#sports activities England beware Leeds’ Italian wonderkid… Willy Gnonto, 18, is Italy’s youngest ever goalscorer
When Italy flopped within the play-offs in opposition to North Macedonia and had been condemned to overlook their second World Cup finals in a row, Roberto Mancini promised to rebuild his crew with the subsequent era of expertise.
His search led him to Willy Gnonto, an explosive teenage striker from Inter Milan’s youth ranks who helped FC Zurich win the Swiss title final season and joined Leeds United on switch deadline day earlier this month.
Gnonto’s £3.8million transfer to Elland Road was largely unheralded, eclipsed on the time by the furore of their failed £20m swoop for Bamba Dieng of Marseille and since by the postponements following the demise of Queen Elizabeth II and the next interval of mourning.
Willy Gnonto is an thrilling younger ahead that would play for Italy in opposition to England tomorrow
Italy supervisor Roberto Mancini has promised to rebuild his facet and focus it round youth
Yet he is an thrilling signing — a diminutive participant of 5ft 5in with supreme stability and electrical velocity, likened to a younger Raheem Sterling, who can play both facet of a centre ahead or as a second striker — and Leeds followers might get a glimpse of him when England face Italy in Milan tomorrow.
Mancini promoted Gnonto to Italy’s senior squad for the Finalissima match in opposition to Argentina at Wembley in June, then handed him a debut three days later in opposition to Germany within the Nations League.
He began the subsequent recreation, in opposition to Hungary, and got here on within the sixty fourth minute in opposition to England, behind closed doorways at Molineux, earlier than scoring in a 5-2 defeat by Germany in Dortmund.
In doing so, Gnonto turned Italy’s youngest goalscorer on the age of 18 years and 222 days, breaking a document that had stood since 1958. He was nominated for this yr’s Golden Boy prize, a prestigious award based by Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport to search out Europe’s prime rising expertise.
Gnonto turned his nation’s youngest ever goalscorer earlier this yr, aged simply over 18
‘He is a boy, 18 years outdated, and shouldn’t be put underneath an excessive amount of strain,’ stated Mancini in June.
‘He has to develop quietly. For his age, he is aware of how you can play soccer like few different gamers and is very quick. If he grows calmly, with out an excessive amount of strain on him, he can present his vital qualities and he is an clever boy, he can develop.’
Gnonto was born in Verbania to Ivorian mother and father and raised in Baveno, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, the place his mom Chantal labored for greater than 20 years as a waitress at one of many resort’s massive resorts.
His expertise was clear from an early age. At eight, he joined Inter and progressed effectively, incomes Italy call-ups, and he was a star of the 2019 Under 17 World Cup in Brazil, scoring three targets.
At 16, he give up Inter for Switzerland seeking a clearer pathway in direction of first-team soccer, and went straight into the squad at Zurich, making his senior debut earlier than his seventeenth birthday.
He joined Jesse Marsch’s Leeds facet for £3.8million on switch deadline day this summer time
Gnonto has already performed a number of video games for Italy and featured in opposition to England in Wolves
He scored eight targets in 33 video games final season as Zurich gained the Swiss Super League and he featured within the qualifying rounds of the Champions League and Europa League earlier than transferring to Leeds.
‘The first time I noticed him, I believed he had the potential to be a world expertise,’ stated Zurich’s sporting director Marinko Jurendic. ‘In the primary season, he did effectively and we noticed his potential in a crew preventing relegation.
‘In the second season got here the transformation, his evolution underneath a brand new coach in a crew performing effectively. Playing largely in its place, he turned the very best substitute in the entire league. Every time he entered the sport he made a distinction, scoring targets and making assists.
‘He has the expertise in his physique and the energy in his thoughts to turn out to be an enormous participant.
Gnonto scored eight targets in 33 video games final season as FC Zurich gained the Swiss Super League
He has been branded ‘mature like a 25-year-old’ by Zurich’s sporting director Marinko Jurendic
‘In some methods, like a boy, he is unpredictable. It is a pleasure to see him play. In some methods, he is mature like a 25-year-old participant. It would not matter who he performs in opposition to. We must be affected person with him however he has all the things to turn out to be an everyday beginning participant for the Italian nationwide crew.’
Gnonto’s first motion within the colors of his new membership got here for Leeds’ Under 21s in a 6-2 win over Southampton, during which Patrick Bamford scored a hat-trick.
‘Willy was actually good,’ stated Under 21s boss Michael Skubala after the match. ‘You can see what he can do in possession. He’s new to the best way we need to play so he is acquired plenty of studying to do, and he’ll do this, however at instances he was actually thrilling to look at.’
His strengths will swimsuit Jesse Marsch’s full-throttle type however this week Gnonto’s journey will take him again to Milan, the place all of it started.