After the excellent Manuel Locatelli picked Giangiacomo Magnani’s pocket and simultaneously teed up Paulo Dybala for a simple finish, Juventini were clamouring for the introduction of youth.
Dybala’s strike meant Juventus restored their two-goal advantage over a distinctly inferior Sampdoria in Tuesday night’s Coppa Italia round of 16 clash. While Andrea Conti’s fine strike after the hour had offered the visitors a glimmer of hope, Juve’s dominance was so stark that there was simply no way they would succumb to a thrilling comeback of their own.
Thus, with the Bianconeri coasting, stand-in touchline boss Marco Landucci had the optimal opportunity to manifest some of the club’s most exciting young talent. Crown jewel Matias Soulé, the highly-regarded 18-year-old Fabio Miretti and versatile defender Koni De Winter all occupied the bench, but not one of these prospects took the field on Tuesday.
Marley Aké starred off the bench on his Juventus debut
Instead, it was winger Marley Aké who was gifted a chance to shine. Signed from Marseille last January, Aké has starred for Lamberto Zauli’s Under-23’s over the past 12 months. He has 16 goal contributions in 36 appearances since arriving in Turin. For context, Primavera sensation Soulé has just three goal contributions for the Under-23’s.
Nevertheless, Aké’s development has certainly gone under the radar and as his cameo against Sampdoria proved, this is a player that’s come on leaps and bounds under Zauli’s guidance.
Within seconds of his 75th-minute arrival, Tommaso Augello tripped Aké in the penalty area to win Juventus a spot-kick. The Frenchman’s burst of pace to outwit the seasoned Augello was eye-catching, and some of his footwork to manipulate the ball around defenders in the minutes that remained resembled a purring Douglas Costa.
Overall, the confidence he exuded on what was his Juventus debut was very encouraging. From the very small sample size we’ve seen of Aké at a senior level, he looks like a winger that plays with no fear. He’s a direct runner willing to take on defenders at any given opportunity. The Frenchman’s assertiveness in one-vs-one situations is an attribute Dejan Kulusevski needs to regain if he’s to rediscover his best form in Turin.
Aké’s low-key rise in the Under-23’s meant very few were expecting the bright cameo we were treated to on Tuesday night. The 21-year-old certainly announced himself to the Juventus faithful thanks to 15-minutes of brave and carefree wing play.
Let’s hope we see more of him in the second half of the season.