14th October 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
While leaving AS Roma, the club he joined as a 10-year-old, for Sassuolo would’ve been a tough decision for Lorenzo Pellegrini to make, he knew it was the right decision for his career.
Having made his professional Roma debut in 2015 when he came on as a second half substitute against Cesena, the man who’d also captained Roma’s primavera side to the UEFA Youth League semi finals that term knew competition for places would be fierce at the Giallorossi ahead of the 2015/2016 season.
So when Sassuolo came knocking, Pellegrini jumped at the chance to join the Neroverdi in a deal worth just €1.25 million. The move represented a brilliant opportunity for him to work under their exceptional manager, Eusebio Di Francesco, who’s renowned for his fantastic ability to develop young talents and help them to fulfill their potential.
Pellegrini’s progress has been steady at Sassuolo, where he’s showed plenty of signs of his undeniable quality and benefited suitably from working with the Italian tactician. Featuring 19 times was a great introduction to full time life in the Serie A last campaign, as he continued to better himself mentally, physically and tactically under Di Francesco’s thorough tutelage and adjust to the rigours of Serie A.
To start the 2016/2017 crusade, the 20-year-old’s crucially kept on showing improvement, with his career now really beginning to take shape. After a promising start, interest has recently spiked in the youngster. Indeed, if he were to move, a return home to Roma would appear most likely, for the club have a €10 million buy back option on him. His agent has no doubt in his mind that his star client’s got what it takes to return and have an impact in the capital, stating: “Lorenzo is demonstrating the qualities to play football at high levels. Roma is an important club, so I think he can rise and be part of Roma. ”
For now, though, the Italian youth international just wants to keep bettering himself at Sassuolo, where he’s clearly enjoying life and his football within an environment that’s highly conducive for his development. “Di Francesco is a very ambitious coach who never stops learning and growing. I’m fine with him, and I’ve grown since the start of the season thanks to him and his staff,” he insisted.
“It’s a peaceful environment where there are no pressures of the big cities. There is a coach who is extraordinary in teaching football. Sassuolo is a strong company and I think this type of project should also be followed by other clubs in Italy.”
Upon analysing his most recent match, Sassuolo’s enthralling 4-3 loss to AC Milan, this contest gave an outstanding illustration of just what a tremendous player he’s developing into. His contribution on both sides of the ball was tremendous, as he showed vast amounts of maturity, tactical discipline and intelligence throughout.
When Sassuolo had possession, Pellegrini undertook his role on the right hand side of central midfield within Di Francesco’s 4-3-3 (or 2-3-2-3 when passing out) to great effect. As Sassuolo looked to pass out from the back, his crafty movement allowed him to move into openings where he could evade his marker, Giacomo Bonaventura, to drive his side forward. The technically proficient midfielder, who’s also a fine athlete and possesses enviable speed, power and strength, then acted as a key outlet in giving his side access to the final third by virtue of his crisp passing game and robust dribbling skills.
Pellegrini’s aptitude in the aforementioned regards fittingly saw him supply a brilliantly weighted assist for Francesco Acerbi’s header, and score his side’s third goal, which came following a tidy finish with his opposite foot after a sublime one-two with Gregoire Defrel.
Furthermore, by frequently dropping over to the right wing and combining with his fullback, Pol Lirola, and forward, Matteo Politano, this allowed Sassuolo to overload Milan down this side, giving them an all-important 3v2 superiority to advance upfield successfully.
To add another layer of menace, Pellegrini would sporadically perform overlapping runs, much like a fullback usually would, as he and Lirola performed subtle switches to stretch and disorientate the Milan defence.
Defensively, his efforts were just as vital, as he undertook his duties with vigour, selflessness and intensity. With Di Francesco organising his troops into 4-4-2 shape in this phase of the game, Pellegrini was instructed to defend as a narrow right winger. He did this job beautifully, in a match where he marked his direct opponent, Bonaventura, and helped contain Rossoneri left-back, Mattia De Sciglio, with the utmost diligence. Moreover, he’d never hesitate to drop back and support Lirola if he needed urgent assistance and used his physically imposing 186cm frame to outmuscle his opponents to win duels all over.
Following what was definitely one of his best outings in a Sassuolo shirt, Pellegrini will now look to build on this and completely nail down a starting berth in Di Francesco’s lineup. His manager interestingly also sees a lot of himself in the dynamic prodigy, which he accordingly noted when asked if any of his players were comparable to him during his playing days.
“I was good going forward and going back to help defence. Perhaps Lorenzo Pellegrini has these features, but he still has to work to mature and improve in terms of his personality. But in perspective he has the same qualities,” explained Eusebio in an interview with Whoscored.
As one of five former Roma players now plying their trade at the Neroverdi, Pellegrini is certainly making his former club stand up and take notice. Although returning to his boyhood club would certainly be appealing to him in the future, his decision to join Di Francesco’s Sassuolo exciting project has unquestionably been a wonderful choice for his all-round development as a footballer.
It’ll unquestionably be fascinating to see what the future holds for the up and coming Pellegrini.
More football articles at Licence to Roam.