If there’s one guarantee for a club overseen by Pantaleo Corvino, it’s that there will be a steady influx of little-known teenagers cycling through the ranks. Some of them will blossom into superstars, while some will quietly slip into obscurity. Over the past few weeks, the Crow has secured three more prospects, adding creative midfielder Tòfol Montiel, box-to-box runner Nicky Medja, and centerback David Hancko to the Primavera squad.
Let’s start with Tòfol Montiel, or Cristóbal Montiel Rodríguez if you’d rather give him his full name. Fiorentina paid €2 million for the 18-year-old who’s been described as “the pearl of Mallorca.” He’s spent the entirety of his career with los Bermellones but has yet to make a single senior appearance. However, he’s garnered some interest from the national team authorities, making the squad for the ongoing Mediterranean Games, which are often used as a springboard for youth players into the international setup. He describes himself as a second striker, but can operate as an attacking midfielder as well. He has decent pace and good technique on the ball, and his passing can be incisive, but it’s his intelligence that really marks him out. He’s adept at sliding into tiny spaces between the lines or running at goal from unexpected angles, and then his decision making is generally pretty good once he’s in a dangerous spot. With his impish smile and fwippy hair, a young David Silva seems to be a pretty good comparison.
Next up is 18-year-old Cameroon-born Swiss U18 international Nicky Stéphane Medja Beloko, although you can call him Nicky Medja if you like. He made his senior debut last year with Sion, although he’s mostly been in the academy there, earning a move from the U18s to the U21s last season. He responded with a tremendous season, scoring 3 goals in 19 appearances while looking faster and stronger than most everyone he met. His athleticism is certainly one of his calling cards; he can play out wide due to his pace and technique, but is definitely more effective in the middle. He wins the ball all over the pitch, using his speed to close down opponents like a fighter jet. He’s got a few tricks up his sleeve, too, with the ball at his feet. His decision making in the final third needs work and he’s prone to a bit of recklessness in the challenge, but he looks like he could wind up being an absolute monster in the center of the pitch. There hasn’t been any word on the terms of his transfer, but he’s registered with the Primavera, so we can maybe expect the odd cameo with the senior side.
Finally, we have David Hancko. The 20-year-old Slovene broke through into the first team of Slovak outfit MŠK Žilina, helping them to the Europa League playoffs. What jumps off the page about him is that he’s frequently involved at the attacking end: in 32 appearances this year, he produced 4 goals and 4 assists. Standing at 188 cm (6’2), he probably needs to get stronger before he’s ready to contribute with a Serie A team on a regular basis, but he’s certainly not afraid to stick his nose in and let attackers know he’s there. To reiterate, though, it’s his ability going forward that sets him apart. He’s simply fantastic on the ball, capable of hitting long passes into the forwards that jump start attacks, and he’s happy to step up into the midfield to provide another passing option. He’s also got a shot on him and is a threat to score from distance with either foot, as well as showing well at set pieces. Heck, his crossing ability means that he’s not a bad fit at fullback, either. While he’s probably not ready for the step from the Fortuna League to Serie A, he could spend a year as the fourth defender, making the odd start against the Beneventos of the world. Perhaps most exciting is that he’s the perfect foil for the hulking, powerful Nikola Milenković; pairing them together would create a backline that could handle any style of play it faces for the next decade or more. For €3.5 million, the Slovenian U21 international fixture looks like he could be an absolute steal.