As with many young prodigies, the fleeting career of Riccardo Orsolini has, so far, been a whirlwind of progress. In January 2016, he was captaining Ascoli U19 against Lanciano U19, and the Italian scored five. The next eight games saw him score ten, assist six and play in three different positions. Not long after, and to no surprise, Orsolini was promoted straight to the first team, starting centrally against Vicenza; his last performance for the U19s saw him score three and assist two away against Lazio’s U19 side.
Orsolini started the next eleven games for the first team, sitting out the final game of the season as Ascoli evaded the Serie B relegation play-off by just two points. The forward had already displayed his versatility and trustworthiness in his debut season; the next step was experience. The run of starts at the end of the 2015/16 season was no flash in the plan, with Orsolini going on to make a total of 42 appearances in the next campaign, missing only the last game due to national team commitments.
Ascoli were involved in a relegation battle again, but nothing could halt the headway made by the talented forward. Born and raised in Ascoli, Orsolini was living the dream, now more than a regular in the first team of his boyhood club. A brace against Carpi and a consolation goal against Hellas were just some highlights as his skillful nature and team-centered ethos came to the fore. There was no doubt that the boy could play, and others began to take notice. A piece of skillful dribbling against Livorno went viral and put his name on the highlight reels, but his performances over the entirety of his two professional seasons at Ascoli put his name into the notebooks of numerous scouting networks.
It was at this point that his agent, Donati Di Campli, said, “Orsolini is of interest to all of the major clubs in Italy, although formally, a bid has not been submitted.”
The quote may have been to drum up the price of his client, but his description of Orsolini’s playing style was less sensationalist and more factual. “He has an excellent technique, as well as a powerful, physical structure; for me he is the young Robben and the future will be his.”
On January 30, 2017, Orsolini signed a four year contract with Juventus for €6m plus bonuses, but the deal did not stop his focus on keeping Ascoli in Serie B, with four goals before his transfer and four goals after his transfer. Orsolini was beginning to make the right wing his own, cutting in on his dangerous left foot and causing constant problems for Serie B opposition. Orsolini remained as down to earth as ever, stating in a recent interview that Ascoli’s survival boosted his confidence as a player. Even after signing with the champions of Italy, he couldn’t hold back the tears upon his last game at the club, saying that he will “always be grateful to her.”
Juventus were keen to monitor his performances and got the perfect opportunity to do so at the U20 World Cup. Orsolini scored in five consecutive matches, including against France and eventual winners England. Coming in as a last minute replacement in the squad and lifting the golden shoe, the Turin club knew they had a prospect on their hands. His international exploits have recently earned him a call up to the U21 squad with Luigi Di Biagio looking to reshape the Azzurini’s future after another disappointing European Championship.
Still, Orsolini remained humble amongst the adulation, focusing on where his future lay at club level. A two year loan deal was agreed with Gian Piero Gasperini’s Atalanta, a team so adept at developing young players. Last season, the likes of Leonardo Spinazzola and Mattia Caldara, both owned by Juventus, succeeded in cracking the code at the Bergamese club, and in a season from now, will fight for a starting spot at La Vecchia Signora. Orsolini has to make improvements; his decision making can be rough at times whilst his dribbling skills sometimes see him act greedily and serve as a hinderance to his game. There is no doubt that the 20-year- old is in the best environment to flourish and his attitude looks to be up there with the best, eager as ever to learn and to realise his potential.
Speaking on his move to Atalanta and the call up to Italy’s U21 squad, Orsolini said, “I must use this as a point of departure, not of arrival. I have to prove a lot; my career is just starting.”
When asked about fighting for a spot with the likes of Petagna, Kurtic and Gomez, he called for patience and said his goal “is to gain experience and try to carve out a space. The A series is difficult, different from B, and I want to prove myself even in the National League.”
Those around him get the sense that Orsolini will make it, not solely on talent but because he is humble and willing to sacrifice in the short term to make it work in the long term. His humility is inspiring and remains a big part of his career, he gave a mature answer indicative of his focus and self-assurance.
“As soon as I see myself on TV, I change the channel. I’ll unplug my phone, and when I turn it back on, there’s more than 500 messages on Whatsapp asking me if I am going to Juve. Old people stop me on the street to ask me if I will stay or go and what team I have picked. I’m quiet and do a little smile like an idiot.”
The theme of humility carried on when speaking to the media after his move to Juventus, with Orsolini saying, “If a well known champion like Mandžukić can adapt and sacrifice himself, then will do I.”
If game time is handed to the physical winger, and if Orsolini listens to the guidance of Gasperini and those around him, it won’t be long before he is brought back to Juventus, potentially a key member in the changing of the Turin guard.
By: Elliott Martin/@ElliottM95