PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Note: This profile was first written in February 2021. All statistics and facts are correct to that time period.
Who is Gianluca Scamacca?
The days of the lumpy centre-forward are numbered. But mobile, 6′5″ strikers that combine a dominant athletic profile with a well-rounded – though still developing – technical skillset? Every team can use one of those. Introducing: Gianluca Scamacca.
It has taken a while for the Italian to apply himself at senior level. For years, he has excelled at international level after debuting for Italy’s under-17 side as a 15-year-old.
While he has flourished at youth level, he has often struggled to translate his dominant performances to senior club level. First, Scamacca had a torrid time in the Netherlands with PSV Eindhoven after leaving boyhood club AS Roma as a 16-year-old. His return to Italy with Sassuolo then saw him move on loan to Cremonese in Serie B and PEC Zwolle, where he struggled to play significant minutes.
Eventually, last season’s loan move to Ascoli heralded the long-awaited emergence of Scamacca at senior level. 13 goals in just under 2,500 minutes in Italy’s second division was a healthy return for a young striker still learning to manage the jump in physicality from youth to senior level.
This season on loan in Serie A has seen further acclimation. While the goals have been hard to come by in a relegation-threatened Genoa team, Scamacca looks more and more capable of becoming a physically dominant presence.
Gianluca Scamacca's style of play
It has taken some time for the 22-year-old to settle into senior football. Despite his height as a teenager, he was not physically equipped to deal with the senior game in the same way a ready-made player like Erling Braut Haaland was during his emergence in 2019. Scamacca is not the explosive powerhouse that the Norwegian is; he is slimmer and more agile, but lacks the same raw straight-line speed and ability to bulldoze through defenders.
Physically, the best historical comparison is probably to a young Zlatan Ibrahimović, to whom Scamacca is frequently compared. A comparison of their technical qualities can be made too. Like Ibrahimović, especially when he was younger, Scamacca is capable of being a nuisance to defenders from anywhere in the final third.
He is willing to hit the channels and run wide, play a target man role to hold the ball up for others, drop into attacking midfield to combine, or sit on the shoulder of the last man and wait to burst through for an opportunity on goal.
Unlike Zlatan, Scamacca has not found himself in favourable situations at club level, often having to scrap for everything he can playing up front in unfancied teams. But it has certainly helped him mature.
His hold-up play has developed immensely; once predicated predominantly on his sweet first touch, he is now able to receive more difficult passes in the air while simultaneously using his massive levers to fend off opponents.
And he has proven to be an effective decision-maker with his back to goal, not only looking to help his team retain possession but also seeking out avenues that will help drive his team towards the penalty box. This is all underpinned by an under-rated ability to manoeuvre himself with the ball in tight spaces between a crowd of defenders.
Despite possessing the physical qualities of a traditional target man, Scamacca’s creativity has been a feature of his game in the last 12 months. In Serie A this season, his shot-creating actions from live passes per 90 minutes of 1.8 hovers slightly below some of Serie A’s most prolific attackers playing for the best teams; they average around the 3 per 90 mark, but he compares favourably with other youngsters leading the line, such as Dušan Vlahović and Rafael Leão.
Scamacca demonstrates decent variety in these actions too: through balls, little flicks in the penalty area, balls headed across goal, and crosses. This influence in multiple phases of play is a key indicator of Scamacca’s portability into a high-level team and will be key to his success further up the food chain.
The most important thing missing from his game so far this season has been goals. His non-penalty Expected Goals per 90 of 0.35 is by no means bad – it sits 28th-best in Serie A this season – but he has underperformed it, missing a few simple chances and only scoring twice in the league.
Sometimes those misses can be the difference between a big move and remaining on loan at Genoa. But, as with other aspects of his skillset, he can do a bit of everything in front of goal and has a lethal right foot.
There is of course a lot of the conventional: headers, latching onto through balls, and the like. But it is uncanny how many volleys, long shots and screamers Scamacca scores, especially for someone his size – an ability which enhances the Zlatan likeness. He has wonderful technique, and it is only a matter of time until goals become a more regular feature of his game at senior level.
Forecasting Gianluca Scamacca's future
Both Parma and Juventus clamoured to sign Scamacca in January, while there were murmurings that he could have returned to his parent club Sassuolo. Juve were keen to have him play a back-up role behind Álvaro Morata but were unable to make the financial terms work with the Neroverdi before the deadline.
For now, he remains at Genoa, where he has recently had to play a bit-part role off the bench since the return of coach Davide Ballardini, who has opted play the remarkably in-form Mattia Destro since the turn of the year. But these are normal growing pains in a young player’s career; one week you are wanted by Juventus, the next week you are taking your place on the bench behind a veteran player.
Potential suitors should and will not be put off. Scamacca’s enormous potential is no secret to many of Italy’s biggest clubs, who are likely to try and to sign him again in the months and years ahead.
Gianluca Scamacca is a striker with excellent ball-striking technique, capable of scoring from all ranges and angles with very little backlift, that is adept as a hold-up and link player. He brings team-mates into the game, using his mix of size and skill.
Gianluca Scamacca has struggled for consistency without consistent minutes. Should he move to a bigger club with only a cameo role, this could be problematic. Furthermore, he needs to start getting more ‘easy’ shots to score more goals.