All the candidates featured were 21 years old or younger when the season commenced and while some excellent starlets have emerged, other promising youngsters improved on their form from previous years.
Here are our top 10 youngsters for 2019/20.
Alessandro Bastoni (Inter)
After entering the Inter squad as a backup with a promising future, he found himself bearing the responsibility of replacing Diego Godin, who didn’t meet expectations. He repaid Antonio Conte’s trust by putting on several solid displays, showcasing personality and courage which are quite rare traits for a young defender. As a result, the Nerazzurri boss was prepared to accept some mistakes, knowing that with relatively few improvements he could easily become a defensive keystone in the near future.
Manuel Locatelli (Sassuolo)
His coach Roberto De Zerbi claimed that the 22-year-old midfielder deserves all the credit for his latest improvements, as he has decided to leave behind the disappointment at failing to shine at AC Milan and focus on what he can still achieve, fulfilling the potential that many had already seen. Locatelli was the best Sassuolo midfielder last season, giving proof of his quality but also turning into a more dynamic player. With one more year under De Zerbi, he could establish himself as one of the best in his position.
Nikola Milenkovic (Fiorentina)
Once again, the Serbian defender was able to shine despite playing in an inconsistent team which has sometimes exposed his flaws. His third season in Serie A at the age of 22 will provide him with a solid experience which will likely bear fruit in the future. His flexibility and inclination to score already make him an ideal addition for those modern sides who require their players to be a threat at both ends of the pitch.
Marash Kumbulla (Verona)
The Albanian has found the perfect environment to grow in, as the rigour and organisation of Ivan Juric’s system made Verona one of the best teams for a skilled defender that has to learn the tricks of the trade. It is not by coincidence that the Scaligeri are amongst the best defences in Serie A, as their solidity led many top teams to eye Kumbulla as a potential addition. His first season outside Verona will be a significant testing ground, but the feeling is that he has everything to excel anywhere.
Musa Barrow (Bologna)
His move away from Bergamo last January could become a crossroads for his entire career. After finding little playing time at Atalanta, given the cumbersome presence of Duvan Zapata and Luis Muriel, the Gambian has chosen the best possible destination for his development. Sinisa Mihajlovic and an ambitious Bologna side were able to bring the best out of Barrow, who has scored nine goals from 17 appearances but notably has showed a confidence and an ability to make an impact that feels almost unnatural for a 21-year-old.
Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Whilst the €75 million price tag initially took its toll, impacting the confidence that the Dutch wonderkid had put on show at Ajax, Giorgio Chiellini’s injury forced the centre-back to speed up his acclimatisation and bring out his personality. After a sloppy start, De Ligt has proven himself to be the reliable and modern defender Juventus were looking for and now everyone is curious to see how Serie A football can shape his improvements.
Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan)
Imagine being 21 and having already amassed 200 appearances with the AC Milan’s shirt. Reading his name amongst the best youngsters is a bit odd as you can’t help but feel Donnarumma is already a veteran despite his age. Becoming the first goalkeeper in the Rossoneri’s history to save four penalties in the same Serie A campaign was just yet another feat for the Italian starlet, who is set to break many other records in the coming years. The best part of it? He still has huge room for improvement.
Theo Hernandez (AC Milan)
In hindsight, Paolo Maldini’s blessing was already a significant hint of his talent. Nevertheless, after picking up a pre-season injury that could have undermined his settling, the French left-back surprised everyone by adapting quickly to one of the most complicated leagues for newcomers, as a unique combination of speed, technique and strength has made him simply unstoppable in several games.
Lautaro Martinez (Inter)
It would be a pity if he left Serie A after a troubled stretch in which his performances seemed clearly affected by the surrounding transfer rumours. In spite of that, we still remember his wonderful first part of the season that he spent terrifying defences by showcasing a combination of skills that few strikers can boast: pace, strength, quality and a never-say-die attitude.
Dejan Kulusevski (Parma)
He has simply taken the Serie A by storm, making it look like the Primavera, which he had dominated until last season. While his class is beyond dispute, it is hard to say which position could fit him best – he has thrived as an offensive right-winger but given his goal-scoring instinct and his ability to make long runs with the ball, it is not crazy to think that he would excel as a midfielder or striker too and Juventus must know that.