Teen Kean could be Juventus’ secret weapon against Atletico
Kean, who turned 19 less than two weeks ago, was given his first Serie A start of the season on Friday with Cristiano Ronaldo resting against Udinese. Not only did Kean score with his first touch, but he also had Juve’s second goal and won a penalty that led to his team’s third in a 4-1 victory.
With Juventus needing to overturn a 2-0 deficit at home on Tuesday to advance, Kean may have staked his claim for more playing time.
Kean made history in his debut season in 2016-17. He was the first player born in the 2000s to appear in a Serie A game, score in one of Europe’s top five leagues and play in the Champions League.
That appearance was a six-minute cameo in the group stage against Sevilla. He made his only other appearance in the competition this season, again entering as a late substitute in the 3-0 win over Young Boys in the group stage.
“I’m always ready to go when the coach calls me and obviously in every training session as well,” Keane said. “Being at Juve helps me a lot. I’m learning all the time and this is the best place.”
Kean spent last season on loan at Hellas Verona, fighting at the other end of the Serie A table and gaining valuable playing experience. With his movement on and off the ball on Friday, Kean showed why Juventus was reluctant to send him out on loan again in January despite limited minutes in the first half of the season.
“He did well to stay,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “He is very good at attacking the goal. He has to improve his movements to dictate passes and ball control, but he is young and will grow.”
Kean also scored in what was his only other start this season, a 2-0 win over Bologna in the Italian Cup on Jan. 12.
While Kean may not have much Champions League experience, he is no stranger to the international stage. Born in Italy but of Ivorian descent, Kean has played for the Italian national team at all levels.
He was brought on in the second half of the final of the European Under-19 Championship last year and scored twice as Italy fought back from two goals down before losing 4-3 to Portugal after extra time.
Kean also made his senior international debut in November, becoming the first player born this millennium to do so in a friendly against the United States.
Mario Balotelli, to whom Kean has often been compared, celebrated that occasion by posting a photo on Instagram of Kean in his Italy shirt with the caption, “Finally!”
Kean thanked Balotelli but was also quick to distance himself from a player who did not live up to the promise he once showed.
“We’re completely different,” Kean said. “Mario is a really good guy. I know him. But I don’t understand why people compare me to him. … He has different ways of doing things (than) me.”
What both players do have is a striker’s instincts, and Kean could very well be given a chance to show that again on Tuesday.