Davide Santon is still only 19 years of age but he has already achieved a spectacular amount of praise from some of the games leading figures including being heralded as the “new Paolo Maldini” by Marcello Lippi. It is true that many young players can be likened to the heroes of yesteryear but in Davide Santon’s case the praise seems certainly justified.
Born in Portomaggiore on the 2nd January 1991, his talent was evident from a young age and the skilful youngster was signed up for the youth academy at Ravenna. His performances shone through and he caught the eye of Inter at the tender age of fourteen, he was promptly signed and here began the start of a journey that is still now only at its beginning. Davide Santon had originally played on the wing, however, the astute minds of the Primavera coaches moved him to full back and this is where he started to excel.
The Nerazzurri youth team is always full of Europe’s premier young talent and so it is to Santon’s credit that he started to become noticed as one of the stand out stars in this team. His ability on the ball, superb awareness and reading of the game were all evident as he helped his team win the 2006-07 Campionato Primavera Trofeo. The following year he also was heavily involved in the team that reached the finals of the same tournament in 2007-08. His hard work and natural ability had not gone unnoticed and when the Nerazzurri first team met for 2008-09 pre-season training in South Tyrol it was no surprise that he was asked to join them.
Santon trained with the first team for the first half of the 2008-09 season gaining some valuable experience under the newly instead Jose Mourinho. Soon Santon had made his Inter debut playing 90 minutes in the Coppa Italia quarter final against Roma. This was a big game to make his first start in and he certainly did not disappoint having a fine match. Next he made his debut in Serie A in a 1-0 victory against Sampdoria, again he played well and his career had begun.
Santon’s ability at full back is evident and he possesses all the physical qualities that are needed. He has immaculate technique, a fantastic mind for reading the game and a superb temperament for one so young and playing on such big occasions. His strength is coming along with age and hard work, while his speed is enough to cope with the best wingers in Serie A. However, his ability to play left or right full back using both feet is a huge asset not just for defending but also when he is on the offensive. These characteristics means that he is perfect cover for Maicon, Zanetti or Chivu and this is a great option for a coach to have. To have a player who can not only defend but cross with both feet shows immense adaptability that is needed in the modern game. It is possible to talk about Santon’s weaknesses but it seems almost pointless to do so. The reason being is that any small problems that are evident in his game can all be put right with hard work and are not down to ability or mentality, in other words they can easily be sorted out on the training ground. Santon’s second biggest assets is his professionalism and this hereby makes talking about his faults quite pointless.
With the Nerazzurri he has been part of Jose Mourinho’s all conquering squad that won two titles a Coppa Italia and the Champions league and although suffering a major knee injury that has kept him out of most of the 2009/10 season he is now fit to play and made his come back against Juventus last Sunday in the 0-0 stalemate. He has started where he left off and new coach Rafael Benitez took time to mention him after the game saying that: “It was also pleasing to see Davide Santon make his comeback. I think we have a squad that has all the elements to give its fans a great campaign and entertain us too.”
If Davide Santon can stay fit this term there is no doubt that he will soon be featuring in the Azzurri squad and before long will be holding down a full first team place for both club and country. If this is the case then the Nerazzurri will enjoy saying that Milan had Paolo Maldini, whilst Inter have Davide Santon.