As Italian football has collectively suffered a monumental defeat this past week by failing to qualify for the World Cup, the fallout is only just beginning to become realized.
It’s the Caporetto sized disaster for Calcio everybody feared and the wounds are still too fresh to even begin to rectify. The one common message from all of those around Italian football is, ‘we have to play the kids’.
Enter Riccardo Orsolini, a 20-year old from Ascoli Piceno who’s currently in the midst of his debut Serie A season. Orsolini exploded last season in Serie B with eight goals and six assists over the course of the campaign.
Also a part of that Ascoli team were a slew of young Italians like Francesco Cassata and Andrea Favilli, both with ties to Juventus. The Picchio were a team of youngsters who lacked clear direction and ambitions and finished in 16th place in Serie B.
Acrobatics… (Story continues below)
Nevertheless, pundits began pointing towards Orsolini as a major talent, and then was included in Alberigo Eviani’s U-20 World Cup side. There, he would go on to score five goals and win the Golden Boot of the tournament, his performances in South Korea were convincing and proved that he has the raw ability to become a superstar. There’s no doubt about it, but he needs minutes.
Then, he was signed by Juve before the end of the last season and after the summer tournament was loaned to Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta in order to receive “more playing time.”
Yet, that hasn’t happened. Orsolini continues to be frozen out and receive minimal playing time as Atalanta struggle to remain inside the top 10 in Serie A. Gasperini has instead chosen to slot Bryan Cristante in the attacking midfielder role, leaving Orsolini with little room to play.
His agent, the highly-experienced Donato Di Campli told Tuttosport he was hoping for more minutes for Orsolini and that they may have to consider their options in the January transfer window.
“I was hoping for a higher amount of minutes, but I also understand Gasperini, who’s a great coach. Riccardo up until now has played only cameos, but each has been very positive: Think about the penalty he earned against Chievo and his appearance against Fiorentina. We’re awaiting his first start and I think Juventus will also thank [Atalanta], who holds him in very high regard.”
And rightfully so, there aren’t many better attackers at the Under-21 level. Just this past Saturday, Orsolini scored the winner against Russia with a thunderous volley. He’s like a more clinical, raw version of Federico Bernardeschi, which is very telling despite the fact he is three years younger than the Juventus #33.
But in five Serie A matches he’s played a total of only 78 minutes. In that period of time he’s assisted a goal and earned a penalty. On paper, Orsolini and Atalanta should be a match made in heaven. Orsolini could be gaining critical experience at 20 years old in the Europa League and in Serie A. Instead, he’s been largely a bystander with fellow U-20 compatriot Luca Vido, again for tactical choices.
The same mistakes in the past with talented Italians cannot be repeated. We’ve already seen the result of more than a decade of neglect of Italian youth and the lack of opportunities. With Orsolini, there’s no reason to keep him on the bench.
Fortunately, his agent is experienced with moving around young Italian talent and was Marco Verratti’s agent who took him to PSG. Orsolini is on the same level Verratti was talent-wise when he was 20, and that’s not an exaggeration.
If things don’t improve in the next month, I’d predict Orsolini will be wearing a different shirt come the end of January.