A number of Italy's title-winning side from the 2003 UEFA European Under-19 Championship have since gone on to make their mark at senior level, but few have been as impressive as Alberto Aquilani.
The AS Roma playmaker was at the heart of the team that triumphed in Liechtenstein, playing every minute of his side's five matches, the only member of Paolo Berrettini's squad to do so. Indeed, Aquilani was on the pitch for all 990 minutes of Italy's U19 campaign in 2002/03, including the three qualifying and Elite round fixtures. A key figure for the Azzurrini, Aquilani wasted little time in demonstrating his worth in the finals, nervelessly converting an 89th-minute penalty to secure a 1-0 win against Norway in the opening round of fixtures.
Italy next played out a 1-1 draw with Portugal, and confirmed their place in the last four in the final Group A fixture, a 5-1 win against the host nation with Aquilani in typically inventive mood. He also came close to creating a breakthrough on a number of occasions in the semi-final against the Czech Republic, before Giampaolo Pazzini got the only goal of the game. The Portuguese were defeated 2-0 in the final in Vaduz, Luigi Della Rocca heading the first and Aquilani's free-kick teeing up Pazzini to add a clinching second.
Having been one of the most impressive performers in that U19 success, Aquilani has subsequently stepped up to become a U21 international and a regular at AS Roma, his boyhood favourites and the team he joined as a nine-year-old. In 2003 the midfielder was already showing the relentless will to improve that has brought him more than 50 Serie A appearances for the Giallorossi, telling uefa.com: "There are lots of things I need to improve and I try to work on them every day. I like to organise the play and love to be the playmaker." He has already provided ample evidence that he has the raw talent to be a success.
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