Italy captain Alessio Riccardi is hoping to emulate his idol Francesco Totti when he leads he side out in tomorrow’s under-17 European Championships final.
The Italians will take on the Netherlands at Rotherham United, where they will aim to go one better than their second-place finish in 2013.
The 17-year-old is currently an integral part of Roma’s academy and has benefitted from several training sessions with their first team.
Roma have a great history of producing talented players through their academy who have gone on to star for The Azzuri, such as Daniele De Rossi and Totti, who Riccardi has always looked up to.
“Francesco Totti is my idol,” he said. “He is a Roma flag and it’s difficult to emulate his playing. De Rossi plays in a different role, but they are both great champions from my club and I am really inspired by them.
“I want my future to be like them; Roma is my club, it is the city I was born and where I grew up. I hope in the future to do the same thing.”
Carmine Nunziata’s side booked their place in Sunday’s final after a 2-1 victory over Belgium in Rotherham on Thursday, with Manu Emmanuel Gyabuaa and Edoardo Vergani scoring either side of half time.
Despite captaining his nation at this tournament, the Riccardi was forced to sit out of their semi-final victory over Belgium after receiving yellow cards during Italy’s matches against England and Sweden.
His absence in the last round left Riccardi downbeat, but it has only inspired him to make the most of his return to the final.
He added: “I was very upset to be out of the game during the semi-final against Belgium.
“I hope to give my best to get the result and win this European Championship.
“We have to be focussed on the match, then at the end, if we lift the trophy it will be a great satisfaction for all of the group.”
Leading out the Netherlands side will be Chelsea striker Daishawn Redan, who has netted three goals in his four appearances at the tournament.
It has been a busy season for Redan, who with has lifted four major trophies alongside his club colleagues.
Among those have been a record-equalling fifth successive FA Youth Cup title and the Premier League National final.
The Dutch teenager was also part of Chelsea’s U19s side that reached the final of the UEFA Youth League, losing to Barcelona.
Despite all of this experience, Redan feels that Sunday’s final is his most important of the campaign and he is relishing the chance to lead his country out against Italy.
“I played in a lot of finals this year, but my focus is on this final now and I want to win this one”, said Redan.
“I take pride in playing for my country and I’m captain, so I hope I can win the final.”
UEFA and The Football Association have introduced tickets for the final (kick-off 6.15pm) from just £1.
Tickets are available to buy directly from the club including on the day and online at: www.thefa.com/tickets