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Meet Fiorentina’s top youth prospects

We say this every year, of course, but this time we mean it: there’s some talent rattling around the Viola Primavera.

Italy v Poland - UEFA European Under-19 Championship Finals 2022/23 Group A Photo by Seb Daly - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images

Forecasting the development of a player from teenager to grown adult is an extremely difficult thing to do. If I were any good at it, I’d likely be earning a comfortable salary from a club instead of writing a blog, so I want to start this piece out by highlighting my own incompetence in this arena. I am the man who is still convinced that Andy Bangu’s going to be a superstar (he’s only 25 and Ardor Lazzate is the perfect springboard back to Fiorentina), so you shouldn’t pay attention to my opinions.

Now that I’ve got the disclaimer out of the way, I can actually write this story. Fiorentina has one of Italy’s best youth programs, having won 4 Coppe Italia on the trot until falling last year and scooping up a couple of Supercoppe in there as well. Alberto Aquilani is out as manager, leaving Daniele Galloppa to move up from the U17s and take over. He should be quite familiar with his players, having worked with many of them, and he’ll likely do a swell job.

That job is, of course, shepherding the Primavera players into professionalism. While it’s easy to watch a couple of U19 games and be convinced that half of these dudes are going to be stars, the fact is that they won’t be. It’s a numbers game more than anything: there are a lot more spots for youth soccer than there are in the senior game, and youngsters get weeded out pretty quickly. If the youth system can produce a player capable of playing with the senior side every season, the system is doing a pretty good job.

As you’d expect for a Primavera side that’s stacked up silverware in the past few years, there are plenty of prospects that bear watching. Ideally, all these guys would bloom into Viola bandiere, but that’s just not going to happen. Here are my picks to make the jump this year. And again, I’m probably wrong about all of this.

#5 Pietro Comuzzo

Italy U18 v Spain U18 - International Friendly
Exciting for all the ginger brethren to see one of their own rising through the ranks.
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Who is this guy? The 18-year-old looked great in preseason and has earned plaudits at youth levels, including 3 caps for the Italy U18s. The Udinese product has a bright future, but let’s not get carried away: he’s made all of 18 appearances at Primavera level and is in no way ready for the senior game.

Will he break through this year? The only reason I’m including him is that Fiorentina has just 3 centerbacks in the senior side right now and Comuzzo’s the next man up. If he’s playing, it’ll be cool to watch but also a disaster for the team, no matter how bright his future is.

#4 Fallou Sene

Who is this guy? The 18-year-old Senegalese striker has a robust build and will likely end up playing through the middle, but can also fit on the wing due to his pace. He impressed last year as the designated supersub, routinely replacing the burly Eljon Toci in the second half to offer a different sort of threat. He’s pretty clever with his movement, too, constantly finding space in behind. He needs to get better with the ball at his feet and improve his linkup play, but 9 goals was a good return, especially considering that he mostly came off the bench.

Will he break through this year? The senior side has a glut of strikers and wingers so he probably won’t be needed. That said, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares as the starter for a whole season rather than as the impact sub.

#3 Lorenzo Amatucci

Portugal v Italy - UEFA European Under-19 Championship 2022/23 Final
Got that winning DNA
Photo by Seb Daly - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images

Who is this guy? The 19-year-old midfielder has impressed as an 8 over the past couple years but now moves to a deeper role, where Tommaso Berti, Giovanni Corradini, and Alessandro Bianco have shone over the past couple years. He’s got good size and athleticism and isn’t afraid to throw himself around. He needs to hone his technique and positioning, but that’s pretty par for guys at this level. He’s under team control until 2026 and, with his 11 caps for the Italy U19s, is going to be one of the leaders in the Primavera.

Will he break through this year? With the senior side’s midfield looking light, he could end up replacing Bianco as the 4th or 5th option and get a couple of minutes here and there.

#2 Tommaso Martinelli

Who is this guy? Martinellimania began last year, when he broke into the Primavera as a 15-year-old. He’s been fantastic since, looking like a future star and cementing his place in the Italy youth setup. He’s got everything you look for in a goalkeeper, with size, reflexes, fearlessness, and an absolute goofball attitude that should endear him to teammates for a couple of decades. He’s even a local kid from Bagno a Ripoli, so you’ve got to root for him. I mean, look at this goober and his silly haircut and silly friend.

Italy Portraits - UEFA European Under-17 Championship Finals 2023
Yeah, that’s our boy on the right. Unrepentantly doofy. Go ahead and fall in love.
Photo by Ben McShane - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images

Will he break through this year? Probably not. Pietro Terracciano and Oliver Christiansen are the obvious top two options. We’ll probably see Martinelli on the bench a few times, though, so keep an eye on him and see if he gets up to shenanigans.

#1 Michael Kayode

Grosseto v Fiorentina - Pre-season Friendly
Well hello there
Photo by Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Who is this guy? Born in the Novara suburbs to Nigerian parents, Kayode’s already stacking up youth caps for Italy. He burst onto the scene a couple years ago, showing an ability to play in either fullback spot and impressing with his athleticism and grinta. He’s grown into perhaps the best rightback at the Primavera level, adding clever forward runs and neat passing to his arsenal to become a truly complete player. He isn’t far from ready for the next step.

Will he break through this year? He trained with the senior side in preseason and apparently impressed Vincenzo Italiano. If Edoardo Pierozzi misses more time with his injury, Wile E Kayode could be the vice-Dodô for a bit. It’s a wonderful intersection of ability and opportunity for the 19-year-old.

Honorable Mention

GK Tommaso Vannucchi: You might’ve seen him on the bench last year, as he spent some time with the senior side following the misfortunes Fiorentina’s goalkeepers suffered. He doesn’t look to be at Martinelli’s level but is definitely worth watching.

CM Jonas Harder: He made the preseason squad and looked competent. He’ll likely fill a more box-to-box role this year with Amatucci as the regista, and will need to show a little more guile on the ball, but his fitness and willingness to press look tailor-made for Italiano.

AM Niccolò Falconi: Looked sharp at times in his first season with the Primavera, sliding into midfield or out to the wing as necessary, although he looks like a more natural fit as a trequartista right now. He needs to establish himself as a playmaker for the youngsters this year and go from there.

RW Adrián Dénes: The Hungarian went to Cesena on loan last January and scored 5 goals in 17 appearances, which is a pretty good return for a winger. He’s got 4 caps for the Hungary U19s, too. He’s got the tools despite looking pretty raw, but could be in for a big year if he puts it all together.