With qualification for Euro 2020 sealed, Italy coach Roberto Mancini had the opportunity to experiment with his squad and he has selected three emerging stars that can do well in the present as well as the future.
Fiorentina midfielder Gaetano Castrovilli, Bologna winger Riccardo Orsolini, and Brescia defender Andrea Cistana were all included in the Azzurri squad that played Bosnia-Herzegovina and then host Armenia.
The trio of starlets have had diverse career paths so far but they have demonstrated their potential throughout the early stages of the 2019/20 Serie A campaign and they are all 22 years old, so have the time to hone their skills further.
Castrovilli was integrated into the Fiorentina starting line-up at the start of the campaign by coach Vincenzo Montella after spending two seasons on loan at Serie B club Cremonese, as well as also playing twice for the Italy Under-21 team and he has thrived as a box-to-box midfielder.
A complete midfielder with excellent technical skills, an abundance of energy, and the knack for scoring with diving headers, Castrovilli was rather modest about his footballing ability.
“You have to work and keep going,” he said on Tuesday. “You have to keep improving.
“I still don’t think I’m complete and every day I have to do something.”
While Castrovilli has entered the spotlight recently, Orsolini is probably the most established of these youngsters. After an impressive season in Serie B with Ascoli in 2016/17, the right-winger represented Italy at the 2017 FIFA Under-20 World Cup and won the Golden Boot with five goals.
Although he had been acquired by Juventus, he never featured for the Bianconeri and a loan spell at Atalanta brought little success. The Ascoli Piceno native then joined Bologna in January 2018 but he finally made his breakthrough in the second half of the 2018/19 Serie A campaign, which included a run where he scored six goals and provided three assists in 14 games.
Orsolini featured in Italy’s ill-fated 2019 European U21 Championship campaign but he is eager to atone with the senior squad.
“Playing at home can give you that extra push, but it can also be a double-edged sword. You need to be good at remaining focused,” he told the press.
“This is an extraordinary group, I noticed this as soon as I entered Coverciano. The players have made me feel an integral part of the group.”
Perhaps the most persistent of the trio is Cistana, who plays at centre-back for newly-promoted Brescia. Although they are languishing at the bottom of the Serie A table, the Rondinelle youth team graduate has been one of their bright spots.
It was not a smooth transition for the defender early on in his career, who had to prove his worth at loan spells with Ciliverghe Mazzano in Serie D and Prato in Serie C.
Those loan stints made a difference as he went on to establish himself as a protagonist in Brescia’s 2018/19 Serie B campaign, helping them finish on top of the Italian second division and earn promotion to Serie A.
“It’s an important recognition, it wasn’t easy at the beginning,” Cistana said in the Azzurri press conference.
“I really had to put the work in when playing in Serie D and C. Last year was very difficult, Serie B isn’t an easy league but we managed to win it.
“We’re not picking up results at the moment, but I’m happy to be learning many things.”
The names Castrovilli, Orsolini, and Cistana might not be well-known outside of Italy and some calcio fans might struggle to notice them at first but this trio are another bunch of starlets that can represent a brighter future for the Azzurri.