Luca Pellegrini became only the third Italian to play for Eintracht Frankfurt, after Giovanni Speranza and Marco Rossi, but unlike his predecessors, who made only a handful of appearances, this particular Italian plans to play a prominent part as the Eagles debut in the UEFA Champions League.
Age: 23Club: Eintracht FrankfurtPosition: Full-backCountry: Italy (1 cap)
Born in Rome, with the Giallorossi colours of AS Roma already in his blood, Pellegrini grew up in the Italian capital and eventually joined his boyhood heroes at the age of 14. His first steps in the game came close to his Cinecitta home with ASD Tor Tre Teste. No sooner had he arrived at Roma, he was already winning his first trophies: domestic youth league titles in 2014, 2015 and 2016 in the club’s various age groups – equalling a club record for winning a title in each of his first three seasons.
Pellegrini suffered a major setback when he tore his cruciate knee ligaments in 2017/18 pre-season – just as he was preparing for a first-team debut. It was a particularly testing time for the youngster. “It’s not the injury itself which hurts, but the timing of it,” Pellegrini said. “It was just when I was on cloud nine, preparing to leave with the team for a tour of the USA. But this injury is definitely not going to stop me.” Six months later, he returned to play for Roma’s reserves, but no sooner had he taken to the field against AC Milan and he was back under the surgeon’s knife due to a fractured knee.
Roma stood by him and even extended his contract until 2022, underlining their faith in him, and when he finally did return, he became the youngest defender to provide two assists in Serie A, aged 19. That convinced Juventus to make their move for Pellegrini in June 2019, although he was shipped out immediately to Cagliari on loan, before spending another brief loan spell at Genoa. After finally breaking into the Juventus team in 2021/22, he moved to Frankfurt in the summer – also on loan, but with an option for a permanent stay at the Deutsche Bank Park.
Plays a bit like: Angelino
While Frankfurt were keen on a like-for-like replacement for Filip Kostic after he moved to Juventus, Pellegrino offers different characteristics to the Serbian. More defensive-minded and less prone to dribbling at his opponent, Pellegrini is at least as assured on the ball as the man whose boots he is filling, if not more so.
That is not to say he does not like to get forward – which modern-day full-back doesn't? – but he prefers to combine his way down the wing, overlapping his teammates to receive the ball in a position where he can put his pinpoint crossing skills to effective use. That is more in the mould of Hoffenheim’s Angelino, who – like Pellegrini – is devastating with the ball at his feet in wide areas.
Did you know?
The football-obsessed Pellegrini had seen the Eagles in action long before contact was made between his agent and the Bundesliga club. In fact, he saw them lift the DFB Cup in 2018, with a win over Bayern Munich, and followed their subsequent campaigns in the UEFA Europa League closely.
“Since 2018, when they won the DFB Cup, and since they won the Europa League last year, the whole of Europe has been talking about Eintracht Frankfurt, so of course I knew about them,” he said. “Everybody in the world knows the Bundesliga and I’ve seen many Bundesliga games because I love watching football. I didn’t need much time to be convinced to come here.”
What they’re saying
“He’s going to become the best full-back in Italy.” – Roberto Muzzi, former coach in the Roma youth academy
“I remember him when he was just a little kid and his growth has been incredible. It’s easy to be drawn into making rash predictions, but I’m right about him – he’s turning into a great lad, technically and tactically.” – Bruno Conti, head of Roma youth academy and former Italy international
“Luca Pellegrini can play in both defensive roles on the left, either ahead of a three-man defence, or deeper in a four-man back line. This makes us more versatile and generally more flexible.” – Markus Krösche, Frankfurt sporting director
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