Until recently, Sassuolo had, in terms of Serie A appeal, very little going for them. A small town in Italy, Sassuolo’s population is dwarfed by that of many of Italy’s top-flight clubs. Their spending paled in comparison, too. In fact, until the 2013-14 season, Sassuolo had never even been in the Serie A. So how have they become one of Italy’s most consistent clubs?
The reason is simple: excellent recruitment. At management level, they’ve recruited many managers who would go on to be some of Italy’s best managers: Stefano Pioli, Eusebio Di Francesco, Roberto De Zerbi, and, of course, Massimiliano Allegri.
They’ve recruited some incredible players for cheap, too: Manuel Locatelli, Gianluca Scamacca, Domenico Berardi, and more. Now, they have another great talent in the making, and he’s a real bargain: Luca D’Andrea.
CAM Luca D’Andrea, 18, Sassuolo
D’Andrea was born in Naples, Italy: probably one of the most soccer-crazed cities in the world. However, it was further north where he started his career, with SPAL, another club well-known for their development. In 2021, he helped the club reach the semifinals of Italy’s U17 tournament, scoring in the semi and quarter-finals as SPAL lost to eventual winners AS Roma in extra time.
D’Andrea was rewarded with a debut for Italy’s U18s, making an appearance against an impressive France side that included recent Bayern signing Mathys Tel and PSG talents Ayman Kari and Ismaël Gharbi. Several months later (after signing with Sassuolo), he scored his first-ever international goals against Switzerland and Greece, before joining up with the U19 team.
D’Andrea continued to impress at youth level before joining Sassuolo in January of this year. For the remainder of the season, he stayed with Sassuolo’s Primavera (youth) side, putting in some impressive performances and finishing with six assists.
This season, D’Andrea has continued his blazing form. In the second match of the Primavera season, he assisted two goals in a victory over Hellas Verona. In the fourth match, he assisted Sassuolo’s opener in a draw against Sampdoria.
A week later, he scored his first goal for the club against Fiorentina, cutting past the defender before slotting the ball into the bottom corner of the net. In his next match with the U19s, he again recorded an assist, taking his season tally to one goal and four assists in five matches.
Most impressive, though, is what D’Andrea has done with the first team this season. The forward made his Serie A debut just days after his 18th birthday, becoming the club’s fifth-youngest debutant in history. A month later, he returned to the lineup against Atalanta, where he assisted Sassuolo’s only goal of the game.
D’Andrea mostly plays as a CAM at youth level but has featured on the wings for Sassuolo. Either position highlights his strengths: D’Andrea is one of the best dribblers in the Primavera and his passes can create chances from out of nowhere. Just look at his assist against Atalanta: a beautiful cross that was slammed into the net by Georgios Kyriakopoulos. I prefer D’Andrea playing centrally: he’s great at finding space and his finishing is better utilized in the middle of the field.
The Serie A has been criticized lately—even by its own coaches—for not giving young players chances. This is certainly true, to an extent: one of my favorite Serie A talents, Nicolò Fagioli, has played less than 40 minutes in the league despite Juventus’ struggles. Yet, as Sassuolo are demonstrating, the Serie A is still a great league where young players shine. No one shows that more than Luca D’Andrea right now.
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