The column of the week from Richard Hough for all the Verona-lovers speaking english.
It has been a hallmark of Juric’s short time as coach of Hellas Verona that he has recognised and promoted young talent. Last season, emerging young players like Kumbulla, Salcedo and Pessina were amongst those who prospered under Juric. It comes as no surprise to those of us who follow them closely that Hellas Verona is the youngest team in Serie A this season, with an average age of just 24.6.
In this article, we profile three of the most exciting young players to look out for this season.
Last summer, Matteo signed a €75,000 deal that took him from Genoa, where he had played for club’s under-17 side, back to his hometown team of Padova, languishing in Serie C. He made 17 appearances for Padova, before signing for Hellas Verona in the January transfer window, where he was reunited with Eddie Salcedo, a teammate from his Genoa academy days.
A contemporary of Marash Kumbulla, Lovato faced the Albanian defender on numerous occasions as they competed together in the Italian youth leagues. Perhaps one of the reasons Hellas agreed to release Kumbulla to Rome this summer was because they already had his successor in mind.
At 6 feet 4” (1.9 metres tall), Lovato is the complete modern defender, physically strong, but also comfortable in possession.
With just eight minutes of Serie A experience under his belt, Lovato was called upon early in the opening game of the season against Roma, following an injury to Empereur. His impressive display was rewarded with a starting berth against Udinese the following week and for the subsequent game against Parma.
Against his former club Genoa last Monday, he was a central protagonist in the heart of Verona’s makeshift back three, shifting to his preferred berth in central defence. At just 20 years of age, it was a mature and confident performance.
In the opening four games of the season, Verona have conceded just one goal, a defensive record that only Milan can match. Lovato has been central to that impressive record.
After impressing for Verona, Lovato was included in the Italy Under-21 squad to face Iceland and the Republic of Ireland at the beginning of October. The young defender is unquestionably one to watch.
At just 19 years-old, Ivan Ilić is another young player who has taken a massive step forward in recent weeks. With Miguel Veloso out injured, Ilić has stepped in to deputise for the influential Portuguese playmaker.
On loan from Manchester City, the young left-footed Serbian midfielder is clearly a player of some pedigree (his mother played professional basketball and his father was a pro footballer).
Despite his youth, Ilić has already played in Serbia, England, Holland and now Italy. The youngest Serbian player to debut for Red Star Belgrade, he spent last season on loan with Nac Breda in the Dutch Second Division, where he scored four goals in 24 appearances. He has earned 9 caps for the Serbian Under 21 side and it can now only be a matter of time before he gets a full international call up.
Against Genoa he looked confident and hungry. Amongst a team full of runners, he covered the most ground. But Ilic will have to work on his consistency and accuracy if he is to permanently displace Miguel Veloso at the heart of Verona’s midfield this season.
At just 18 years old, Hellas Verona’s young Argentine defender is another player to keep a close eye on. Featured in The Guardian’s “Next Generation 2019”, which identified 60 of the best emerging talents in world football, he has made just a handful of senior appearances for Club Atlético Belgrano in the Argentinian second tier.
Physical and passionate, Bruno is also technically gifted. He played the last six of Belgrano’s league matches before the Argentinian league was suspended last season, occupying every position across the back four.
He has represented Argentina at both under 16 and under 17 level, with whom he won the South American championship last year.
He joined Hellas Verona on a five-year contract at the start of October for a reported fee of €1.7m and is still to make his competitive debut. Bruno is one for the future!