entire game and is surely ready to kick on for the rest of the year. He signed an extension last summer through 2021, so he’s certainly still a part of the club’s plans; there’s an outside chance, given the churn that we anticipate in the Viola midfield next year, that he could carve himself out a role in Florence, and that would be really, really cool.
Gabriele Gori (Livorno)
The 20-year-old striker continues to struggle in his first professional outing; after flopping at Foggia, he’d not gotten off the bench in Livorno until last week, when he entered as a substitute and, after winning a penalty, scored a late consolation goal for the Labronici.
Perhaps this is just what he needed, as his confidence has looked utterly shot this year and he’s even dropped out of the Italy U20 setup due to his poor showings. Still, he remains an absurdly talented striker, and we still hold high hopes for him; the jump from being the biggest and strongest in the Primavera to dealing with grown men who’ve been professionals for a decade isn’t easy, especially for a forward who relies on his physicality, so we’re not all that worried about the adjustment period. He should come good in another year or two. And, no matter what, he’s still outrageously handsome.
Luca Ranieri (Foggia)
The 19-year-old leftback (whose birthday is this month) continues to impress for the Satanelli. Now working more frequently in his natural fullback position, rather than as part of a back three, he’s been one of the steadiest performers for the Apulian outfit in its disappointing season; he’s played the 4th-most minutes on the team and further strengthened his credentials for the Italy U20s. He’s probably not ready to unseat Cristiano Biraghi or David Hancko yet, but he could well be Serie A ready in another year or two.
Andrés Schetino (Cosenza)
The 24-year-old Uruguayan midfielder finally made his first (and to date only) appearance for the Lupi in February. You can’t say that he looked bad, but he did only play 1 minute. That’s the extent of his contribution this year, and it’s hard to see that changing any time soon. For whatever reason, he’s never clicked on in Europe and is surely coming to the end of his time on the Viola books; he won’t get an extension when his contract’s up next summer, and it’s fair to wonder if he’ll get another chance in Italy or Spain after his lackluster showings over the past several years.
Riccardo Sottil (Pescara)
The 19-year-old winger is working hard to disrupt the Delfini attacking hierarchy, but has a steep hill to climb. With the likes of Leonardo Mancuso, Manuel Marras, Gaetano Monachello, and Mirko Antonucci all ahead of him in the pecking order, it was always a big ask for a teenager to come in and earn a spot, especially after joining the promotion-chasing side in the midseason; that he’s playing at all should count as a significant achievement. If he continues to earn appearances, he should add to his 3 caps for the Italy U20s as well; he’s in direct competition with Antonucci for a spot with the Azzurrini and would doubtless love to link back up with Primavera pals Michele Cerofolini and Luca Ranieri. Still, just stepping onto the pitch regularly is indicative of a quality player who’s starting to shine.
Mattia Trovato (Cosenza)
The 21-year-old winger is finally starting to get healthy again after missing nearly a full year due to a serious knee injury. Manager Piero Braglia is going to ease him back into action, so don’t expect heroics right off the bat. Honestly, if he manages to do anything on the pitch this year, it’ll just be gravy. That said, we remain big fans of any player who can work on the wing or in midfield with equal levels of comfort. Trovato is a very good player who’s only going to improve; don’t forget that he signed a multi-year extension two weeks before his injury.
Lorenzo Venuti (Lecce)
The 23-year-old fullback (who turns 24 in a week) continues to shine for the Giallorossi. He collected his 3rd assist of the season with a twisting, falling flicked header to give Andrea La Mantia the simplest of tap-ins to open the scoring.
With 2 splendid goals to his name as well this year and an ever-present role in the second-placed Salentino defense, he’s doubtless enjoying life as the club chases its second consecutive promotion. Blessed with impressive stamina and decent technical ability, his absolute ceiling is probably as a rock solid starter for a long time. What with the apparent demise of Kevin Diks and Vincent Laurini’s uncertain future with Fiorentina, we could see Lollo in purple very soon, which would be a wonderful achievement for the native Tuscan.