8 of Serie A’s best prospects

by Niccolo Conte on August 5, 2010 · 5 comments

Seeing a young Roberto Baggio, Ronaldinho, or Fabregas is always exciting, but noticing young players which in 5 years can become one of the world's best is rare. With Serie A's relative downfall compared to other European leagues, it's time to find some new stars, starting from these eight prospects:

1. Phillippe Coutinho (Inter Milan)

While he looks a lot like AC Milan's Brazilian wonderboy, Alexandre Pato, Coutinho is a different type of player, very similar to Ronaldinho. The young Brazilian has already scored for Inter in a friendly against Panathinaikos, a stupendous volley with his left foot. He can play in a variety of offensive positions: while his best would be behind the strikers as a number 10, he can also play as a second striker or start from the left wing and cut inside, like Ronaldinho used to do in his Barcelona days. Coutinho loves the acceleration of pace and isn't afraid to shoot, and with already a very advanced tactical sense at 18 years-old, Coutinho will replace Sneijder in the future to then one day play for Brazil in the 2014 World Cup.

2. Davide Lanzafame (Juventus)

With Juve's bad performance last season, the club has decided to rely on more Italian youth, and Davide Lanzafame has earned himself a spot in the starting 11 coming from Parma. He's also played for Bari and Palermo at just 23 years-old, and his friends nicknamed him "Lanciafiamme", which means flamethrower in Italian. Lanzafame is a winger, often playing on the left side of the midfield in a 4-4-2, but he can also play on the right side with little trouble. While Juventus are looking to buy Krasic for the left wing, maybe they could stick with Lanzafame for this season.

3. Abel Hernandez (Palermo)

Hernandez has big boots to fill, now that Edinson Cavani has left Palermo for Napoli, the new Uruguayan has to help Miccoli in attack at just 19 years-old. Hernandez has already had 27 appearances in Serie A for Palermo, and the youngster has also scored 7 goals for the Sicilian team. A fast center-forward who knows how to finish in front of goal, and next to an experienced and creative player like Fabrizio Miccoli, Hernandez will be an important player for Palermo this upcoming season, and maybe for years to come.

4. Andrea Poli (Sampdoria)

Poli has a very bright future ahead of him, at just 20 years-old the young Italian is what could be described as a "Spanish" midfielder. A player with a smart tactical mind, which was inspired by Fabregas and Gerrard, both great role models for a midfielder. While he could best be described as a mix between Xavi and Iniesta, he'll be playing behind Cassano and Pazzini, ready to provide assists and maybe score a goal or two. While he still has a long way to go, Poli has already played in Serie B for Sassuolo where he scored 5 goals in 32 appearances, and if that isn't enough experience, he lost a U-19 European Cup final playing for Italy, not bad for a 20 year-old.

5. Franco Zuculini (Genoa)

Zuculini was a relatively unknown name among Genoa's super-transfers which now include Schalke 04's Rafinha (paid about 9 million Euros), but after a few friendlies for the rossoblu, the Argentinean showed his worth. Zuculini was bought from German club Hoffenheim, where he had 7 appearances and one goal, which isn't bad for a 19 year-old. While Zuculini would be classified as a defensive midfielder, like a new Thiago Motta, the Argentinean with Italian origins loves to serpentine up the field with great dribbling ability. While he might be slightly obscured in a midfield comprised of the new signings Miguel Veloso, and Rafinha, Zuculini shouldn't be underestimated.

6. Adem Ljajic (Fiorentina)

Fiorentina have always cultivated young talented players, and now that one of their biggest stars, Jovetic, will be out for at least 6 months after damaging his knee ligaments in practice, it's time for young Ljajic to step up to the plate. There's an empty spot which the 18 year-old could fill perfectly, he plays as a "trequartista", or number 10, and he would be a perfect player to put behind Gilardino in Fiorentina's 4-2-3-1, next to Vargas and Marchionni on the wings. Ljajic is already being compared to Baggio, they say he has the same feet and the same eyes, and the way he curls the ball into the back of the net from free kicks is certainly a wonderful sight. At just 18 years-old Ljajic could be inserted into Fiorentina's starting 11, playing an important part in replacing Jovetic, another player who once, was a prospect like Ljajic.

7. Libor Kozak (Lazio)

Kozak is Lazio's gem right now, having scored seven times this pre-season in friendlies, the 21 year-old is an important player for Lazio's future. The striker from the Czech Republic is a true center-forward, strong and tall, often using his head to score goals. Libor Kozak has already played for Brescia in Serie B where he scored four goals in 26 appearances, and while he might not play that much this season, he'll grow to be an important player for Lazio's future.

8. Alexander Merkel (AC Milan)

A young midfielder among an aging team, Merkel is a shining light for AC Milan who need to inject some youth and pace into the team. The 18 year-old with Belorussian parents was born in Kazakhstan, but then immigrated to Germany at six years-old, letting the player choose among three national teams to play for in the future. A player who runs and works in a midfield which is slowed down thanks to old players like Gattuso, Pirlo, and Ambrosini. Merkel is the beginning of a young generation that AC Milan hopes to bring through the ranks, and one day call the winning generation.

What are your thoughts on these eight players? Who are you most excited to see this upcoming season? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

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5 comments… read them below or add one

1 Rami S. August 6, 2010 at 1:10 am

Hello Niccolo,

That’s a good list with some impressive talent and a couple of players with great potential.

I am a bit familiar with Adem Ljajic and as you said he has the opportunity to prove himself with Jovetic out for 6 months.

I had to make a comment on Coutinho because I saw him play in Baltimore and I thought he was very impressive. He does not lose the ball easily and he has some neat tricks. The talent is clearly there but the main issue is whether he will get the playing time to show it, improve and mature.

I am interested in seeing how Bocchetti, Bonucci and Ranocchia will perform this season. Those 3 could be the future of the Azzurri defensive line.


2 Rami S. August 8, 2010 at 4:21 am


I would have added Stevan Jovetic to the list but he’s become sort of a known entity after his goals against Liverpool and Bayern Munich in the Champions League as well as his solid performances in other matches.

I actually wrote a piece on him & Fiorentina:



3 Niccolo Conte August 6, 2010 at 4:24 am

I certainly agree with you Rami, I think that Bocchetti, Bonucci, and Ranocchia will have more pressure this season to perform, and whether that motivates them, or demoralizes them, will be seen soon.

Coutinho has shown that he has what it takes to play in the Serie A, and playing with a team like Inter, full of skilled players, will help his growth. I think he will get plenty of chances, with Balotelli almost certainly gone to Manchester City, Coutinho will replace Supermario in the role of late substitute and occasional starter.

As for Ljajic, he’s been devastating teams single-handedly in Fiorentina’s pre-season friendlies, I think he will be used quite a bit this season.


4 Rami S. August 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm


Coutinho seems to have a bright future if he keeps working hard and gets playing time. The concern is with Eto’o, Milito, Pandev and Sneijder all playing, how much time he’s going to be afforded.

I think last season Balotelli could have played more if it were not for his attitude and Pandev sort of went through a bad spell after a bright start with the Nerazzurri. Balotelli couldn’t confirm his status as starter because of his clashes with Mourinho and his approach…

I am wondering if this season Coutinho will get the chance to play under Rafa Benitez.


5 World Football Rankings August 12, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Of course INTER is letting go of the best talent by far in Balotelli.


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