The best Under 23 Calcio A players

10 – Cengiz Ünder, 22-years-old:

The Turkish winger was a bright spot in what was a disappointing season for the Giallorossi. Cengiz wasn’t ever-present as he started 17 matches and made a further 9 appearances from the bench totalling in only 1378 minutes. In his somewhat limited minutes, he managed to score 3 times and assist 7. This doesn’t represent his actual numbers as although his xG was 3.08, his xA was 4.07 which suggests his team mates finished more of his chances than they should have. Despite this, his expected values are still very healthy as it his expected direct goal contributions per 90 (xG + xA) sits at 0.47 which would be a goal contribution around every 2 matches in a bad season for Roma.

Cengiz creates 1.2 chances per 90 but only completes 0.8 dribbles at a success rate of around 50%. For Turkey these stats raise to 1.8 key passes with 2.3 dribbles at a success rate of 69.7% showing he is more suited to counter attacking style of Turkey to the slightly more possession-based Roma. However, these numbers are only from 347 minutes so a very small pool so these numbers will have to be taken with a pinch of salt. With Stephan El Shaarawy’s departure and Edin Dzeko reportedly close to joining Inter Milan, there will be more pressure on Ünder to perform.

9 – Amadou Diawara, 22-years-old:

After playing only 2,345 league minutes during his three years in Naples, Diawara has moved to Roma with Manolas moving the other way. During 2018/19, the midfielder only clocked up 661 minutes despite impressing when he did play. He averaged 1.7 tackles and interceptions per 90 which isn’t massive, but Napoli averaged the second highest possession with 56.8%, only 0.1% behind Inter Milan. These defensive actions will increase with more regular game time and in a less possession heavy side.

Amadou completed 0.7 dribbles at a success rate of 100%, this would decrease and become around the 75% mark as that was his success rate in his last season at Bologna when he clocked up 2731 minutes. Amadou creates 0.4 chances to caveat his 0.7 dribbles showing he isn’t overly creative as backed up by his 3 career assists. The Guinean’s best attribute is his passing. In 2018/19 with Napoli, he averaged 41.8 passes in which 0.4 were key passes (as previously mentioned) and 2.6 were long balls. This shows that he is often not too adventurous with his passing but his pass accuracy of 92.8% does show that he is a very composed passer of the ball.

8 – Nicolò Zaniolo, 20-years-old:

The Italian burst onto the scene this season with Roma. He played 1772 league minutes in his debut season as he played as an attacking midfielder, central midfielder, right winger and even as a striker. This shows his versatility and willingness to play no matter the position. He also works hard off the ball, he averages 1.8 tackles and interceptions which at the age of 20 is very impressive for a forward player. Zaniolo doesn’t get involved much in build-up play as he only averages 20.1 passes with a pass accuracy of 81.3% but when he is involved, he causes problems for the opposition.

The Roman player averages 1.8 shots but 0.7 come from outside the box which is good but at his age you would expect to see his shot location improve. He also averages 0.7 key passes and 1.5 dribbles with a success rate of 53.6% which although isn’t great, it will improve with age. These sets of numbers show he can be the creator, the finisher or even both which is useful for any side.

7 – André Silva, 23-years-old:

The Portuguese struggled in his first season in Milan but flourished again on loan in Seville. He played 2164 minutes as Sevilla’s results tailed off in the second half of the season despite their performances remaining consistent. During 2018/19 he scored 9 and got 0 assists. However, his xG was 11.23 and he had an xA of 4.50. This means per 90, his xG is 0.47 and his xA is 0.19 so an expected direct goal contribution of 0.66. He had a very impressive season despite being rotated as he started 25 matches and had a change of system and manager.

André doesn’t get involved in build-up play as he only averages 19.9 passes with a low pass accuracy of 72.7%. He takes 2.3 shots with 0.3 coming from outside the box showing his mature shot location is prominent. He also averages 1.1 key passes showing he can do a bit of creativity. His stats show he is someone who thrives on chances in the box and has a similar style to Icardi which are becoming less popular as more is demanded from forwards in the modern day.

6 – Lorenzo Pellegrini, 23-years-old:

During a rocky season for Roma, Pellegrini still showed his talents. During 2018/19, Pellegrini played attacking midfielder, centre midfielder, defensive midfielder and on the left wing. Due to the position changes, Pellegrini’s stats are very well-rounded showing his all-round game. Lorenzo played 1828 minutes as he scored 3 and got 3 assists. His xG was 4.05 and he had an xA of 4.80 which means per 90 they sat at 0.22 and 0.24 respectively, this gave him 0.46 expected direct goal contributions per 90. Pellegrini is hard worker off the ball, he averages 2.1 tackles and interceptions per 90 which is consequence of him playing in multiple positions.

The Italian took 1.8 shots with 0.8 coming from outside the box, this shows his age as his shot location is poor but as he gets older, this will improve. He also managed to create 2.4 chances and attempt 1.6 dribbles with a success rate of 62.5%. These stats show he is more of a creative player than a goal scorer which is unusual for someone of his age.

5 – Lautaro Martínez, 21-years-old:

The Argentine had to challenge the diminutive goal scorer Icardi for game time at Inter but when given the chances, Lautaro has impressed. During 2018/19 he played 1337 minutes which came from 13 starts and 14 substitute appearances. He managed to score 6 and get 2 assists which was nearly on track with his expected numbers. He got an xG of 8.02 and an xA of 2.78 which is very impressive for inconsistent game time and a lack of game time.

Lautaro per 90, has an xG of 0.54 and an xA of 0.19 which is very similar to the person he’s challenging. Per 90, Icardi has an xG of 0.60 and an xA of 0.16 despite Martínez being 5 years his junior and Lautaro playing as an attacking midfielder in some games. Lautaro draws more similarities to Icardi with his stats. He takes 2.4 shots with 0.4 from outside the box, 8.9 passes and 0.8 key passes highlights he doesn’t get involved in play unless it’s in the box.

4 – Rodrigo Bentancur, 22-years-old:

The Uruguayan midfield maestro has struggled for consistent game time in Turin however he managed to clock up a respectful 1996 minutes during 2018/19. He averaged 3.1 tackles and interceptions which is very high for a team that tends to dictate matches with a lot of possession. However, Rodrigo isn’t just a defensive force and offers more. Rodrigo is comfortable when given the ball as he averages 39 passes per 90 and maintains a pass accuracy of 87.2%.

Bentancur attempts 1.1 dribbles and succeeds with 55% of them. This seems low as Juventus tend to face teams that sit back, this would increase a lot if he played for a team that counter attacked as there’d be more space. The midfielder takes 0.6 shots with a massive 0.5 coming from outside the box and creates 0.8 shots per 90 showing he can do a bit of everything, but his shot location would require improvement. This shot location is why he only scored twice but he also grabbed three assists.

3 – Fabián Ruiz, 23-years-old:

In his debut season in Naples, Ruiz impressed as he scored 5 goals and got 4 assists in 1991 minutes. His minutes came from 20 starts and 7 substitute appearances. Ruiz played in attacking midfield, central midfield, defensive midfield and out wide on the left and the right which has highlighted his ability to do everything. He averaged 2.8 tackles and interceptions showing his defensive nous and ability to play as a six. As well as his 1.3 dribbles with a success rate of 68.4% and his 66.6 passes with a pass accuracy of 89.8% showing he can be a controlling midfielder or a chief ball progressor.

Ruiz also created 2.3 key passes which highlights his ability to be a chief creator for a side. However, he takes 1.9 shows with 1.1 coming from outside the box which would require improvement if he wanted to play as a second striker or even as an out and out striker. Fabián can also do it in tournament football as he inspired Spain’s under-21s to be champions in the summer of 2019. In the under-21s he scored 2 and assisted 2 in 284 minutes as he stepped up his numbers and lead Spain to victory.

2 – Gianluigi Donnarumma, 20-years-old:

A player that seems to have been around forever, the Italian is still only 20-years-old but has made 142 league appearances for AC Milan. For the Rossoneri in 2018/19, Gianluigi played 3092 minutes as AC Milan had another disappointing season in which Piatek and Donnarumma were their only consistently good performers. Gianluigi is an adept passer as he averages 26.9 passes with a pass accuracy of 80.1%.

Of his 26.9 passes, a large 5.6 of them are long balls. Although he completes 5.6 long balls, he averages 5 inaccurate long balls per 90 which is down to AC Milan not having a target man to aim for. Buffon’s heir as the Italian national side’s number one averaged a big 2.7 saves per 90 showing he can perform at high levels throughout a season. In comparison, Alisson Becker, regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment, averages 1.9 saves per 90. This is lower due to him playing in a more dominant side.

1 – Matthijs De Ligt, 19-year-old:

The youngest, most expensive and no doubt, the best on this list, De Ligt is a newcomer to Italy. He joined Champions Juventus from Ajax for a reported £67.5 million as he became Juventus’ and the league’s third most expensive signing with only Higuaín and Ronaldo surpassing his fee. De Ligt was ever present for Ajax in 2018/19 as De Ligt captained them to win the domestic double and reach the Champions League semi-final. In the Eredivisie he started 33 of the 34 matches which totalled in 2970 minutes. He scored 3 and assisted 1 in his 33 matches.

Matthijs averaged 2.1 tackles and interceptions showing he is sturdy at the back even in a ball dominant side. De Ligt averaged 68.5 passes whilst maintaining a 90% pass accuracy and attempted 0.3 dribbles with a 100% pass accuracy which will decrease in a more competitive league. These stats show he is composed on the ball and has good decision making. The Dutch international is also a handful offensively. He takes 1.5 shots with 0.4 coming from outside the box which is good shot location for a centre back especially at his age but he also creates 0.4 chances so can get a few assists in a season.

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