At just 19, Moise Kean (pronounced ˈmɔize ˈkɛn) already has a long list of records that most established footballers would gladly give a leg or both for - scroll to the bottom of this article to see for yourself.
Two seasons on after making his debut for Juventus, the youngster has well and truly arrived on the footballing scene. Despite his tender years (he was born this century!), he has displayed pace, power and the unerring eye for goal that only natural born
killers strikers come with.
In 24 appearances across all competitions last season for Juventus, Italy youth and the Italy senior side, he struck 13 times. The goals have come from everywhere, he is not hesitant to shoot no matter where on the pitch he is.
However (why is there always a however?), there are some question marks around the player, as unfounded as they might be. Kean is young and a volatile personality. When faced with racist abuse in Sardinia like most persons of colour do, he took it all in his stride until he scored, and then he goaded on a frothing-at-the-mouth Cagliari Curva, celebrating his goal in a very pointed manner.
Most fans will say he had the right to ‘react’ like he did. However then-manager Massimiliano Allegri and veteran Leonardo Bonucci both rebuked him, telling him he needed to not have ‘reacted’. He’s a 19-year-old playing the game he loves, he’d have to be dead inside to not ‘react’. If anything, he was quite calm and reserved - it’s not like he took his shirt off and waved it about, or got on his knees and snorted the chalk off the turf.
And therein come some of the comparisons with Mario Balotelli, who faced similar racist taunts his whole Italian career, even when he represented the national team. There’s more too, because Kean has said before that Balotelli is his absolute favourite player of all time.
Balotelli is an absolute character both on and off the pitch - from getting in trouble for throwing darts at youth team players to setting off fireworks in his bathroom and catching it on fire, the negative headlines have dogged him throughout his career - can you believe that he’s only still 28 and on his sixth senior club?
It’s easy to see why Kean idolized him - Balotelli was at the peak of his powers in the early part of this decade when Kean was getting into competitive football, and it’s easy to see why he would have taken inspiration from another black footballer in Italy who was making it at the biggest stage, fighting against archaic citizenship laws that meant Kean could not be declared an Italian citizen until he turned 18 despite being born in the Piedmont area and his parents being in the country for over 30 years.
But the young Kean is also more mature than his years belie. He acknowledges that Balo has done ‘stupid things’, and is adamant he is not following in his footsteps.
“A lot of people compare me to (Mario) Balotelli, but I’m different from him.
”I do not know why people always make the connection, but I have ways of acting different from him, even if he’s a good person.”
Balotelli has even spoken to the youngster about the missteps he’s taken - here’s comments from Italian football analyst James Horncastle.
“Kean has spoken a lot about his interactions with Balotelli and about his experiences.
“There are 10 years between them and Balotelli has told him not to make the same mistakes that he has.”
The latest controversy to dog him was last week when away with the Under-21 side at the European Championships. Kean and teammate Nicolo Zaniolo were punished for being repeatedly tardy to practices by being overlooked for a crucial game Italy went on to win 3-1 against Belgium.
While the truth about what transpired there might never come out, they can be forgiven as youthful indiscretions when you hear about Kean’s hunger for the game, and his descriptions of where he grew up and how he came to play the game he loves.
In a must-watch, must-read interview for The Players’ Tribune, the prodigal forward described how he once stole from a priest, along with other extraordinary snippets from a life that many of us have not even heard about.
“I used to play football on an asphalt pitch behind the church. Six-vs.-six. Each player had to pay 10 euros, I would beg, borrow, steal and save all week so I could afford my fee. The winning team would take all the money.
“I swear, everyone in Asti would come to the oratory to play: kids with money, kids with no money, tourists, locals, everyone. And it was a battle every week. If you got tackled you had to pretend it didn’t hurt so people wouldn’t pick on you. This is how I learned to play football.
“if you wanted to play in our neighborhood, you could always find a football in the priest’s office at the oratory near our house. The priest was a nice man who kept all the balls in a drawer. But, you see, here’s the thing: He never locked it.
“So every time I lost my own ball — maybe because I had kicked it over a fence — I would sneak over to the oratory, wait for the priest to go upstairs, and then take a ball from his drawer.
“When you grow up in Asti, you need a football at all times. Need it.
“When you play football like that, you learn to play with hunger. You learn that football, like life, has ups and downs. Sometimes you score in the last minute of a game and win 60 euros for everyone. Sometimes you don’t.
“Nutmegging your opponent was almost as important as scoring a goal when you played on our field. When you grow up nutmegging people with money on the line, nutmegging Giorgio Chiellini in training doesn’t seem so scary.
“I mean, that’s actually not totally true — it’s actually very, very scary. I still have a scar on my ankle from the last time I tried a trick play on Chiellini. He a bad man.”
Kean is by no means a finished product, and at 19 still has some growing to do. Spanish football analyst Guillem Balague summarized it best.
”Kean has got the ability to run into space and doesn’t like to touch the ball that much.
“He has got a lot of strength and pace in the first 15 metres. He finishes very well but in small spaces doesn’t feel comfortable and makes mistakes.”
At Everton, he would be equally well-suited in Marco Silva’s system playing out wide where he can run into space on the right like RIcharlison does, but can also use his pace and power in the middle where Dominic Calvert-Lewin struggles against bigger centrehalves.
Kean’s hunger for football is something that Marcel Brands is trying to inculcate in this Everton team as he slowly lops off the old and unwieldy members of this bloated squad. To that end, two big Italian dailies Gazzetta dello Sport and Tuttosport (via SportWitness) are claiming that Everton are in pole position but Kean could also be used by Juve as a makeweight in a big transfer for defender Matthijs de Ligt from Ajax Amsterdam.
They go on to say that his wage demands are not outrageous by any means - £1.7m a year, or £35,000/week - and that the Bianconeri are interested in putting in a buyback clause should the player continue his development, neither of which will be a problem for the Blues who have had similar deals with Barcelona.
Finally there is the Mino Raiola factor. The super-agent does have a good personal relationship with majority shareowner Farhad Moshiri and that can be brought to bear if needed as well, with the one addendum - Raiola does for his clients what is best for him in the long run, which usually involves any one of these symbols £/€/$ and a lot of zeroes after.
Records (from Wikipedia)
- Youngest debutant in Serie A: 19 November 2016, 3–0 vs. Pescara (16 years, 265 days)
- Youngest debutant in the UEFA Champions League: 22 November 2016, 1–3 vs. Sevilla (16 years, 268 days)
- Youngest goalscorer in Serie A: 27 May 2017, 1–2 vs. Bologna (17 years, 88 days)
- Youngest goalscorer in Serie A to score in four consecutive games*: 13 April 2019 vs SPAL (19 years, 44 days) [breaking Mario Balotelli’s record]
*in the 3 points for a win era
- Youngest goalscorer in a competitive match: 23 March 2019, 2–0 vs. Finland (19 years, 23 days)
- Youngest goalscorer in a UEFA European Championship qualifying match: 23 March 2019, 2–0 vs. Finland (19 years, 23 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to debut in Serie A: 19 November 2016, 3–0 vs. Pescara (16 years, 265 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to score in Serie A: 27 May 2017, 1–2 vs. Bologna (17 years, 88 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to debut in the UEFA Champions League: 22 November 2016, 1–3 vs. Sevilla (16 years, 268 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to debut for Italy: 20 November 2018, 1–0 vs. United States (18 years, 265 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to start for Italy: 23 March 2019, 2–0 vs. Finland (19 years, 23 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to score for Italy: 23 March 2019, 2–0 vs. Finland (19 years, 23 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to score for Italy U21: 15 October 2018, 2–0 vs. Tunisia (18 years, 229 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to debut in one of Europe’s five major leagues: 19 November 2016, 3–0 vs. Pescara in Serie A (16 years, 265 days)
- First player born in the 2000s to score in one of Europe’s five major leagues: 27 May 2017, 1–2 vs. Bologna (17 years, 88 days)