Serie A breakthrough stars of 2019/20: New Andrea Pirlo features along with Juve signing Dejan Kulusevski


Football has been put on pause amid the Coronavirus pandemic but while we wait eagerly for its return, we can take stock of the season so far.
This is an opportunity to focus on some of the new players who have burst onto the scene this term.
Here, we list Serie A’s five breakthrough stars of this season, only considering players who have made a maximum of 10 appearances in one of Europe’s top five leagues.
SANDRO TONALI It’s easy to see why Sandro Tonali is widely compared to Italy legend Andrea Pirlo. Like the former passing maestro, Tonali has begun his career at Brescia, showing exceptional play-making ability and even bares a resemblance in terms of appearance.
However, while Pirlo started in a more advanced role before eventually settling in as a deep-lying playmaker, Tonali is already plying his trade as a regista. With superb vision and technique, the 19-year-old is always looking for the killer pass even from deep. That’s resulted in an impressive average of 2.1 key passes per game and five assists to go along with one goal.
Tonali is also strong, energetic and positionally aware. When asked about the Pirlo comparisons, the youngster said he thought he had a lot more in common with Gennaro Gattuso.
TAKEHIRO TOMIYASU The Japanese defender is a slightly contentious inclusion in this list given that he’s already racked up 18 caps for the national team and has played regularly in the J-League for Avispa Fukuoka and in the Belgian league for Sint-Truiden previously.
However, this is Takehiro Tomiyasu’s first season in one of Europe’s top five leagues and he’s only 21. A towering centre-back by trade, the youngster has shown great versatility, usually operating at right-back for Bologna owing to his pace and ability on the ball.
Tomiyasu has good awareness and makes interceptions often. He often tucks in alongside the two centre-backs when Bologna are in possession to maintain control. Despite his physique and raw ability, his inexperience has kept him from playing centrally while he also lacks in aggression.
MARASH KUMBULLA Despite only having 18 Serie A appearances to his name, Marash Kumbulla is turning heads and Inter Milan have already shown interest in the young centre-back.
The Hellas Verona defender is proactive by nature, reading the game well and getting to the ball before the forward rather than having to back off and contain them. When he does nip in ahead of his opponents he’s often swift to stride out and begin counter-attacks as well.
It’s that confidence and aggressive play that came to the fore when he faced Juventus. The 20-year-old has also proved impressive in the air and while he only has a single senior goal – against Sampdoria – so far, his threat in the opposition’s box in palpable.
DUSAN VLAHOVIC Strength, pace and power – that is Dusan Vlahovic in a nutshell. Like Tomiyasu, the striker has a little prior experience too having featured in the Serbian league before his move to Fiorentina last season.
He made a handful of appearances last term but has begun to look the part this time around. The 20-year-old has featured in 22 league games this season but 12 of those have been from the bench. Nevertheless, Vlahovic has impressed with six goals for the campaign with a fine run and strike against Inter standing out.
The Serbian has the build of an imposing number nine and is formidable in the air but his hold-up play does need improvement. On the other hand, he can be surprisingly nimble-footed when it comes to taking on defenders one-on-one.
DEJAN KULUSEVSKI With the physique, strength and speed to flourish in the modern game, Dejan Kulusevski looks like a well-rounded player destined to be a success. Juventus certainly think so.
The 19-year-old has caught the eye of the Serie A giants while on loan at Parma from Atalanta, prompting them to swoop in January with a deal that could amount to €44 million.
He has operated from the right and likes to cut and shoot with his superb left foot, registering five goals and seven assists this season.
However, with vast reserves of energy and a burst of acceleration, Kulusevski is a talented ball-carrier. That’s why many believe his future lies in operating as a box-to-box or attacking midfielder.
The Swede has only made one appearance for the national team so far but seems destined to be a star. Sport360

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