Juventus have broken the record World transfer fee on no fewer than five occasions, the most of any club and yet, for all the iconic superstars to have graced the famous black and white stripes of our beloved Old Lady, nothing truly reaches out and demands attention more than seeing one of the club’s countless youth team players progress to a regular place in the first team. There are exceptions of course – nobody could ever deny the places men such as Gaetano Scirea or Alessandro Del Piero hold in the hearts of Juventini across the globe – but there is undoubtedly something special about witnessing ‘one of our own’ break into the senior side.
Throughout their history the club’s Settore Giovanile has delivered some of the greatest talent on the peninsula to Serie A, be it with Juventus or other teams when players are deemed surplus to requirements in Turin. As much as supporters enjoyed seeing legends such as Roberto Baggio, John Charles and Pietro Anastasi don the Bianconeri shirt, there is something almost sacrosanct about watching players such as Giampiero Boniperti or Beppe Furino step onto the pitch and showcase their ability at the highest level.
There is even some satisfaction gained from seeing the likes of Antonio Mirante and Raffaele Palladino carve out a career for themselves even in the colours of another club but it is in seeing them succeed here that we most enjoy. The Youth Sector has produced three World Cup winners in Pietro Rava, the 1982 Golden Boot winner and legendary goalkeeper Gianpiero Combi, a cornerstone of the Quinquennio d’Oro side who won five consecutive Scudetti in the 1930’s.
Perhaps the most impressive example of this production line is in the famous Blocco-Juve of the late 1970’s and 80’s Italian National Team under the guidance of Enzo Bearzot when graduates such as Romeo Benetti, Roberto Bettega and Furino joined club team-mates like Dino Zoff, Claudio Gentile and Scirea to form the backbone of the Azzurri side which would eventually win the World Cup in 1982, with no fewer than six Juventus players among the XI who started the Final.
It is a rich tradition that continues to this day with three Youth Sector products starting the most recent Champions League tie against Danish side FC Nordsjælland. The return of summer signing Sebastian Giovinco sees him link up once again with Paolo De Ceglie and Claudio Marchisio, a trio who were central to the Primavera side which won both the league title, SuperCup and Viareggio Tournament in 2005-06.
While De Ceglie appears to have fallen behind new arrival Kwadwo Asamoah – who has been immense since his move from Udinese –and now regularly takes his place on the bench alongside yet another former graduate of the youth sector in Luca Marrone, Marchisio and Giovinco have the full confidence of Antonio Conte.
The former has of course been a regular fixture in the first team since the year of purgatory in Serie B, although he did spend the following season on loan at Siena. Viewed as a future club Captain, Il Principino has already, at the age of 26, made close to two hundred appearances for Juventus, netting 21 goals and impressing enough to amass thirty caps for Italy during the last three years.
Giovinco found breaking into the first team much more difficult as, unlike Marchisio who had flops such as Sergio Almiron and Tiago as competition, the diminutive striker had Pavel Nedved and Del Piero blocking his path to a first team shirt. Buoyed by a scintillating two year spell away with Parma, he has returned to Turin much improved, both as a player and a professional. Gone is the inconsistent trequartista who sulked around with a sense of entitlement, in its place now is a hard working and dedicated second striker who has represented his country 13 times and has a proven record in the top flight. That effort has been rewarded by Conte in the form of eight starts even at this early stage of the campaign and, while he has yet to find the net with the regularity shown with the Ducali, his displays are already much better than those seen in his early days in the full squad.
Spotting the next name who may make the leap is difficult and has seen numerous false dawns with names such as Davide Lanzafame famously failing to live up to the reputation built during his youth career. Ciro Immobile is perhaps the leading candidate as he follows up an impressive Serie B season which saw him clinch the Capocannoniere crown thanks to his return of 28 goals with Pescara by netting twice in his first eight games with new club Genoa.
Beyond the 22 year old striker it is tough to assess just who is best placed to follow in some incredibly famous footsteps, particularly with the current first team squad being so incredibly rich in talent and on such a superb run of form. Hopefully, thanks to this column, regular readers of JuventiKnows may be able to get ahead of the crowd in knowing all about the next graduate of the Juventus Settore Giovanile.
In bocca al lupo ragazzi!