Gianluca Scamacca is in demand and it’s easy to see why. He’s a 6’5″ Italy international striker who scored 16 times in Serie A last season, a man capable of all kinds of goals. The only surprise is the path he took to the top.
At 23 years old, Scamacca is both an early phenomenon and a late bloomer. Identified at 15 as one of Europe’s brightest talents, he visited the Netherlands twice as a teenager in search of opportunities. But he was still on loan at Ascoli in Serie B at the age of 21.
Now, having shone for Sassuolo, he is not only seen as the striker around whom Italy should build their attack, but also as a man who can command a fee in excess of £40m given that he could well be Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s heir. The tall man with the dancing feet.
The reason for the delay in its emergence is puzzling given its frame. That’s what made him impossible to miss as a young teenager. Defenders would bounce off him. The guards were unable to stop his shots even though they were in their way.
The only hard part for young Scamacca was finding a challenge.
It was at the heart of his unusual decision to leave Roma’s academy at 16. Leaving for PSV was a controversial move – Scamacca had previously swapped Lazio for Roma as a young boy – and seen as a damning condemnation of Italy’s youth development.
For PSV, and its sporting director Marcel Brands, it was a blast. “It was a job well done by Marcel,” said former Jong PSV coach Pascal Jansen. sky sports. “He was the one who made contact with AS Roma. Italian children dream of playing in Italy but Gianluca is different now and he was different then. He is looking for challenges.
“We spotted him, we went there, we watched him and obviously he was playing with much smaller kids than he was then because he’s a big boy now and he was a big boy at the time. We made him feel confident in us and he chose our program in Eindhoven.
“What we normally see are young guys who are going to play against Italy. He went from Italy to Holland. It was a difficult step for him because no young Italian player goes to Holland. He chose to do it. We were very lucky that he chose our plan.”
Scamacca knew he had to be tested and that wasn’t happening in Rome. PSV provided the path. He started with the U17s. “He scored goals.” Moved to U19s. “He scored more goals.” And made his professional debut shortly after his 17th birthday.
Jansen was the coach who made his Scamacca debut with Jong PSV, the U23 team that played in the Eerste Divisie, the second tier of football in the Netherlands. He came on in an away win against VVV-Venlo in January 2016 when he replaced Steven Bergwijn.
“He was a talented boy who had the physical side,” says Jansen. “When he was at AS Roma he beat them all because he was physically much stronger than anyone else on the pitch. The challenge in the Netherlands was to develop his understanding of the game.
The challenge in Holland was to develop their understanding of the game
“When he came to Holland we challenged him to make sure he developed and also progressed in terms of understanding. The physical part was not a problem, but the mental part was the challenge – dealing with mature guys. It took a while.”
The body was ready but the mind had to catch up.
He had support. Mark van Bommel spoke to him in Italian. Ruud van Nistelrooy knew everything there was to know about scoring goals. “They were assistant coaches working in different age groups. Van Nistelrooy had a special eye for forwards.”
Scamacca has since said the intensity of the training was at a level he had never experienced before. “It’s the level of the coaches but also the infrastructure. It’s well organised. You play against the best talents from all over the country. Good games.”
Some of Scamacca’s qualities were already evident at the time. “His instinct in front of goal was his strength then and it is his strength now. He was strong with his head, obviously, because that was the skill he had developed from an early age.
Other aspects of forward play needed more work at this stage. “Speed of play and technical ability were the main challenges for him. We worked with him to make sure his footwork was ready, his agility, touch and movement.”
A year after his debut, Scamacca returns to Italy with Sassuolo. Further loan moves to Cremonese and back to the Netherlands with Eredivisie side PEC Zwolle brought experience if not goals. But it was this move to Ascoli that marked real progress.
His efforts there earned him a loan spell at Genoa where his eight Serie A goals convinced Sassuolo he was ready to succeed with his parent club. This past season has brought a senior debut for Italy and a level of performance that matches that early promise.
There were headers as you would expect, but also strikes from outside the box, fierce volleys and cute flicks. There’s a hint of Ibrahimovic in his game, something that was echoed when he tested Gianluigi Donnarumma with a scissor kick for Genoa against Milan.
“He was always a big boy,” Jansen says.
But the big boy has now grown up.
“What I love about him is that he has kept faith in progress and that he has developed. Over the past few years he has shown everyone that he is not not just tall, but that he understands the game and is capable of playing in a higher league.
“He chased his dream in Italy with Sassuolo, scored his goals and played for the national team. He did very well and it doesn’t surprise me that he’s about to take another big step in his career. career because he is a very talented striker.”