Forza Italian Football’s ‘Next Generation’ series takes an in-depth look at some of the most exciting players on the peninsula who are yet to make their breakthrough. To qualify, the youngsters must be under 21 and have made a maximum of five Serie A appearances.
Raul Moro doesn’t need to look far for inspiration. The link between Lazio’s 17-year-old talent and Keita Balde Diao is impossible to miss.
The two speedy wingers were born just 100km apart in Catalonia, and both were picked up by the Barcelona academy before being poached by the Roman club’s ambitious youth sector.
Keita went on to win the Primavera Scudetto and Coppa Italia before breaking into the first team and scoring 31 goals for the club, lifting the Supercoppa Italiana and breaking into the Senegal squad before his €30 million departure for Monaco in 2017.
Moro has a long way to go before making a similar impact in Rome, but the early signs are promising.
Sporting director Igli Tare secured the forward’s signature on transfer deadline day in 2019, completing a deal estimated to be worth around €8m.
That would be a significant sum for a first-team player at Lazio, let alone a raw talent who was still 16 at the time; only Denis Vavro and Manuel Lazzari commanded larger fees during the summer mercato.
Moro started his career at Espanyol before making the move to Barcelona in 2018, but his direct style and preference to launch into a one-on-one rather than circulate the ball put him at odds with the club’s possession-first philosophy.
“Tare was after him after watching the first video,” Moro’s agent Junior Minguella told La Lazio Siamo Noi.
“It wasn’t only Lazio, also teams like Chelsea. But we decided that the Biancocelesti were more adapted to the development of the boy, both for their idea of the game and the possibility of seeing him in the first team in the future.”
Moro’s ability to quickly embrace his new life and surroundings has impressed staff and teammates alike.
He has quickly settled, helped by the club’s Spanish contingent of Luis Alberto, Patric and Jony, as well as his fellow summer arrival Bobby Adekanye, another Barcelona youth product.
The youngster isn’t lacking in confidence and hasn’t been intimidated by opponents several years his senior at Primavera level, nor indeed when faced with Simone Inzaghi’s first-team squad.
Moro had to wait until November to make his first Primavera appearance as he awaited the green light from FIFA for his transfer, but he managed to make his mark before then.
In one of Lazio’s regular first team vs Primavera training matches, Moro shone so brightly that Inzaghi made him switch teams at half time so he could see how the winger fared alongside the big boys.
“Inzaghi immediately realised his potential,” said Minguella.
“He can make the difference. It’s enough to think that at Barcelona they compared him to [Lionel] Messi. Of course, it’s an exaggeration, but it lets you understand the kind of player he is.”
Moro finally made his debut in a Primavera derby match against Roma, but he faced another setback as he was forced off with injury early on, before the same thing occurred a week later against Torino.
Since December, though, the Spaniard has turned a corner. He played every minute of Lazio’s last nine Primavera matches before football came to a halt, heading in the winner to complete a comeback win over Napoli in December to mark his first goal for the club in just his second 90-minute outing.
His development was picking up pace in February, as the winger notched two goals and an assist in three games, his strikes against Empoli and Sampdoria showcasing his composure in front of goal.
After his outing against Samp, which would turn out to be his last before coronavirus brought football to a halt, Moro told Lazio Style Radio: “When I arrived it was difficult because I couldn’t play. Now I’m doing well, and I feel good here.”
“In Spain the training is all with the ball, here it’s more athletic. At the start that weighed on me a bit, but I’m getting used to it.
“The football is very different, it’s stronger and more physical in Italy. In Spain you play with the ball more. But it’s good for me, I’m happy to have made this choice.”
Moro’s ascendancy hasn’t gone unnoticed at international level either, as he was promoted to the Spain Under-18 side in November, making his debut in a friendly win over Qatar aged 16.
The teenager has a low centre of gravity and possesses excellent close control, dribbling, technique and speed that make him a nightmare to face in one-on-one situations.
Perhaps the greatest testament to his potential is that Primavera coach Leonardo Menichini changed his 3-5-2 system to a 4-3-3 earlier this season in order to play Moro in his favoured role on the left wing.
It’s unlikely Inzaghi will be so accommodating, but if Moro can resume his rapid development when football restarts – and continue to pester his senior team-mates in training – we should see him in a first-team squad before long.