The Wonderkid Files: Samuel Iling-Junior - the English throwback tearing it up in Italy

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The Wonderkid Files report on one of English football’s most exciting emerging talents - Samuel Iling-Junior of Juventus

Welcome to another edition of the Wonderkid Files, a series of articles shining a spotlight on the brightest young talents of the global game. This week, we take a look at a young Englishman who left London for an Italian adventure, and is now being linked with a big move back to the Premier League – Juventus winger Samuel Iling-Junior.

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Iling-Junior started his career at Chelsea, rising through the youth ranks first as a left full-back before being pushed further up the field. In 2020 he declined a new contract at Stamford Bridge in favour of chancing his arm in Italy, and has now broken into Juve’s first team, impressing in a string of substitute appearances that has seen his stock soar and seen him linked with a move back to his homeland.

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As a player, Iling-Junior is something of a throwback – a genuine left winger who hugs the touchline and uses his speed and dribbling skills to beat opposing full-backs. His heat maps show him almost glued to the left flank, shuttling up and down at pace before bursting into the box. His average of 5.72 dribbles per game is high considering his first-team football has all come from the bench, and his success rate is impressive. He’s also equally comfortable bursting between full-back and centre-half to carry the ball into the penalty area as he is going quickly round the outside and whipping in crosses.

He also possesses a ferocious shot and can generate serious power with his left peg – although he hasn’t yet scored a senior goal, not least because most of his efforts come from tight angles after beating wide men on the outside, not high-xG areas. He isn’t so strong on his right foot, so when he gets into the box at shooting angles he’s typically looking to lay the ball off – in other words, he isn’t the inside forward that so many teams prefer to play with today.

That skillset has made him a good fit for Juventus, a team who play with traditional width and narrow full-backs, and would make him a similarly strong match for Manchester City, one of the Premier League clubs who have been linked with his signature – alongside Chelsea, who seem like less of a natural home tactically but have so much history with the 19 year-old that he could easily be tempted to return.

One thing he may have to adapt to if he made a move to a side like City is playing as part of a high press – his defensive contributions in the final third are somewhat lacking, but that’s partly a result of playing for Massimo Allegri’s Juventus, not a side who look to attack the ball high up the pitch. Nor should it be inferred that he can’t or won’t defend – his grounding as a left-back means he has a strong positional sense in his own third and he averages just under five ball recoveries a game over the last two seasons with Juventus and their Primavera side.

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Another element that would make a deal rather appealing for a Premier League side is the price tag – expected to be no more than £10m if Juventus fail to make the Champions League, which would create an urgent need for the Old Lady to get a flash sale going. If Juve can’t make up the seven points between themselves and the top four, Iling-Junior could be up on the calcio equivalent of Depop.

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Wherever he plies his trade next season, Iling-Junior looks ready for the next step, and that will hopefully include a respectable amount of first-team football, and a few games for the England Under-21s, the only age group team he’s yet to play in for his country. An exciting player, germinating nicely over in Italy.

The Wonderkid Files

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