Nicolo Fagioli is talented but let’s not go overboard with the hype

Juventus, Nicolo Fagioli (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)
Juventus, Nicolo Fagioli (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images) /

If there’s one area where Juventus haven’t excelled in the modern era, it’s producing talent of their own.

While Barcelona’s La Masia has the knack of producing generational talent at a canter and Chelsea’s ‘La Cobham‘ – as it’s commonly referred to by Blues supporters online – is ever-represented in Thomas Tuchel’s first-team at Stamford Bridge, Juventus’ youth sector appears a country mile behind.

In Turin, Mattia Vitale’s and Luca Marrone’s are more commonly produced than Andres Iniesta’s and Gerard Pique’s. In truth, local hero Claudio Marchisio has proved to be the only academy product the enjoy a prosperous career with the Old Lady in the 21st-century. For a while, it looked like Daniele Rugani would follow in the footsteps of Il Principino, but the centre-back’s career is already petering out at the age of 26.

However, a distinct identity shift during the latter stages of the 2010s looks to have placed a greater emphasis on producing home-grown stars. The attritional win-now, grinta-obsessed methods of Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri have since been replaced by the idealistic approach of Maurizio Sarri and similarly forward-thinking principles of Andrea Pirlo.

Overall, there’s little doubting that the current regime is a greater facilitator of the emergent of youth into the senior set-ups than those that preceded it. It’s reflected in the club’s shift in transfer policy too. From veteran free agents to future stars. Dani Alves to Federico Chiesa.

Is a star emerging?

Juventini have longed to see one of their own shine on the grandest stage following Marchisio’s exit and there’s one name that is garnering plenty of excitement.

Nicolo Fagioli made his Serie A debut off the bench in Juventus’ routine 3-0 triumph over a sorry Crotone last Monday. The 20-year-old’s cameo was certainly the major talking point from what was a pretty forgettable victory.

Fagioli’s showcase lasted a mere 20 minutes but it was seemingly enough to have Juventini dreaming of a Bianconeri midfield with the academy product at the heart of it.

Deployed in the pivot alongside Weston McKennie, the young Italian seemed as fearless as one can look on their league debut. There was an air of composure in every action he completed, with the middle-parted midfielder oozing a sense of superiority over those who attempted to snatch the ball away from his bright pink Nike’s.

His feet are magnificent in tight areas – that’s a standout attribute – while his decision-making in possession was often shrewd but simple. In short, Fagioli’s display was tidy against wildly inferior opposition, although some of the quotes which emerged post-match painted a utopian image of Fagioli’s performance and potential.

Former Juve Primavera coach Francesco Baldini, for example, likened the 20-year-old’s talent to his coach, while the player’s agent described his desire for his client to follow in the footsteps of Alessandro Del Piero and establish himself as a club legend.

No pressure then, eh?

Just let the kid play

Juve’s recent struggles at nurturing talent from their academy into the first team mean it’s no surprise that when a potential star emerges through the ranks, supporters and seemingly anyone associated with the club will inevitably go overboard regarding the aforementioned star’s career trajectory.

Fagioli has strutted his stuff for barely 100 minutes of senior action. It’s simply ludicrous to be heaping the pressure on the Italian because of a bright performance in the Coppa Italia against Serie B SPAL and a tidy cameo against Serie A’s worst outfit.

Now, I’m not in any way suggesting that Fagioli is destined to succumb to Calcio obscurity like the majority of Juve’s youth prospects, not at all. There’s certainly potential within the Piacenza-born midfielder.

His talent was recognised by Allegri before his 2019 departure, with the former Juve boss saying: “We have Nicolò Fagioli, a guy born in 2001 who knows football and its tempo very well, it’s a pleasure to see him playing.”

A player the 20-year-old will be looking to emulate, meanwhile, also weighed in: “Fagioli is one of the most important talents of recent years of Juventus. Max Allegri already saw it. Time will tell. He has the ability and the head to break through definitively. If so, I would be happy because I got to know him and appreciate his talent,” added Marchisio.

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These are rational opinions that should unquestionably be respected. Fagioli’s talent is distinct but the youngster has to be protected from unnecessary expectations. Just let the kid do his thing.

Thus far, Pirlo has managed him wonderfully, gradually introducing him to the life of a Juventus first-teamer. His time will come and, hopefully, we get to see more of Fagioli as the season progresses and concludes.

For the time being, though, let’s relax on mapping out Nicolo Fagioli’s path to greatness in Turin.