European Under-21 Championships – One to Watch: Mattia Destro, Italy

Name: Mattia Destro

Age: 22

Club: Roma

Country: Italy

Roma striker Mattia Destro is a smiling assassin and will be a one to watch for this year’s European Under-21 Championships in Israel. The 22-year-old Italy forward plays the game as if he were playing in his local park. With his effortless ability to find the net and the carefree nature of his body language, you can tell that when he is playing he is genuinely doing what he loves.

The front man has enjoyed a quite prolific start to his career in Serie A ,scoring 18 times in 62 appearances for Roma, Siena and Genoa respectively and it is this record that has got the Italian press’ tongues wagging.

However, Destro has also proven that he can do it at national level as he has scored five goals in 14 appearances already for the Under-21s while he bagged an impressive 15 strikes from 13 appearances for the Under-19s.

After pushing his name in Serie A with Siena last season, Destro made the move to Roma for the 2012/13 season after then-Coach Zdenek Zeman made the decision to sell Fabio Borini to Liverpool.

But the youngster has found the going tough at the Stadio Olimpico, scoring just four goals in 16 appearances. This slump in form has mainly been due to the fact that in front of him in the Roma pecking order is the terrific trio of Erik Lamela, Pablo Osvaldo and the effervescent Francesco Totti.

Nevertheless, it is testament to his unquestionable ability that Destro is being lauded by many of the great and good of Italian football writing as a leader of the next generation of Serie A talent.

While he is unlikely to be seen using searing pace to be a man, once he gets in the box he rarely misses. On the other hand, the youngster has had his problems with poor tackling and erratic passing.

Although some may argue that strikers don’t need to be able to tackle and pass to a high standard, in the fast-paced and ever-adapting game of today, players at this level should be competent all-rounders.

Standing just a couple of inches shy of the six-foot mark Destro is also a strong header of the ball, which will make him a serious threat from set pieces, especially with the dead ball specialists Italy have in Ciro Immobile, Andrea Bertolacci and Alessandro Florenzi.

When added together, all of Destro’s strengths and weaknesses mean that he is reminiscent of a young Hernan Crespo. Learning his trade in Serie A, he has a Crespo-esque running style which sees him ride the offside line dangerously. Crespo also possessed a mean header from a cross and when in a one on one situation, there was usually only one winner.

All of these traits can be attributed to Destro and his style of play. And if he can get it right in Israel, don’t bet against him being one of the tournament’s top goal scorers or even taking the award himself. And if the Italian answer to Crespo fires then the Azzurrini will have serious aspirations of winning this tournament.

See what the expert tipsters are tipping on OLBG

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