Who is Mirko Antonucci? - The new Italian star enchanting Manchester United

26 January at 13:00
When 18-year-old Mirko Antonucci replaced Cengiz Under after 73 minutes in Roma’s 1-1 draw against Sampdoria at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris on Wednesday evening, it was the culmination of a dream by the youngster that he would finally get a chance to shine on the big stage in Serie A with the club from the Italian capital.
Every football fan loves to see one of their own finally break into the big time, and since his introduction in mid-week, where he almost scored with his first touch of the ball, Antonucci’s name has been on the lips of every Roma supporter across the globe.
Despite only playing 17 minutes at Marassi, the youngster, who provided the assist for Edin Dzeko’s late equalizer, was given a seven out of ten rating by sports daily Corriere dello Sport, as he dedicated his first senior appearance, like most Italian footballers do, to his mamma, claiming that he had, “Always told her that he wanted to make his debut at this stadium since he was a small child.”

What many people outside of the peninsula may not know however is that Roma have already tied their young starlet down to a new contract (until 2022) in the Eternal City. This actually happened back in September, and the reason for this; the fact that Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho has already made enquiries as to his availability.

Antonucci was playing for amateur outfit Athletico 2000, a club based in the south-east of Rome, when he came to the attention of former Roma and Italy playing legend Bruno Conti, now technical director of the youth academy at Trigoria. 
His friendship with Athletico patron Massimo Santapadre, who had formerly been President of Perugia, ensured that the Giallorossi got their hands on the youngster for just €18,000; this, despite competition from Inter Milan, who were prepared to double that offer to try to take the player to San Siro.

Antonucci arrived at Roma at the tender age of 13, rose through the ranks to become a regular in Primavera side, coached by Alberto De Rossi, father of Roma midfield legend Daniele. Having impressed both domestically and in the UEFA Youth League, Antonucci was being tipped for the big time and the summer arrival of Eusebio Di Francesco (renowned for giving young players a shot at the big time) as the club’s new head-coach, virtually ensured that this season would see him make his senior debut.
After Wednesday night’s point against Sampdoria, Di Francesco was asked to comment on Antonucci’s arrival on to the big stage and he replied by explaining that; “It takes courage for an 18-year-old to step up to the top level, but the strength and commitment he has showed to me, now demonstrates his worth.”

Ah yes, his worth; one suspects that after this week, his initial €150,000 (£135K) market-value will have risen accordingly, and the fact that clubs such as Manchester United are tracking his progress is a sign that Roma has another home grown jewel on their hands.
As Jose Mourinho confirmed he will be staying at Old Trafford until at least 2020 on Thursday, and the very fact that the club acknowledged that the Portuguese tactician is committed to bringing in exciting young players, will have the alarm bells ringing back in Rome.

Antonucci has the feel of an old fashioned winger about him; adept at playing on either flank, his devastating pace and trickery is sure to give some highly-rated full-backs a whole host of problems. He also knows where the target is, having scored six times in 19 appearances in all competitions for the Primavera squad this term.
It’s still early days of course and Di Francesco will want to keep the youngsters feet firmly on the ground. Early signs are positive however, that Roma have once again, produced an exceptional young talent.

Steve Mitchell



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