Alasdair Mackenzie Date: 7th May 2020 at 9:19pm
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Forza Italian Football’s ‘Next Generation’ series takes an in-depth look at some of the most exciting youngsters on the peninsula who are yet to make their breakthrough. To qualify, the players must be under 21 and have made a maximum of five Serie A appearances.

Rarely has a Juventus youth player been spoken of in as high regard as Pablo Moreno – and for good reason.

After all, the Spaniard’s story so far reads like the opening chapter to a tale of great achievement.

Born in Granada in 2002, the floppy-haired forward’s natural ability with a ball at his feet didn’t take long to start making waves.

Aged just 10, he was already displaying immense potential and a professional attitude that saw him cut fizzy drinks out of his diet completely.

After leading hometown club Ciudad de Granada to the league title, there was no hiding him from the big hitters of Spanish football.

His coach, Javier Mahia, told Marca: “He came with me on one team trip and the phone didn’t stop ringing. We were called by representatives of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Real Betis, Sevilla, Malaga”.

Being a Barcelona fan, Moreno’s choice of destination was never in doubt and he was soon unpacking his bags at the Catalan club’s famous ‘La Masia’ academy.

His development in the shadow of the Camp Nou was extraordinary. In just four seasons, the young forward scored more than 200 goals – a remarkable 72 in his first, then 41, 66 and 34 in subsequent years. His talent saw him earn caps for the Spain Under-16 side aged just 14.

Barcelona were understandably eager to hold onto one of their brightest talents and tie him down to a long-term contract, but Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici had other plans.

The Italian made his move in the summer of 2018, convincing Moreno to leave the club he supports and the comfort of his home country for the unfamiliar surroundings of Turin.

Juve handed over a reported €700,000 for the 16-year-old, underlining their faith in his bright future.

The fleet-footed attacker couldn’t muster quite the same deluge of goals in his debut campaign with the Primavera side, registering four goals and four assists in 29 games, but his coach was keen to point out that patience would be needed with a player who was three years younger than his opponents and adapting to a new style of football.

Soon enough, Moreno was taking steps towards senior football. He debuted for the club’s Under-23 side in Serie C in November 2018, before being called into the first team squad by Massimiliano Allegri for a 2-0 Serie A defeat to Genoa in March 2019.

By this point the Spaniard was training two or three times a week with the senior squad. He posted a picture on Instagram with Cristiano Ronaldo and was soon being dubbed as the Portuguese’s protégé.

Speaking about his introduction to the first-team squad, Moreno told Otro’s ‘All Eyes On’ show: “Paulo Dybala and Cristiano helped me the most.

“Mostly with things I didn’t understand, like preventing injuries, they explained things to me and told me what to do.”

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?? Special moments. Learning. #FinoAllaFine

A post shared by Pablo Moreno (@iampablomoreno) on Mar 6, 2019 at 11:30am PST

Moreno starred for Spain’s Under-17 side at the European Championship and World Cup in the space of five months, reaching the semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively, before being promoted to the Under-18 squad.

This season, he has continued his development at Primavera level, registering one goal and two assists in 18 games so far, but his performances in the UEFA Youth League have been the most eye-catching.

His superb display against Atletico Madrid, scoring twice in a 4-0 destruction of the Spaniards, earned the forward rave reviews, while he went on to score two more in the following two games.

One uncertainty that remains with Moreno is what his best position is. His superb technique and movement has seen him deployed successfully in a variety of attacking roles: winger, striker, trequartista, and even in midfield as a mezz’ala.

His dazzling footwork and trickery helps him glide past defenders, he has shown great composure in front of goal, and the professional attitude he’s demonstrated since childhood continues to impress.

There is a mounting belief that it’s only a matter of time before Moreno makes a breakthrough at the top level.

As Mahia explained, that belief extends beyond the confines of Turin.  He said: “In Granada you can see a lot more Juve shirts, but not because of Cristiano Ronaldo, because of Pablo Moreno!”

Moreno sees no issue with setting the bar high, either.

“Once I’ve made my debut, I don’t want to be an average player,” he said.

“I want to be a top player and win the Ballon d’Or. That’s my dream”.