Manolo Gabbiadini 21 Striker Atalanta
In purely footballing terms, Manolo Gabbiadini has got a lot to do to surpass his older sister Melania. That may not be a sentiment that comes up much in this list but here it is particularly valid. He has watched his sister play as a striker for ASD Berdolino in Serie A and (to date) win four titles, as well as representing her country almost 70 times including during two European Championships. Quite an act to to live up and if nothing else, we’ll wager it makes for some ‘decent bantz’ (as we believe the kids are prone to saying) in the Gabbiadini household.
In fairness he hasn’t started too badly either. Prolific for Italy’s U21s (10 goals in 14 games) and capped for the full side in the August friendly against England in Bern, it seems the Azzurri are prepping him for a bright future.
There’s something old-fashioned about him and at least one of the IBWM editing team really likes that. This isn’t a darting little false nine or an interchangeable member of a front three, Gabbiadini is a centre-forward, a pure-bred striker interested in very little else, and we’re all over that.
He’s reasonably quick but nowhere near as rapid as some on this list, but he’s instinctive, his runs are made because he knows he can work good positions to score from them. This sort of footballing intelligence is rare at a young age but he’s got it naturally. This also extends to his finishing, while he’s proved capable of the inventive it’s the typical centre-forward’s goals that show the inherent ability - the one-on-ones, the tap-ins, the well taken headers.
Tall and physical in style and looking far older than a mere 21-years, there’s few defenders who are going to enjoy playing against him when he’s on form. He has also shown a willingness to work, important for the games in the future where he ploughs a lone-furrow you think, and part of the international call up was recognition for a player whose attitude and personality has impressed coaches in that set up almost universally.
In terms of club football, he has already moved about somewhat. He started as a professional with Atalanta but played very little there before being subject his first co-ownership agreement, this time with Serie B’s Cittadella. The experience was invaluable and although 5 goals in 27 appearances didn’t make much of a ripple in the scouting pool, there were signs that he could play with a level of maturity beyond his tender years.
He did enough to rekindle Atalanta’s interest in him after appearing to be on the way out at the time of the original co-ownership deal. Bought back to the club for 2011/12 season he made the step up to Serie A football and scored his first goal in March. Again the stats aren’t massively impressive but they don’t tell a full story, this was a 19-year-old striker player in Italy’s top division – a tough ask for a young player at the best of times. Couple that thought with the fact he was playing in a distinctly average side and you now get a sense of the good work that the 23 appearances he made did for his maturity. Players learn best by playing, good, bad or indifferent, and while he may not have torn the league apart in the fashion of some young players, he still impressed enough to get the Champions interested.
Over the summer Juventus had seen enough to enter into a co-ownership agreement for him and then loan him to Bologna for the year. He is a regular for the club who are currently struggling around the lower reaches of the league, but this November has seen him score his first goal and again the experience is invaluable.
Not every player can be explosive and headline worthy immediately, some need time to grow. He is well thought of, learning with every game and has already done enough to convince one of the biggest clubs in Europe to take an option on him. This may not be a striker who is going to smash records and move for huge fees, but we think he’ll carve himself out a good career one way or another.
At some point, somewhere, Manolo Gabbiadini is going to have a really good season, have a run in the Italy side and score a bundle of league goals. It may not be with Juventus, it might not even be in Serie A or indeed Italy itself, but he’s going to do it trust us. The papers say several English clubs are monitoring his progress and while we hate stereotypes, the Premier League might actually be a good fit at some point. For the minute he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing right now, it might not be spectacular but it will pay off, eventually.
“After impressing during spells with Citadella & Atalanta, his ten goals in 16 appearances for Italy U-21’s persuaded Juventus to take him in co-ownership this summer & he may yet become good enough to outshine big sister Melania. Maybe!”– Adam Digby (ESPN, Sports Illustrated)
C Steady progress, nothing stellar, nothing disastrous, that’ll do just fine for a good while yet