In a football world filled with countless stars of today, so many of us are curious about who is waiting in the wings. That search for that next wonderkid; a youngster that has the potential to make us stand up and marvel at how they are masters of their craft despite their tender age, is always on the minds of millions of fans around the world.
With this in mind, we at 101 Great Goals continue our weekly series that takes a look at U21 players across the world during the 2022-23 season. Some of them you will have no doubt heard of, while we hope to bring you a few new names to spark your curiosities every now and then.
Name: Destiny Udogie
Place of Birth: Verona, Italy
Citizenship: Italy, Nigeria
National team caps: 4 (Italy U21)
Current club: Udinese Calcio (on loan from Tottenham)
Current Market Value (per Transfermarkt): €17m (£14m)
Potential suitor(s): N/A
Verona; a city in Italy’s northern region of Veneto that is widely known as the fictitious setting for two of William Shakespeare’s timeless classics in Romeo and Juliet as well as The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
The city is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of November 2000 due to its urban structure and architecture. Verona has contributed greatly to the arts as the home of many poets, artists, writers, mathematicians, singers, and composers.
But to the football world, the city is but a blip on the map of little outside value if you are not from Veneto but that could all soon change thanks to one son of Verona in particular; Destiny Udogie.
Born in the famous Italian city to Nigerian parents, Udogie rose prominently through the Hellas Verona youth ranks and began to show promise of his attacking qualities as far back as the 2018-19 season in the Campionato Nazionale U17-B division for the young Mastiffs when he scored 6 goals in 22 appearances.
In that same year, Udogie helped the U17′s reach the Campionato U17 finals before being knocked out by Genoa, in a tournament that also included prominent youth players the likes of Sebastiano Esposito, Nicola Garofalo, Amad Diallo, and Wilfried Gnonto.
A year later, Udogie featured in the Primavera 2A as well as the Coppa Primavera, and such was the rapid development that he made six appearances for Verona during the 2020-21 Serie A campaign while also logging ninety minutes in the Coppa Italia.
Udogie would near more, however, and he would get his chance last season when on loan at Friulian outfit Udinese Calcio.
He delivered in a big way, featuring 37 times last term (35 of which came in Serie A) for Le Zebrette while logging 2,693 minutes of action and repaying such faith with 5 goals and 4 assists. No other teenager in Serie A directly contributed to more goals than the 19-year-old left-back.
Blended with pace, technical quality of a standard commensurate to get forward and contribute in all phases of play, and a fantastic engine, Udogie averaged ~0.8 key passes in open play, ~1.3 approach carries, and ~2.5 dribbles per 90. Such data points are reflections of his ability to get forward and contribute in the attacking phase, which is an asset of his game that will no doubt suit Conte to the ground moving forward once he returns to the Tottenham fold full time.
Udine technical director Pierpaolo Marino once commented on the talented young left-back; “Udogie came here as a young talent and he anticipated the plan and he’s already a starter for us. There was no point in playing [Jens] Stryger Larsen on the left with him. We want to keep him at least for another year, but then, of course, in the world of transfers, there is nothing sure.”
That statement would prove to be prophetic indeed.
Though he completed a previously arranged €4m move to Udine earlier this summer, the Premier League already beckoned after Tottenham boss Antonio Conte and club director of football Fabio Paratici both desperately wanted to add Udogie to their summer spending spree as a long-term piece of the jigsaw puzzle at Tottenham Hotspur Stadion at the behest of Conte himself.
As such, it was reported earlier today that Udogie had agreed to a €20m (£17m) move to Tottenham but would remain on loan at the Dacia Arena for the forthcoming 2022-23 Serie A campaign under manager Andrea Sottil.
By now Udogie is already more widely known than most 19-year-olds, especially those who hail from Serie A and did not rise prominently through the ranks at one of the country’s leading football institutions, but the Italian youth international has already received high praise and had multiple potential top-level suitors, including Juventus.
Keen eyes will remain fixed on Udogie this season as he continues to star for Udine at a club that has a knack for scouting - and developing - young talent, with the club already directly linked with being a registered port of call for the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Rodrigo de Paul, and Samir Handanovic.
Should another fantastic campaign in Italy be the end result, Udogie, who would return to Tottenham at just the age of 20, may well already be a full Italian international and prepared to test himself in what is arguably the top club in Europe.
Who would have guessed that an English playwright could have earmarked Verona to potentially once again have a direct connection to something that grips the nation?