10 Serie A starlets you'll soon know about – and who they're linked with

Italy's top flight might not be as strong as it once was, but there are still plenty of talented youngsters plying their trade on the peninsula. Blair Newman picks out 10 of the best...

Unable to compete with the vast riches of the Premier League, Serie A has become home to up-and-coming young players in recent years - just ask Paul Pogba. Last season, 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma broke into Milan's lineup, while 19-year-old ball-winner Amadou Diawara’s rapid rise to prominence was confirmed with a place in Bologna’s midfield just one year after playing for a church team in his native Guinea.

2016/17 will see more burgeoning prospects break out. Here are 10 of the most promising…

Paul Pogba

Pogba's spell at Juventus helped him become the most expensive footballer of all-time this summer

1. Lucas Boye

The 20-year-old Argentine also came on in Sunday's 3-2 defeat by Milan, leaving experienced right-back Ignazio Abate red-faced with a nonchalant nutmeg shortly after

Boye couldn't have made a more startling entrance to Italian football: upon joining Torino on a free transfer from River Plate in July, he scored his first goal for his new club after just 12 minutes of competitive action. Coming off the substitute’s bench during a Coppa Italia clash with Pro Vercelli, Boye unleashed a stunning half-volley from outside the penalty box to seal a 4-1 victory.

The 20-year-old Argentine also came on in Sunday's 3-2 defeat by Milan, leaving experienced right-back Ignazio Abate red-faced with a nonchalant nutmeg shortly after. He’s still raw and his decision-making needs work, but Boye’s quick feet and audacity will make him one of the more exciting prospects to keep tabs on this season.

He’s been linked with: Valencia

2. Assane Diousse 

While Diousse still needs to work on his positioning, Paredes’ return to Roma means a place in the starting line-up beckons

Empoli have a thing for composed playmakers. Mirko Valdifiori pulled the strings before leaving for Napoli last summer, and his replacement Leandro Paredes’ surgically precise passing was integral to the small-town Tuscan club’s impressive performances throughout 2015/16. The Azzurri now appear to have unearthed another talented deep-lying dictator in Diousse.

The 18-year-old Senegalese, who made his debut in a 3-1 defeat by Chievo in August 2015, appeared 15 times in Serie A last term, when his sound passing and composure earned him plaudits from across the country. While Diousse still needs to work on his positioning, Paredes’ return to Roma means a place in the starting line-up beckons.

He’s been linked with: Tottenham

Assane Diousse

Diousse gets the better of Napoli's Dries Mertens in Serie A last season

3. Federico Dimarco

An attack-minded full-back, he scored four of the Azzurri’s five goals while also showcasing strong running, effective forward surges and excellent crossing ability

Despite a deflating 4-0 final loss to France, Italy’s performance at the 2016 European Under-19 Championship saw some promising displays from several players, with 19-year-old left-back Dimarco arguably the pick of the bunch.

An attack-minded full-back, he scored four of the Azzurri’s five goals while also showcasing strong running, effective forward surges and excellent crossing ability. Having graduated from Inter's youth setup, he'll spend 2016/17 on loan with Empoli in the hope of establishing himself as a Serie A player.

He’s been linked with: Arsenal

4. Franck Kessie

With five international caps to his name already, Kessie is embarking upon his first term of Serie A football after a successful year spent in the second tier with Cesena last time out

With Didier Drogba and Kolo Toure having retired and Kolo’s brother Yaya on the wane, Ivorian football is in need of an injection of fresh talent. 19-year-old Atalanta midfielder Kessie is a big part of the new wave.

With five international caps to his name already, Kessie is embarking upon his first term of Serie A football after a successful year spent in the second tier with Cesena last time out. Mobile, versatile and more than willing to indulge in the occasional penetrative run to break opposition lines (as shown by his two-goal haul against Lazio on the opening day of the season), the 19-year-old has the makings of a dynamic ball-winner and -carrier.

He’s been linked with: Southampton

Franck Kessie Second Goal - Atalanta 2-3 Lazio  -Serie  A 2016

Kessie scores against Lazio

5. Rey Manaj

Slight, nimble and evasive, the attacker hasn’t yet broken into Inter’s first team and will spend the campaign on loan at Pescara

On the back of their European Championship bow this year, Albania will be hoping to reach more major international finals in the future; if they're to do so, 19-year-old forward Manaj will probably have played an integral part.

Slight, nimble and evasive, the attacker hasn’t yet broken into Inter’s first team and will spend the campaign on loan at Pescara. For a player whose rare outings have yet to match up to the hype surrounding him, this temporary spell will be a good litmus test of his true ability.

He’s been linked with: Atletico Madrid

6. Rolando Mandragora

With his smooth passing and exceptional ball retention skills, he could be Juve's long-term successor to Andrea Pirlo

While Juventus primarily garner headlines for their consistent domination of Serie A and their signing of major rivals’ key players, there's another reason behind their success as a football club: the Bianconeri's ability to identify, sign and develop young talent has ensured that, beyond the limelight, they always have a steady stream of prospects coming through. Mandragora could be the next big one to emerge.

The 19-year-old actually made his debut against Juventus, for Genoa in October 2014. Despite being just 17 at the time, he didn’t look out of his depth against the reigning champions, who secured his signature earlier this year. Mandragora helped Pescara to the Serie B title last term in his first full campaign of regular competitive action and, with his smooth passing and exceptional ball retention skills, could be Juve's long-term successor to Andrea Pirlo.

He’s been linked with: Liverpool

Rolando Mandragora |

Mandragora is a gifted passer

7. Josip Posavec

President Maurizio Zamparini’s hiring and firing of head coaches gives the Rosanero a bad name, but the club certainly knows how to unearth talent

Croatia may be more renowned for producing elegant creators than classy goalkeepers, but Posavec could soon change that perspective. The highly-rated 20-year-old joined Palermo in January having agreed terms last summer and, in his first league outing for the club, put in a fine performance to keep out Bologna in a 0-0 draw.

President Maurizio Zamparini’s hiring and firing of head coaches gives the Rosanero a bad name, but the club certainly knows how to unearth talent; for confirmation of this, one need only watch Juventus’ Paulo Dybala in action. Posavec, with his agility, judgement of angles and shot-stopping from close range, may well be the next rough diamond to benefit from Palermo’s polish.

He’s been linked with: Manchester City

8. Stefano Sensi

The diminutive 21-year-old's an intelligent distributor who's comfortable playing in tight spaces, where his close control and awareness enable him to bypass pressure

Sassuolo’s rise through the divisions and qualification for the Europa League is one of the more heart-warming stories to have come out of football on the peninsula in recent years. The Neroverdi are progressing with an exciting group of players, many of whom are young and Italian. Sensi, who arrived from Cesena in January for a fee of just over £4 million, fits the mould perfectly.

The diminutive 21-year-old's an intelligent distributor who's comfortable playing in tight spaces, where his close control and awareness enable him to bypass pressure. These characteristics have seen him likened to Marco Verratti and linked to several of Italy’s most illustrious clubs, though he should concentrate on securing regular game time in Sassuolo's midfield for now.

He’s been linked with: Chelsea

Stefano Sensi |

Sensi scores a penalty for Cesena

9. Lucas Torreira

Aggressive and surprisingly rugged for a player standing at just 5ft 6in, Torreira’s resolve is matched by his acute sensibility in defensive situations

Newly-promoted Pescara have lost several key members of their squad following their victory in the Serie B play-offs last season, with Uruguayan midfielder Torreira chief among them. The 20-year-old has returned to Sampdoria after a successful loan spell with the Dolphins and, with his tenacity and tactical awareness, appears equipped to survive the step up.

Aggressive and surprisingly rugged for a player standing at just 5ft 6in, Torreira’s resolve is matched by his acute sensibility in defensive situations. His awareness of when to close down and strip the ball from opponents is impressive, as is his speed in covering ground to instigate his team's pressing.

He’s been linked with: Juventus

10. Eloge Yao

Yao is one of many bright young things making their way at Inter but, just like Dimarco and Manaj, he may have to leave the club on loan to break through at Serie A level. The 20-year-old Ivorian centre-back spent last year with Crotone, helping the club to promotion, and he could soon return for another year with the Rossoblu.

Fast, decisive and possessing a good range of passing, Yao's spent a large portion of his professional career playing on the right-hand side of a back three, though as he develops physically a more central berth could suit him well.

He’s been linked with: Arsenal

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