Genoa's Pietro Pellegri makes debut aged 15, equals Serie A record
Pietro Pellegri wrote his name in the record books on Wednesday night by becoming the joint-youngest player ever to debut in Italy's Serie A, at the age of 15.
Pellegri came on as a substitute for Genoa in their 1-0 defeat against Torino, taking his place on the pitch in an Italian top-flight fixture aged 15 years and 280 days -- the exact same age as Amedeo Amadei when he debuted for Roma in 1937.
"I've got the next [Lionel] Messi here and I just hope it doesn't go to his head," Genoa president Enrico Preziosi said of the player who was born in 2001 and is almost a year younger than Juventus' Moise Kean, who recently became the first player born in the new millennium to play in a Serie A and Champions League fixture.
His debut actually came later than it might have done with former Genoa coach Giampiero Gasperini talked out of giving him a game last season, when he was just 14. It was Gasperini's successor Ivan Juric who finally gave him his bow, and he was pleased with what he saw.
"He's got great margin for improvement and if he can keep growing the way he has been, then we could have a really big player on our hands in a few years' time," Juric said.
Pellegri was not much older than some of the ball boys at the Stadio Olimpico, for whom Juric did not have equally warm words.
"I was angry because their behaviour was disgraceful," the Genoa coach said. "Not even when you're playing in a youth tournament do you behave that way, with balls suddenly disappearing for no reason. It's only normal that the players react in a certain way."
Torino coach Sinisa Mihajlovic did not share the view that his side's victory was down to their ball boys, however.
"They're only kids," he said. "Even I could get angry with them at times when they don't give the ball back quickly, but they are only kids and they are watching the game -- let's not pin the blame on children."
He instead preferred to look at the positives from his side, who set a new record for the number of points in the first half of a season since Urbano Cairo became their president in 2005 with their first win in almost a month.
"We've set a new record and I said to the lads at half-time that the night may be long, but light always comes after dark," he said. "That light came for us in the second half, after Belotti's goal. He scored a great centre forward's goal and the best players are those who decide games, and he fought like a lion."
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.