Pierluigi Pinto (Salernitana): The 21-year-old centerback has yet to crack the lineup under Gian Piero Ventura (yes, that one). Given the 3-5-2 that the ex-Azzurri/Rockstar Games cutscene character uses, it seems like a decent bet that Pinto will see minutes this year, although he’s up against some stiff competition from the likes of Paweł Jaroszyński, Andreas Karo, Marco Migliorini, and Jean-Claude Billong. On the plus side, Salernitana has a massive ex-Fiorentina contingent: Francesco di Tacchio is the captain, with Fabio Maistro Alessio Cerci (!), and Cedric Gondo are all on the roster as well. Anyways, following his impressive debut as a professional last year for Arezzo, we’re fully expecting Pinto to continue his growth.
Mattia Trovato (Cosenza): The 21-year-old winger is probably just happy to be back, having missed almost the entirety of last season with a cruciate ligament injury. However, he’s yet to make his way off the bench for the Lupi, although that could change soon, considering that the Calabrians have 2 points from 5 matches (sound familiar?) and manager Piero Braglia surely needs to shuffle his deck a bit. To his advantage, Trovato is a versatile player capable of working up top, out wide, or even in midfield, so he should have a path to minutes wide open.
Riccardo Baroni (Siena): The 21-year-old centerback (and son of former Frosinone manager Marco Baroni) has played every minute of the season for Robur, holding down the left spot in central defense in new manager Alessandro dal Canto’s 4-3-1-2. Unfortunately, he’s looked far and away the weakest link in the backline thus far; frankly, he’s looked overwhelmed by the speed of the players around him and always seems two steps behind. He’s been losing opposing forwards or letting them go by him far too easily with a distressing regularity. Hopefully it’s just some jitters and he’ll settle in soon, but Dal Canto has to be considering a change soon if he can’t turn it around.
Gabriele Ferrarini (Pistoiese): The 19-year-old rightback (and recent Italy U19 debutant) hasn’t wasted any time in turning heads in Pistoia; he’s played all but 5 minutes for the Arancioni, bringing his tally to 4 appearances, a goal, and an assist, which is quite a return for a teenaged defender in his first professional campaign, especially working at wingback, rather than in a back four, where he spent his entire youth career. He put in this delightful cross for the opening goal in a 0-2 win over Pergolettese (and fellow Viola loanee Simone Ghidotti).
He followed up with this absolute beauty of a goal two weeks later.
He’s really impressed getting forward, showing an excellent appreciation of space and timing, and his crossing’s been quite good. He’s managed to avoid the red cards that plagued him at the Primavera level, although his focus seems to waver at times on the defensive end. All things considered, though, he’s been one of the revelations of this young season in the third tier and certainly bears monitoring.
Simone Ghidotti (Pergolettese): The 19-year-old goalkeeper has impressed this year, although his stats with the recently-promoted Canibali (yes, that means cannibals, which is great) leave quite a bit to be desired. As you’d expect from a club that just squeezed into the third tier, the Pergo defense has had a lot of trouble keeping up with the higher quality of attack, meaning that Ghidotti has faced a lot more action than manager Cristian Agnelli would deem ideal. Undaunted, the youngster has made a number of impressive stops, including a penalty save against Pistoiese. Given the quality of the defense in front of him, he’ll have ample opportunities to test himself at this level; the Azzurini have already taken notice, calling him up for the recent U20 internationals. He’s on his way.
Gabriele Gori (Arezzo): The outrageously handsome 20-year-old striker is starting to settle in with his new Tuscan side, appearing in all 4 matches since making the switch. He’s yet to score, though, which is a bit concerning at this point, given his struggles in front of goal last year. Had he gotten off the schneid already, it wouldn’t be a reason for concern, but he’s yet to score for the Amaranti, including having a penalty saved against Juventus U23. He’s used his strength to good effect in the hold up play and is getting himself into the right places, but he’s just not getting the right shots when he gets there. It’s might disheartening for a kid who looked like a world-beater this time last year, but there’s still plenty of time for him shake the yips and come good.
Petko Hristov (Bisceglie): The 20-year-old Bulgarian centerback is coming along nicely. After taking a few weeks to settle in with the Stella Bianca, he’s secured a spot in the first XI for the past 3 matches, including 2 straight clean sheets. Never the quickest on his feet, his strength and aerial ability are perfect fits in the middle of manager Rudolfo Vanoli’s 3-man defense. If we’re being honest, it’s hard to see him advancing to Serie A due to his lack of pace, but if he can develop his reading of the game, he could have a long career directing defenses in Italy.
Julián Illanes (Avellino): The 22-year-old Argentinian centerback has certainly taken to life in Tuscany, firmly establishing himself on the right side of manager Giovanni Ignoffo’s back three and looking pretty solid thus far. While he still needs to add some muscle, he’s quick enough across the ground to make up for that shortcoming. The real question for him this year is where his head is; after being dismissed from Argentinos Juniors under slightly myserious circumstances last term and sacking his agent over a lack of documents that prevented him from moving elsewhere, he needs to keep his head down and let his play do the talking for him this year, especially since his contract expires next year. He’s a talented player, so he won’t lack for suitors, but if he wants to keep the Fiorentina dream alive, he has to show something now.
Erald Lakti (Gubbio): The 19-year-old Prato-born Albanian regista has done a great job of making himself useful for the Rossoblu, notching 8 appearances and an assist thus far. He’s spent more time at rightback than in his usual deep midfield position, which is a pretty serious adjustment for a youngster on his first professional contract to make, but he’s shown the willingness and aptitude for versatility. Under the watchful eye of former Viola Primavera boss Federico Guidi, he should grow quite a bit this year and come back next year ready for bigger things. We’re excited about him.
Salvatore Longo (Bisceglie): The 19-year-old striker has already earned a spot leading the line for Vanoli’s attack, starting 4 matches and coming off the bench in 2 others. While he’s yet to score, his quick thinking (plus a truly colossal blunder from Lupi goalkeeper Alessio Abibi) provided the assist for Alessandro Gatto’s comically easy winner against Avellino.
A versatile striker who has both the pace to work the channels and the strength to hold up play, Longo never got as many chances with the Primavera as he’d have liked, stuck as he was behind youth-level titans like Gori and Dušan Vlahović. Hopefully he can find the back of the net soon and prove that he deserves a longer look from Daniele Pradè and company.
Marco Marozzi (Virtus Francavilla): The 20-year-old winger hasn’t had the easiest time fitting in with the Biancoazzuri, making just a single appearance off the bench thus far. Manager Bruno Trocini doesn’t seem to trust him with the defensive responsibilities of the wingback role in his 3-5-2, which means Marozzi is instead working in central midfield for the most part. This is the second year in a row that he’s been recast as a man in the middle, so maybe he should accept it. As the season wears on, we’re hoping that he’ll get a few more chances to show his worth.
Marco Meli (Gubbio): The 19-year-old winger is being eased in by Guidi, who’s given him just 2 appearances thus far, although one was a start against Arzignano. As the Lupi don’t exactly have a host of top options on the wing, his natural ability, combined with his familiarity with Guidi’s system, should earn him a larger role going forward; keep in mind that he was considered Riccardo Sottil’s equal as a prospect in some circles.