They call them Baby Boomers, great promises, rising stars: they are the new-generation footballers: young, ambitious and, most importantly, talented. All younger than 25, they can already call the shots in big club like Milan, Real Madrid, Bayern Monaco and Manchester City.
We haven’t seen a story like his in Italy for years. He debuted aged 16 with Milan and was soon labelled Buffon’s heir, actually since his very first match. Thanks to his premium performances he soon became a regular: Gianluigi – Gigio – Donnarumma is the second youngest goalkeeper to play in the Italian premier league, following Gianluca Pacchiarotti, and he is already a role model. Gianluigi, alias Gigio, was born on 25 February 1999 in Castellammare di Stabia, in Campania. He is professional footballer Antonio Donnarumma’s younger brother. Until 2013 he played with Club Napoli Castellammare. At the time he made an audition with Inter, but, as he himself stated, he preferred AC Milan, having always been his favourite team. Donnarumma has an excellent track-record and his season is turning into the telltale example of a new Milan which, with an average age of 26, is capable of ranking high in the Italian premier League table. His wonder-season also won him his debut in the National team, thanks to coach Giampiero Ventura’s predisposition for young players. There are rumours that he may be purchased by Juventus next year for tens of millions Euro, although Gigio’s heart will always beat for Milan. What is certain is that his extraordinary goalkeeper career is just beginning.
His “rooster” exultation can be traced back to his childhood, spent in the province of Bergamo, between Calcinate, his hometown, and his aunt’s farm in Grumello, where he chased the cocks in the roost. Despite his nickname, Andrea Belotti hardly ever raises his crest. Born 22 years ago in a village with 6000 inhabitants in the province of Bergamo, Belotti started playing soccer professionally with Albinoleffe, following a failed audition with Atalanta. Belotti debuted in the Serie B in 2011/2012, he scored a goal during the fist match and, despite the team’s relegation, in September 2013 he started playing with Palermo, where he scored 10 goals during the first season. His arrival in Turin sanctioned its consecration: today he ranks third in the scorers’ classification with 10 goals in the Italian Premier League, following an unforgettable second round last season, with 11 goals, which turned him into the best scorer in 2016 after Gonzalo Higuain. Turin is the perfect place to grow and a crucial role in Belotti’s professional development was played by Giampiero Ventura, who left a precious legacy to Mihajlovic. Ventura gave him his first position in the National Football team, and may take him even higher.
Leroy Sanè personal and professional story resembles a novel. Born 20 years ago to a Senegalese footballer father and a German gymnast mother, Sanè is the result of modern Germany’s social stratification, and sports a pop-star appeal mixed with an undeniable dose of talent, indeed his is considered to be one of the most pricey transfers in the Under 21 history, namely the transfer from Shalke 04 to Manchester City for 40 million euro. In Germany he was soon deemed one of Bundesliga’s crown jewels, thus joining the German National Team for Euro 2016. The transfer to City seems to have been strongly backed by Pep Guardiola in person and, although he is not playing on a regular basis, he knows that he can count on him. Leroy’s parents, Souleyman and Regina, have three children, all of them soccer players, but Leroy seems to be the perfect sum of his parents’ values and qualities: sacrifice and talent, success and humility, as well as, like those who were born, grown up or have spent some years in the Ruhr area, unbreakable resolve.
Marcus Rashford is 19, 19 matches and 4 goals with Manchester United. His initially impressive track-record has undergone a physiological slow- down, considering that his 4 goals came in just 3 days. His debut in Europa League versus Midtjylland coincided with two goals between the 69th and 74th minutes that overturned the team’s initial disadvantage. Thanks to that match Rashford has become Manchester United’s youngest scorer in the European Cups, a record until then held by George Best. Who had then spoken of predestination began having some doubts, but the anecdotes and nuMbers speak for themselves. Rashford still lives with his mother Mel, attends school, studies and sits exams although he earns approximately 500 pounds per week, 38 thousand and 400 euro a year, that is 0,3% of Falcao’s income last year. Aged 18 he cannot be considered a special player yet, nor an overestimated one, but certainly a talented young player with a promising future, provided that he is granted the time to grow.
There has been much talk this summer about his age, but it all boiled down to “unfounded allegations”: Renato Sanches was truly born in 1997. Owing to his recent contract with Bayern Munich and his protagonist role at the European Cup with Portugal, expectations are already skyrocketing. Born to parents coming from two Portuguese colonies, Sanches grew up in one of the poorest district in Lisbon, Musgueira. That’s where he began kicking the ball in a team, Aguias da Musgueira, that uses soccer to keep kids away from the streets, as the saying goes. Aged 10 he was noticed by Benfica, which, according to the legend, paid Aguias 750 euro and 25 footballs. Nine years on, Bayern, paid 35 million euro plus a number of bonuses that could bring the gure up to 80 million euro to have him. Last year on 30th October, the day when he made his debut, Benfica ranked eighth and had just suffered a crushing defeat in the derby versus Sporting. Out of the following 26 matches (Renato Sanches played 23 of them), Benfica won 24, thereby winning both the championship and the National Cup. This summer Sanches has become the youngest Portuguese player to debut in a European Championship, thus tying the record previously held by Cristiano Ronaldo. Compared by many to Clarence Seedorf, not only owing to his plaits, the Portuguese mid elder combines quantity with quality, which, in modern-day football, can only be a bonus. This year may well be the year of his consecration.
Van Basten’s elegance, Vieira’s legs and Verratti’s nerve, as well as the next Parisian flag. That’s how Adrien Rabiot, born in 1995, has been dubbed. Born in the outskirts of Paris only 22 years ago, Adrien was soon noticed as one of the most promising players of the new French generation. A long string of injuries, as well as the difficult transfers that kept him glued to Psg, interrupted what seemed to be the beginning of his career as a soccer star. They say that he is dominated and controlled by his mother, as she negotiated his first professional contract and slams the phone down on each and every agent. It seems, though, that many of the negative rumors about him (and her) were born within Paris Saint-Germain’s inner circle. The turning point for Adrien Rabiot came during the 2012/2013 season. At the start of that year he played versus Barcelona in a friendly match (replaced, inter alia, by a debutting Marco Verratti), impressing illustrious spectators like Lilian Thuram. Despite that day’s positive outcome, he did not play much in the France Ligue 1. During the winter he insisted a lot to go away to play more often, and they accommodated him with the shirt of Toulouse. Everything went according to script: after about one month he became a regular, playing 12 matches out of 13. Back in Paris his ups and downs resumed. This season started very well, but a thigh injury stopped him again. We sincerely wish that Adrien Rabiot spreads his wings, at the cost of ying away from Paris. As charming as it may be, the capital city risks turning into his cage.
Martin Ødegaard was born six months after the last Norwegian match in the nal stage of the World Cup, on 17th December 1998. Therefore, he is about to turn 17. He is the youngest debuting player in the history of the Norwegian championship. One would say that it is written that Martin will leave his coun- try, but he shares his father’s surname, who was a key player in his city’s team. His father, Hans Erik, was a mid elder like his son. Born in Drammen, he also started playing with Strømsgodset, where he played eleven seasons and 241 matches. Now he is Mjøndalen’s assistant coach, newly promoted in the Norwegian premier league, and his son’s manager (who, being a minor, cannot have an agent). He also runs an apparel store in Drammen. His uncle Thomas is the national football team’s physiotherapist. Following months in which Norway has attracted observers from all across the globe, Martin has chosen Real Madrid. He is now playing with the Blancos’ B team. Last year he was trained by Zinedine Zidane. He will learn the ropes and adapt to Spain and its football and, for a while, we won’t hear from him. He will bear in mind that he is 16, for a while. Then his time will come.
Born in 1997, Tielemans is technically gifted and perfectly ambidextrous. He debuted in the premier league aged 16, thus becoming part of a very exclusive club of champions like Paolo Maldini and Wayne Rooney. Tielemans’s precocity is extraordinary, as many of the champions that we know had to struggle a lot to achieve their present level of performance. To mention a few examples, Cristiano Ronaldo at the age of 18 had played less than 30 matches with top professional footballers. Tielemans played his first 35 matches with top-notch footballers before he was 17. That’s why he will stay a few more years with Anderlecht, his hometown’s team that he knows perfectly well and welcomed him when he was only 5 years old. In a National Team rife with big talents, the first in the FIFA ranking, Tielemans made his debut last June, versus Wales. There are no certainties about his future, but what is certain is that we are faced with a unique player in his generation, and we will be hearing about him for a long time.
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