Five consecutive Serie A titles and two Coppa Italia crowns – this decade has seen The Old Lady of Italian football redefine success in her own way. The black and white stripes of Juventus have dominated Italian football for the past five years and the Bianconeri are on course for a monumental sixth consecutive league title.
The recent round of fixtures in the Serie A saw the Italian champions register a routine home win against minnows Pescara and what grabbed the headlines after that comfortable win was a historic substitution in the 84th minute.
Mario Mandzukic was replaced by Moise Kean, a 16-year-old, who created history by becoming the first player born in this millennium to feature in any of the continent’s top four leagues. When a 16-year-old makes his debut for a European heavyweight like Juventus, it is apparent that he has something extra special in him and anybody who has seen a glimpse of Moise Bioty Kean’s footballing prowess will undoubtedly say he is an extraordinary talent.
Kean was born in the city of Vercelli in northern Italy on February 28, 2000, to Ivorian parents. It was Renato Biasi, a former goalkeeper of Torino, who first noticed Kean’s prodigious footballing skills and under his guidance, the youngster joined Italian side Asti before moving to Biasi’s old club Torino.
In 2010, he caught the eye of Juventus, who wasted no time in signing him and since then he has made rapid progress grabbing a lot of attention. Kean’s talent has always let him play in a higher age group with ease and at just 16 years of age, he is an indispensable part of Juventus’s U-20 (Primavera) side. He is also a key figure in head coach Fabio Grosso’ s plans to lead his side to the knockout stage of the UEFA Youth League.
Kean’s goal scoring record for the Old Lady’s youth teams are incredible. He bagged 21 goals in 10 appearances for the U-15 (Giovanissimi) side and has found the back of the net 14 times in 15 appearances for the U-17 (Allievi Nazionali) side.
In the 2015-2016 campaign, he scored 24 goals in 25 appearances and this season has seen him score five goals in as many appearances for the Primavera. An injury to Croatian winger Marko Pjaca meant that Kean was promoted to Massimiliano Allegri's senior squad and he was named among the Juventus substitutes five times in Serie A and twice in the Champions League before he was granted his much-anticipated debut last weekend.
Kean has chosen to represent Italy over Ivory Coast on the international stage and has represented the Azzurri at various youth levels.
"My origins are in Ivory Coast and I don't forget it," he told La Gazzetta Dello Sport. "But I was born and raised in Italy. I want to honour the shirt."
Strengths and Weaknesses
The 16-year-old has drawn comparisons with compatriot Mario Balotelli and Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku and the youngster is a self-confessed fan of the Nice number nine.
"My favourite player? Absolutely Mario Balotelli," he once said. “Apart from the stupid things that he does, I like him a lot as a player."
Kean’s game is a combination of blistering pace and brutal power. He doesn’t get bullied off the ball as his ability to hold up the ball is top notch. Opposition defenders, who have always been at least two years older than him, have found it extremely difficult to dispossess him as his balance and strength are phenomenal.
Kean also has the awareness to make intelligent runs in behind the defence and into the channels.The versatility in his game is simply astonishing for a 16-year-old as he has all the attributes to rip apart defences. He possesses the agility and sheer pace to leave his markers chasing shadows and facing him one-on-one is an absolute nightmare for defenders.
Kean can also play on the left wing which would give him the license to cut in from the flank and shoot at goal with his preferred right foot. He is ruthless in front of goal and it is a rare sight to see him miss chances. The youngster has the intelligence to work the space and angle necessary to unleash strikes at goal. He is also good in the air and wins a lot of aerial duels.
It is no doubt that Kean is blessed with enormous talent but he still has a long way to go in order to transform into a complete player. Despite the fact that he is superb in holding up possession, sometimes he makes the wrong decisions only to find his attempted pass or through ball intercepted.
His crossing is not great and he needs to work on his set piece deliveries. Kean is often guilty of taking on too many defenders and as he tries to dribble past them, he ends up losing the ball. His work rate when his side doesn’t have the possession of the ball is also questionable.
Considering he is just 16 years old one would feel it is just a matter of time before he improves the aforementioned aspects of his game.
Juventus fans would be hoping that Kean would emulate fan favourite Claudio Marchisio by being a Juventino throughout his career. However, that may not happen as his name is already on the wishlist of few of the big boys in Europe.
Arsene Wenger and Pep Guardiola are admirers of the youngster and Arsenal have reportedly sent scouts on numerous occasions to gain a measure of the youngster’s capabilities. A move to The Emirates will also tempt Kean as Arsene Wenger is renowned for his diligence in nurturing young players and helping them fulfil their potential.
Kean is represented by Mino Raiola and hence a big money move is certainly beckoning at some stage of his career but as for the time being, the youngster is only keen on enjoying his football.
“At my age, I think it's important to have fun and honour the colours of the shirt you are wearing,” he once said.
Juventus have certainly unearthed a rare gem in Moise Bioty Kean and if he has the hunger to succeed and the tenacity to keep improving, his name is one that would resonate throughout the continent in the near future.
(Video courtesy: Home of football)