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In the Spotlight: Pol Lirola, a pillar of Sassuolo’s success

Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

Pol Lirola is in his second of a two-year loan and Sassuolo will feel his loss once he returns back to base at Juventus. However, while still under control, they have plenty to expect from this burgeoning full back.

Pol Lirola has used his time on loan wisely, establishing himself as one of Serie A’s up and coming players in that position as well as displaying his superb qualities. Wisely utilising his loan to attain as much experience as possible before attempting to break into the first team at Juventus, which as many fans and contemporaries alike would attest is no easy feat when Leonardo Bonucci was there and no less difficult without his presence.

Who is Pol Lirola?

Pol Lirola is a Spanish Under 21 international who moved to Juventus from Espanyol, costing the Italian champions $650,000 after an initial one year loan period. Born in a small town in Catalonia – Mollet Del Valles, Lirola began his career in the youth teams of Espanyol and quickly developed a strong reputation. Since he made his move to Italy, he has even impressed current Barcelona Coach Ernesto Valverde who viewed him in the same light as Hector Bellerin, Cesar Azpilicueta and Nelson Semedo – the latter of whom would actually be brought in.

By the time he was 17, the promising youngster had already progressed into Espanyol’s B team who were mired in Spain’s third division (B teams are unable to compete against their A team counter parts or get promoted to La Liga).

Featuring for a full 90 minutes against Gimnastic Tarragona, Lirola was quickly snapped up on a loan before being purchased a season later by the astute Fabio Paratici. Lirola would end up playing within Juventus’s Under 19 side. As expected, he made the right back position his own in short time and he quickly grew under the shrewd guidance of Primavera coach Fabio Grosso who himself was a World Cup winning full back with Italy.

Making 37 appearances in the Primavera, Juve felt he had clearly outgrown his surroundings, but with no room in the first team squad with Dani Alves coming in (at the time) and mainstay Stephan Lichtsteiner, it was decided to send him on loan to gain valuable first team experience. Sassuolo was considered the perfect place for Pol Lirola to grow. With Acerbi, P.Cannavaro and the like in the squad, he has tapped into the valve of experience and information to learn his craft even more.

The EDF Effect

Eusebio Di Francesco was instrumental in helping bring the Neroverdi from the lower regions of professional football to the height of it. Looking to utilise quality youth over experience, Di Francesco saw Lirola as the perfect player to fulfill his teams entertaining as well as the effective brand of football.

Di Francesco pushes his players to express themselves naturally, but to also keep within his well-defined structure. He has worked wonders with the likes of Domenico Berardi, Simone Zaza, Stefano Sensi, and Lorenzo Pellegrini to name a few he has helped mould into bona fide stars; Lirola is no exception and took to his tactics with ease.

REGGIO NELL’EMILIA, ITALY – AUGUST 20: Pol Lirola of US Sassuolo and Eddy Anthony Salcedo of Genoa CFC in action during the Serie A match between US Sassuolo and Genoa CFC at Mapei Stadium – Citta’ del Tricolore on August 20, 2017 in Reggio nell’Emilia, Italy. (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)

An example of Pol Lirola’s impact can be viewed in the way he so comfortably plays at the full back position and is conversely able to attack down the flanks. Fast, and blessed with pace, Pol is able to quickly close down attackers in his defensive half, out maneuver them when in possession and is quite accurate with the ball at his feet. Distribution is also another key strength a full back needs, and Lirola has it in abundance as his assists have indicated in multiple matches across Serie A, Europa and Coppa Italia.

The Spaniard has also gained valuable experience in his time at Sassuolo. Making a combined 29 appearances last season – including 22 in Serie A and 7 in Europa League – he is increasingly using his time to the best of his ability. Having played 3 games already this season, Lirola continues to impress even if the rest of the team are struggling without Di Francesco at the helm.

The future?

The youngster will return back to base at the conclusion of this season, and many Bianconeri are excited at the prospect of seeing Lirola maraud down the right flank for them on a weekly basis. With Dani Alves’ departure to Paris and Lichtsteiner and co not getting any younger, he should have plenty of room to grow into the role at Juventus.

His impressive displays in pre-season, combined with his regular playing time at Sassuolo, would make any Juventus fan salivate at his return and the emergence of a new era of BBC-like dominance alongside Rugani and co.

@ItalianFD

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