Giacomo Raspadori will look to be the ace up Italy’s sleeve at Euro 2020 as they look to extend their terrific unbeaten run.
Almost a year ago now, Giacomo Raspadori was making his senior debut for Sassuolo. Even then, he probably couldn’t have imagined that he would be one step closer to his dream of playing for Italy.
‘Sometimes I dream of a goal in the World Cup,’ Raspadori said, in an interview with Italian media.
It may not be the World Cup just yet, but now, Raspadori gets to his live dream at Euro 2020. He will link up with Roberto Mancini’s Italy as they go toe to toe with Europe’s best for the all-important title.
He’s been delivering for the Italian national team at various youth levels. Now, it is time for him to deliver on the big stage.
Brought up in the Sassuolo way
Ever since the age of 9, Raspadori has been on the books of Sassuolo. In that time, he’s come through the ranks and has largely played for the Primavera side.
All of that changed when Beppe Iachini promoted him to the first team in 2017/18.
The 17/18 season saw him notch nine goals and four assists in the Primavera side. He further improved in the 18/19 campaign scoring 13 goals and assisting once.
Naturally, his form was going to come to the notice of manager Roberto De Zerbi who gave him his first team debut.
“It took him very little time to win me over, In my first year at Sassuolo, I took him to our retreat and we immediately understood how good he was.”De Zerbi to La Gazzetta dello Sport on Raspadori
Sassuolo’s academy has nurtured several exciting young talents of Italian football in recent years. Stefano Sensi, Merih Demiral and Matteo Politano are some of their biggest sales in recent years. Raspadori may just be the next big thing for the Neroverdi.
Stepping up when called upon
In a season disrupted by injuries for star striker Francesco Caputo, Raspadori has had opportunities to step up to the task.
The first half of the season yielded little output for the diminutive forward who was still getting adjusted to the demands of top-flight football.
However, De Zerbi and Sassuolo were becoming a bit too inconsistent themselves during that time. Therefore, it’s only natural that a young striker such as Raspadori would struggle to find the right rhythm to excel.
After starting four times in the first six games, Raspadori found minutes hard to come by. He did manage to impress for Italy amidst all of that though, whilst in action for the U21s.
With two goals on the day, Raspadori once again showed great promise.
In a substitute appearance against Genoa on matchday 16, Raspadori was there at the right place, at the right time to score the winning goal for his team.
Ultimately, it is his form towards the end of the season that has made all of the difference for Raspadori. And rightly so, he may prove to be a credible threat for opposition defences at the Euros.
Asserting himself against the Big guns
When injury forced Caputo to be on the sidelines once again at the end of May, De Zerbi looked to his young protege to deliver and he certainly did.
Given the captain’s armband against AS Roma, Raspadori was an exciting watch on the day.
Often he has been likened to Antonio Di Natale for his style of play, and it showed in his touches on and off the ball. As a striker, he grew up idolizing Samuel Eto’o and Sergio Kun Aguero. And like those great strikers of modern football, he never remains still when he’s on the pitch.
Standing at 5’8 in height, Raspadori may not be as physically intimidating as his Italy team-mate Gianluca Scamacca, however, that has rarely been a problem for him.
He is comfortable receiving the ball on the turn, off the shoulder of the last defender, or to his feet as well. Raspadori often drops into deeper areas to link up with the likes of Maxime Lopez and Locatelli to feed the ball to onrushing runners such as Jeremie Boga or Domenico Berardi.
Against Roma, his link-up play was exceptional. He was pivotal in the build-up to some crucial chances that may well have won his team the game on the day. Nonetheless, he did end up scoring the all-important equalizer from a header inside the box, connecting with a well-timed cross from the right.
A proud moment for the Sassuolo-bred academy graduate who was now leading his team.
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The numbers backing up Raspadori’s selection for Italy
A fantastic brace against AC Milan followed a couple of weeks later. The second of those two showing extreme composure inside the box to finish past the daunting figure of Gianluigi Donnarumma. Coming off the bench to make an impact, Raspadori ensured De Zerbi’s side completed a special scalp against the Rossoneri at the San Siro.
In the final weeks of the season, Raspadori haunted Genoa once again. Scoring the first of two goals for Sassuolo in a 2-1 win away from home.
Raspadori finished the Serie A season with six goals in 1232 minutes played. Although this is a relatively smaller sample of minutes played, his numbers do show great potential.
With 4.32 Shot-creating actions per90, Raspadori is in the 97th percentile of all players across the top five leagues according to figures from Statsbomb via FBref. This means that he is heavily involved in creating atleast 4 shots for his team on a per90 basis.
Although his non-penalty Expected Goals tally per90 of 0.36 doesn’t come across as hugely impressive, it is down to him taking shots from high-quality positions. Averaging close to 2 shots per game.
A quick look at the rest of his numbers tell us that he excels as an all-round presence up top for Sassuolo.
The future of the national team
It is clear that Italy boss Roberto Mancini rates him very highly as well.
‘He could be the future of the national team, he has extraordinary qualities, that was the only motivation behind calling him up. I hope he can come in and be like Paolo Rossi (at the 1982 World Cup),’ Mancini said at a recent press conference.
Raspadori’s career at the senior level has only just begun and there is still a long way to go ofcourse. However, what he brings to the Italian national team may prove useful during the course of the Euros.
It is unlikely that Raspadori will start every game, but whenever he’s on the pitch, he will certainly be a threat. He will hope to leave an everlasting mark on the tournament as Paolo Rossi did at the World Cup.
That will change his life forever.
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