This is a big season for Alessio Cerci. The former Roma prodigy, now playing at Fiorentina, is one of the best-known young players in Italy, having been singled out as a special talent at the tender age of 15. Now, at the age of 23, Cerci finally appears to be beginning to realise his phenomenal potential. Recognised for his searing pace and mazy dribbling, the winger has of late added a rare creative spark to his list of attributes as he looks to make a name for himself as more that just ‘one for the future.’
As well as his obvious talent, a major facet of Cerci’s game is his versatility. While naturally left footed, he is a viable option down either flank. His pace and acceleration coupled with an uncanny ability to move either way while in possession make marking him an unenviable task for a fullback. As well as playing wide, Cerci is able to play a more central, supporting role or even as an out and out striker. Again, his pace is sufficient to cause any defence a major headache and his tendency to drift out wide means that picking up his runs can be almost impossible.
It was as a forward that Cerci was first spotted playing at the Roma academy, his speed and ability to glide past defenders earned him comparisons to former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry. More recently he has grown into a player capable of changing a game with a single piece of skill. Under the tutelage of then academy director Bruno Conti and with club captain Francesco Totti as a role model, Cerci worked hard to develop his creativity in order to become more dangerous around the box.
While Cerci is obviously a hugely talented player, he is a different type of talent to those more regularly produced by Italian clubs. His pace, ability to carry the ball at high speeds and constant desire to accelerate the game set him aside from other players of his generation. Despite standing at almost six feet tall, Cerci is not the strongest player physically and, when compared to the likes of Mario Balotelli, appears somewhat lightweight. He also differs from his peers in midfield in that it is not his touch and technique that excite fans, as it is with Sebastian Giovinco for example, rather it is his explosive speed and his ability to beat a defender.
With wingers something of a rare commodity in Italy, a player like Alessio Cerci could prove exceptionally valuable both at club level and with la Nazionale. Cerci has represented Italy at every level from schoolboys upwards and, should he want to continue his progress by breaking into the national side, he must continue to develop his game. His most obvious flaw is an inconsistent end product in and around the box. If he is to successfully pursue a career on the wing, it is vital that he works hard to improve his crossing in order to make the best possible use of the positions he gets into with his blistering pace. Similarly, if he chooses to play through the middle, his finishing must improve if he is to avoid the unwanted tag of a wasteful striker. While his versatility is an invaluable asset, it may also prove a curse and he will be keen to improve his crossing and finishing to avoid being dismissed as merely a utility forward.
Unlike many young players, Cerci is relatively experienced in terms of competitive first team games. Before spending most of last season on the bench at Roma, he had successful loan spells in Serie B with Brescia and particularly Pisa, where he scored ten times in 26 games, and most recently spent a season with Atalanta, making 13 Serie A appearances. This, coupled with a number of substitute appearances for Roma, as well as game time in youth internationals, suggests that Cerci could be better prepared for the rigours of first team football than many of his peers.
In opting to leave Roma for Fiorentina this summer in search of more first team opportunities, Cerci demonstrated some of the maturity that is necessary to succeed at the top level. Shortly after his move to Florence, Cerci revealed that he had rejected a move to Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City. Cerci claimed: “Pantaleo Corvino and Sinisa Mihajlovic convinced me to come to Fiorentina”, adding: “They made me feel important and I have taken this opportunity.”
It seems that he will not have to wait long for his first opportunity at his new club. With Adrian Mutu banned until late October and Stevan Jovetic facing a long injury lay off, Cerci is likely to feature heavily during the first few months of the season. He replaced goal scorer and former Roma teammate Gaetano D’Agostino for the last twenty minutes in the 1-1 draw with Napoli, and will again be in contention for a start when Serie A returns after the international break.
Cerci recently acknowledged how tough it was for him to leave Roma, his boyhood club, and thanked the club for their continuing support. Now at Fiorentina, the young winger appears on the cusp of the bright future that so many had predicted for him. The season ahead will bring countless new opportunities for Cerci to really make the breakthrough into top-level football and he will be looking forward to getting some sustained playing time in Serie A. In the words of the young man himself: “For me, a new adventure begins.”
Name Alessio Cerci
Age 23 (July 23 1987)
Position Winger or Support striker