Serie A’s Gen-Z stars: Who are the best young players in Italy?

Serie A is becoming a great place for up-and-coming youngsters to take their first steps in first-team football, but who are the best players currently playing in Italy born after the year 2000?

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Breaking from old stereotypes in recent years, Serie A has gained a reputation for promoting and developing young talent. Several players have made names for themselves in the Italian top tier before earning big-money moves, to either go abroad or join another top Serie A side, namely Federico Chiesa, Dusan Vlahovic, Cristian Romero, Dejan Kulusevski, Rasmus Hojlund, and many more. 

The 2023 summer transfer window was no different. Six of the top 10 transfer fees received by Serie A clubs were for players aged 25 or under. This list was headlined by Hojlund and Sandro Tonali, who each set off for the Premier League for sizeable sums.

In the 2022/23 Serie A season, more than 100 players born after the year 2000 had been given some playing time in the first third of the campaign. This term, as many as 148 players in the same age bracket have been used. 

La Gazzetta dello Sport took this as inspiration to name some of the best Gen-Z footballers in Serie A. All players listed were born in the 21st century – in or after the year 2000.

Players born after 2000: The best young players in Serie A

Matias Soule – 2003 – Frosinone (On loan from Juventus)

Juventus’ Matias Soule in action. (@juventusfcen)

The Argentine playmaker has impressed this season at Frosinone. At 20 years old, Matias Soule seems to possess an understanding of space and the game that would be expected of someone much more senior. 

He is seen as an exciting prospect for the future at Juventus, and with him shining on loan currently, the pathway to the first team back in Turin is clear. 

Radu Dragusin – 2002 – Genoa

Genoa’s Radu Dragusin. (@GenoaCFC)

The Romanian centre-back has had a great start to life at Genoa. At 21, Radu Dragusin is showing a level of maturity expected in defenders that have been playing for much longer. 

Following his loan with the Grifone in the 2022/23 season in Serie B, the club opted to activate the purchase option in his loan contract. He has since gone from strength to strength after their promotion to Serie A.

An aerial threat and with great defensive awareness, Genoa are already preparing themselves for bids for the player, with La Gazzetta dello Sport reporting that the club expect bids of around €20 million in January. 

Natan – 2001 – Napoli

Napoli defender Natan signs his contract next to president Aurelio De Laurentiis. [@en_sscnapoli]

After the departure of Kim Min-jae in the summer, Napoli‘s defensive unit has come under scrutiny, especially with the rockiness of Rudi Garcia‘s tenure. But there has been a shining light in Natan

The 22-year-old Brazilian has by no means filled the boots left behind by Kim, but he has provided solidity and a sign of what may come in the future from him as he continues to develop – after adapting to a pivotal role in the Partenopei’s defence so early on. 

Festy Ebosele – 2002 – Udinese

Festy Ebosele with Udinese’s Player of the Month prize for November 2023. (@Udinese_1896)

The Irishman arrived in Friuli-Venezia Giulia from Derby County as a relatively unknown player, but Festy Ebosele has quickly emerged this season as one of the better full-backs in Serie A, without even considering his age. 

At 21, he has come into his own for Udinese and has all the tools to further excel himself, either with the Zebrette or at a bigger club, with several already interested in his services after some great performances this season that have also seen him called up to the Republic of Ireland squad.

Edoardo Bove – 2002 – AS Roma

Edoardo Bove celebrates for AS Roma in the Europa League. (@OfficialASRoma)

The AS Roma midfielder has kicked on this year, becoming an indispensable part of Jose Mourinho‘s midfield by displaying quality and intelligence expected from an older player.

Edoardo Bove has leapt into the first team from the Primavera without any signs of teething issues and has become a focal point of the Roma side. At 21 years old, he has all the marks to be able to make himself a long-standing staple of this Giallorossi squad.

Joshua Zirkzee – 2001 – Bologna

Joshua Zirkzee celebrates for Bologna. (@BolognaFC1909en)

The Dutchman has been labelled a ‘wonderkid’ for years, yet Joshua Zirkzee has never quite fulfilled his potential and had a disappointing loan spell in Serie A with Parma in their relegation season. This season for Bologna, though, things seem to be finally going in the direction many had imagined for the striker since his Bayern Munich days. 

With fosixur goals and two assists across all competitions (by December 6, 2023), Zirkzee has earned his plaudits and doesn’t look like slowing down. He seems to have made strides in his all-round game.

He has a varying range of finishes in his locker, matched with his technical ability and hold-up play. Zirkzee has replaced Marko Arnautovic well for the Rossoblu and, as such, the club have placed a €25m price tag on his head. 

Lameck Banda – 2001 – Lecce

Zambian winger Lameck Banda has really broken through in the past two seasons and has taken another step forward in 2023/24, providing well for a young Lecce side that started off the season so brightly. 

The club are already demanding a €20m fee from any interested parties, but if Banda continues to develop as he has been, then the Salentini can put themselves in a place to ask for more, providing they stay in Serie A

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