February proved an uneventful month for our co-owned/loaned players, with few gaining any extra minutes. Leali continued to excel in goal for Virtus Lanciano, and the reports from last season regarding his rare and special potential are gaining substance by the week. However, elsewhere in Serie B, our young juventini struggled to make the bench or escape the treatment room. Let’s hope for a more fruitful March…
Gabriel ‘Rasputin’ Appelt…they thought they had finished him, but back he comes with a vengeance.
Finally, after a lengthy injury lay-off due to a fractured fibula, our Brazilian regista Gabriel Appelt, returned to the Pro Vercelli starting XI and played till the final whistle in their commendable 1-1 away draw to 7th place Juve Stabia. Vercelli have a hard task to reach safety, but with Vicenza and Bari doing their best to help them out, the present 6 points lying between relegation and safety is far from insurmountable, especially so now they have their midfield dynamo back in the mix. Gabriel was a first team regular prior to his injury and his re-involvement in first team affairs can only do the player and team the world of good. Attacking midfielder Elio de Silvestro failed to reach the field, watching the entire match from the bench. Although he has featured fairly consistently for Vercelli, racking up 3 starts and 10 sub showings.
Superstar in the making Nicola Leali clocked up his 25th appearance of the season, but was unable to stop high flying Brescia scalp Virtus Lanciano 0-2. Leali, as aforementioned, has been in brilliant form for Virtus and if he continues at his current rate of form and improvement, he could well be given a shot by a Serie A club next term. It’s likely he could challenge Rubinho, but what use is sitting 3rd choice for our first team when he could challenge for a starting place at a lower ranked serie a club potentially???? Missing from Brescia was the injured once again Ouasim Buoy, who has yet to really pick up momentum after suffering a few niggles since his injury lay-off in December. Meanwhile his juve team-mate Fausto Rossi started and finished the game helping Brescia maintain their charge towards the play-offs. Wide midfielder Rossi has made two assists in his impressive 19 matches so far this season, as well as continuing to feature in the Italy U21 set-up.
Richmond ‘Biggie’ Boakye continued his efforts to regain his starting spot for Sassuolo after his trip to Africa for the ACON, by entering the fray in the 68th minute of the league leaders’ shock 0-2 home defeat to bottom of the pile Grosseto. The Ghana international didn’t play in South Africa as Ghana struggled to finish fourth in the tournament, but the experience will certainly have proven rich and encouraging for a lad of just 19 years of age. His countrymen Chibsah missed this match entirely, through injury or suspension I am unsure…The striker will be hoping to add to his impressive 9 goals and 4 assists over the final third of what has been a wonderful season full of promise and power.
Highly thought of defender (Uncle) Albert Masi was a second half substitute for Ternana, for whom he signed on loan in January. The elegant defender could not prevent his side losing a potentially pivotal mid table clash with Citadella 1-0, and now must face the future with a bleaker demeanour, for the play-offs are close to out of sight. Still, all we care about is more playing time for a defender we own, who looked quality during our pre-season. We will hope for suspensions or injuries to Ternana centre backs…nothing too nasty, just serious enough to give Albert a chance to get a foot in the first team door and stay there until the end of the season.
Moving up to Serie A…
Freddy ‘the iceman’ Sorensen continued his successful season by starring in Bologna’s 3-0 extermination of a hapless Cagliari effort. Notching up his 14th start of the campaign, Freddy kept resolute watch alongside Cherubin at the centre of the home defence. Also in action was Manolo Gabbiadini, who lasted until the 86th minute before swapping kisses and caresses with fellow juventino Christian Pasquato who went onto to score a lovely goal from distance to put the icing on the cake for the home side. All three are enjoying a solid season, with the Danish star shining the brightest. I would very much like to see him back at Juve, but we will have to wait and see how Paratici and Beppe judge his development (as well his value to other sides who own players we desire) in the summer.
Over at Genoa, who now sit shamefully in 17th position, 5 points and only one place clear of the relegation rabble, Ciro Immobile persists in his struggle to get games in his best position. Arriving in their latest ruin, a 3-1 loss away to Roma, in the 61st minute, and proving unable to stem the tide of misery and failure. It must be galling for the young prima punta to be playing second fiddle to Borriello…such is the price of youth in Italy eh? or perhaps just the ability to beguile of the former fan favourite, just ask Conte and Matri what the hell was going on last season…
A quick comparison of the three major striking hopes presently on our books>
Gabbiadini – 188 mins per goal/assist
Immobile- 228 mins per goal/assist
Boakye- 104 mins per goal/assist
Clearly these stats do not tell the whole story. Gabbiadini has an easier time at Bologna, where his inclusion is more common in a position he enjoys. Richmond is playing only at Serie B level, for a team flying high near or at the top since early on this term. Ciro has a hard time, an impossible time dislodging Borriello who occupies his position, with Genoa coach Ballardini preferring to tighten up the team rather than open up offensively also making life harder for a player who so much was hoped for after his stunning 2011/12 season in serie B with Zeman’s free scoring Pescara side. Just to compare…in that period, Ciro managed a goal/assist every 85 minutes. Which suggests that he knows where the goal is, and that we shouldn’t be overly impressed with Boakye who we cannot judge accurately until he is playing in the top league.
Vajebah Sakor made his debut for the U19 primavera squad at the tender age of 16.
After our unexpected freak loss to Juve stabia dumped us out of the Viareggio tournament, Baroni had a fair amount of time to regroup the troops, integrate some of the new arrivals and prepare long and hard for the return to league action against Genoa last Saturday. Unfortunately, despite playing well from the start, creating several fine chances, and Beltrame giving us an early lead, we succumbed to two goals in quick succession after the break, and fight as we did, could not manage an equalizer. That 1-2 home defeat brought an end to a winning streak which reached back 12 games. Still, we remain in 1st place, 3 points clear of 2nd place Fiorentina on whom we have a game in hand.
Laurentiu Branescu – Jacob Laursen, Daniele Rugani, Joel Untersee – Elvis Kabashi, Hasan Pepic, Giuseppe Ruggiero, Andrea Schiavone – Stefano Beltrame, Edoardo Ceria, Stefano Padovan
GOAL- Beltrame 3’
SUBS –Garcia for Ceria 59’
Sakor for Schiavone 64’
Lanini for Ruggiero 76’.
Exciting Montenegrin left winger Hasan Pepic made his debut from the start, with fellow January arrival, the Norwegian wonder kid Vajebah Sakor also tasting his first piece of competitive action. Whilst Pepic, at 19 years old, is expected to be ready for this level, and will surely be loaned out in the Summer, 16 year old midfielder Sakor must be very highly thought of by the management to be thrust into the deep end so soon.
Thankfully we have the perfect opportunity to redeem ourselves next weekend, when the primavera play against our high flying city neighbours, Torino, who are in a rich run of form. Before the derby we have the small issue of Sakor’s former club Rosenborg to deal with in the do or die Nextgen knockout round this Thursday.
It’s great to see not just the increasingly expansive, efficient scouting network competing for and procuring the signatures of some top talent around the world, but also these same players been given a chance to fight for the cause as soon as they merit it in training.
My hopes are blossoming for Sakor…Kabashi, Beltrame, Rugani are all looking very promising and of the players at other clubs Leali and Sorensen seem the most consistent performers, with F. Rossi, Boakye, Appelt, Buoy and Gabbiadini all doing everything right in the journey from Exciting Youth Prospect to Established Senior Player.
(Daniel Pennuto, Juventino since 1993)
NB. The archive of all my youth sector reports from this season can be found at Juventus Primavera and Youth Sector