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Serie A starlets in the spotlight for new season

Published: Friday 29 August 2014, 20.01CET
With Juventus looking for a fourth successive Italian title, profiles six young players who could help their clubs derail the Bianconeri's championship ambitions.
by Paolo Menicucci
from Milan
Serie A starlets in the spotlight for new season
Mateo Kovačić is ready to sparkle for Inter ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Friday 29 August 2014, 20.01CET

Serie A starlets in the spotlight for new season

With Juventus looking for a fourth successive Italian title, profiles six young players who could help their clubs derail the Bianconeri's championship ambitions.

Juventus are under new management as they target a fourth successive Serie A title, Massimiliano Allegri having succeeded Antonio Conte, but they are still title favourites as they kick off their campaign on Saturday against AC Chievo Verona.

AS Roma, 2013/14 runners-up, are leading the group of teams aiming to end Juventus's reign after a busy summer of transfer activity. selects the young talents who could help Juve's rivals close the gap on the Italian champions.

Salih Uçan, AS Roma

Roma have invested heavily in young players this summer. If winger Manuel Iturbe, signed for €22m from Hellas Verona FC, looks like a safe bet after showing great pace and technique during his first term in Serie A, the acquisition of Salih Ucan from Fenerbahçe SK slipped under the radar. In pre-season, however, the 20-year-old Turkish international showed excellent vision and effectiveness on both sides of the pitch, earning the praise of coach Rudi Garcia and captain Francesco Totti. "I'm learning something every day from Totti," Uçan said. "Coming here was the greatest decision for me: I want to win the Scudetto with Roma."

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Jorginho (right) for Verona last season

Jorginho, SSC Napoli

Ofter labelled as the new Andrea Pirlo, the Brazilian-born regista had a difficult beginning with Napoli after joining from Verona in January. Time, however, is on his side as the 22-year-old with an Italian passport is slowly making the Napoli midfield his own territory. If the Partenopei want to improve on last season's third-place finish, they certainly need Jorginho's vision and ability in directing play. "Juve and Roma are very strong," he said. "But we want the Scudetto and I want the national team."

Mateo Kovačić, FC Internazionale Milano
The 2013/14 season was also tough for Kovačić, who was often used in an unfamiliar role. The 20-year-old Croatia midfielder, however, played well at the FIFA World Cup and looks ready to finally show his best for his club working behind the strikers. Deployed in that position in the UEFA Europa League play-off second leg against Stjarnan, he finally opened his Inter account with a hat-trick, including a lovely lob. "He never ran into the opposition's penalty box last season; now he has more confidence," said coach Walter Mazzarri. "He's improving as we were hoping, using his great talent to help the team. Everything is in place for him to have a great season."

Khouma el Babacar, ACF Fiorentina
"Fiorentina will be the surprise package of the season," Real Madrid CF coach Carlo Ancelotti said in a recent interview with Corriere della Sera. "I had the chance to take a close look at Babacar. He is a great striker." The 21-year-old Senegalese forward scored 20 goals on loan at Modena FC last term and in pre-season did enough to impress an experienced front man like Mario Gomez. "He is ambitious; he can do great things," the German international said. "Not many teams know him in Serie A. I'm sure he can have a great season."

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Keita Baldé broke through at Lazio

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SS Lazio winger Keita Baldé is also among the players of whom big things are expected after scoring five goals in 25 games last term, but the most anticipated talent is arguably 16-year-old attacking midfielder Hachim Mastour. The videos of his goals for AC Milan's youth sides are among the most viewed in Italy and when he was called into the first team in May, many expected him to become the youngster player to appear for the Rossoneri, beating Paolo Maldini's record. Mastour remained on the bench in that game against US Sassuolo Calcio, but the club's fans are certainly eager to see him feature under new coach Filippo Inzaghi.

Last updated: 29/08/14 20.02CET

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