Cristiano Ronaldo recently admitted that he would dearly love to see his son, Cristiano Jr., follow in his footsteps.
“He’s very competitive, like me when I was young, and he doesn’t like to lose,” the Portuguese superstar revealed after being unveiled as DAZN’s Global Ambassador.
“He will be like me I am sure, 100 per cent. I hope that with my experience, with my motivation, my goals, I can teach him some stuff, but you know he is going to be whatever he wants.
“I’m always going to support him, but of course I want Cristiano to be a football player because I think he has that drive.
“He has a good body, he’s fast, he has skills, he can shoot, but as you know he’s going to make his decision and he’s so young, I’m not going to pressure him.
“But that is of course a dream, to see my boy become a football player.”
That dream could well become a reality, with Cristiano Jr. having adapted to Italian football even quicker than his old man.
Indeed, whereas the senior Ronaldo has yet to get off the mark for new club Juventus – despite already having had 23 shots in his first three Serie A games – the eight-year-old Cristiano Jr. racked up a remarkable four goals on his debut for the Bianconeri’s Under-9 team last week against Lucento.
Young Cristiano’s skills have been showcased in numerous social media videos over the past year and he certainly seems to have inherited his father’s fancy footwork and dead-ball accuracy.
The sensational start to his fledgling football career will also generate huge publicity but, as his father knows only too well, progressing through the youth team ranks is no easy task.
Indeed, the path to the first team at a club like Juventus, in a country like Italy, is longer and more arduous than most…
PICCOLI AMICI & PRIMI CALCI
The Juventus youth sector is based in Vinovo, just outside of Turin, and is made up of 17 boys’ teams, the youngest of which are known as ‘piccoli amici’ (‘little friends’).
They have to be at least five years of age to participate in games of two against two, or three against three (with or without goalkeepers), which usually last 30 minutes (three periods of 10 minutes).
As for the ‘primi calci’ (‘first kicks’), the players are aged between six and eight. They play four- or five-a-side games, again for half an hour, but on a slightly larger pitch.
The most famous recent academy graduate to have started out with Juve’s youngest teams is Claudio Marchisio, who joined the club as a seven-year-old and only left this summer, to join Zenit, at the age of 32.
The kids who play for the ‘pulcini’, which literally means ‘chicks’, are aged between eight and 10 years of age when the season starts and line out for three separate teams.
Giuseppe Comito, Stephan Saporito and Silvia Piccini – the first woman to be handed a coaching role by the Old Lady – are in charge of the 2010 Pulcini.
Cristiano Jr., though, has joined the Under-9s, meaning he is managed by David Perri and Fabio Cuccinello.
The Under-11s, meanwhile, are guided by Alessio Gibin, who has arrived from Juve’s football school Sisport, and Alessandro Calcia, a long-time member of the club’s coaching team.
At this level, there are only seven players on each team and the games consist of three periods of 15 minutes
There is no offside but coaches do have the option of calling one time-out per half.
The Esordienti (‘beginners’ or ‘novices’) are all aged between 10 and 12 when the season kicks off.
At Juve, Claudio Marchese has been brought in this summer to run the Under-12s alongside Pietro Magri, while Massimiliano Marchio and Fabio Moschini have been paired together to look after the 2006 brigade.
The games are nine-a-side and last an hour, featuring three periods of 20 minutes. The pitch is 60-75 metres long and 40-50 metres wide, with offside only coming into play in the final 13m.
The Giovanissimi (‘youngsters’) range from 13 to 15 years of age and are divided into two groups. There are 11 players on each team and the games are 70 minutes long (two halves of 35 minutes).
Juve’s Under-15s (or ‘Giovanissimi B’) will this season be coached by Alberto Lampo and Edoardo Sacchini, while the class of 2004 will be led by the highly-rated Giovanni Valenti.
The Allievi (‘rookies’) are aged between 15 and 17 years old and are divided into two groups, who play 11-a-side games featuring two halves of 40 minutes.
The Allievi Regionali are the Under-16s and have been taken over by Paolo Beruatto, with Francesco Pedone once again at the helm of the Allievi Nazionali (Under-17s).
The Primavera (which literally translates as ‘spring’) remains the pinnacle of youth-team football in Italy, the last rung on the professional football ladder for players ranging from anywhere between 15 and 19 years of age.
Giuseppe Furino, Roberto Bettega, Paolo Rossi and Alessandro Del Piero (although he was signed from Padova) all represented the Bianconeri’s Primavera before going on to become legends in Turin.
Francesco Baldini is the man tasked with developing Juve’s next superstar, having been appointed as the new Primavera coach during the summer, succeeding Alessandro Dal Canto at the helm, after the former defender departed during the summer to take charge of Arezzo.
Always looking for ways to stay ahead of their rivals, Juventus became the first club in Italy to set up an Under-23 team this summer.
In a bid to provide young players more opportunities to play senior football, the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) decided to reintroduce reserve sides into calcio for the 2018-19 campaign but on the proviso that the second-string would not be allowed to play in the same division as the first team.
Juve were the only club to take up this offer and this season their Under-23s will compete in Serie C, the third tier of the Italian game.
The team is coached by Mauro Zironelli and features players such as Leandro Fernandes, who featured for Massimiliano Allegri’s first team during pre-season.