AS Roma Primavera coach Alberto De Rossi believes European experience offered by the UEFA Youth League is a key stepping stone for his young Giallorossi players as they continue to develop as footballers.
His boys kick off their adventure around the continent tomorrow afternoon at the Centro Sportivo Fulvio Bernardini in Trigoria, the second year running that AS Roma U19s have played in this competition.
The Giallorossi coach was speaking to Roma Radio on the eve of the match against Barcelona.
“The Youth League helps everybody to grow, both coaching staff and the players. On the pitch, it’s the same as always – two teams battling it out for a victory. Off the pitch, however, the experience is even more important. The opportunity to travel with the first team is enough to teach the boys so much. In a competition like this, progressing on the field goes hand-in-hand with developing off it.”
The Giallorossi made it to the semi-finals of last year’s edition, only to be knocked out by Chelsea who went on to lift the trophy. Nevertheless, Alberto De Rossi’s young charges were excellent throughout the season. “It was a sensational year, we were in contention during the latter stages of every tournament we played in: Campionato Nazionale Primavera, Coppa Italia, the Viareggio Cup and the UEFA Youth League. We’re still a bit disappointed we didn’t manage to get our hands on some silverware. We could have won the Coppa Italia for example. It wouldn’t have changed the overall picture, but it would have given us some satisfaction.”
Moving on to Barcelona’s youth set-up, which over the years has provided the spine for one of the best teams ever seen, the AS Roma Primavera boss underlined an aspect that allows the Catalans to steal a march on their rivals: “Barcelona’s B team play in the second division of Spanish football and they often give their homegrown youngsters the opportunity to compete. We’ll see three top-class players in the Youth League tomorrow who’ve been through this experience. These boys have been able to step up their development in a different, more intense atmosphere.”
De Rossi did, however, make a point of highlighting the merits of the Giallorossi finishing school: “You can’t compare the two systems, they are different footballing philosophies but we also have a high level of understanding, ability and quality. Three players from our youth sector are currently playing in the first team and there are countless others all over Italy as well. The two sides that will face each other tomorrow are both product of ten year’s hard work, which involves input from coaches, trainers and scouting networks.”
The Primavera coach went on to underline the progress made in recent years in terms of preparing for top-level contests, like the one to be played in Trigoria tomorrow. “The difficulty is that every season the ideas on youth teams change, but in the last three years the club has given us the means and the information to allow us to prepare for these encounters as meticulously as possible, almost as if they were first-team games.”
On Sunday, the young Giallorossi took their bow in the Primavera league season with a comprehensive 5-0 victory over Empoli and Alberto De Rossi took another opportunity to enthuse about his boys’ performance: “It was a fantastic match, not only because of the final result but also because of the intensity and desire my players showed for the entire 90 minutes, regardless of the scoreline. We should also remember that we were playing against a team that is traditionally considered one of strongest in the youth sector.”
AS Roma Primavera will be in action in the Youth League from 16:00 CEST tomorrow on the Agostino Di Bartolomei pitch at the Centro Sportivo Fulvio Bernardini. There are 700 tickets available, free of charge, for any Giallorossi fans who wish to attend this game.
Follow us on Twitter @ASRomaEN for photos, official line-ups and a live feed of the match as it unfolds!