The five youngsters who could shape Australia's next golden generation
Australian football fans are desperate for more young stars to take European shores by storm.
Since the days of Harry Kewell and Tim Cahill, among others, the Socceroos have lacked superstars capable of playing for top clubs across Europe.
FPF has evaluated the Aussies who have the potential for an extremely successful career abroad, and those who could even become world-class talents.
Cristian Volpato - AS Roma
Though he has not committed to the Socceroos setup yet, Volpato's impressive performances have made critics in Australia notice his time in Italy.
The energetic attacking midfielder has starred for AS Roma's U18 side and was first rewarded by being called up to train with the first team.
Under the guidance of the legendary Jose Mourinho, he made such an impression that the Portuguese boss awarded him a senior debut for the Wolves against Inter Milan at the start of the month.
Volpato is tied to Roma until 2024 and netted five goals and notched a further four assists during the 2020-21 season.
Earlier in his career, Volpato was released by A-League Men sides Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers before moving to Italy to revitalise his career.
Although a player for the future, he could certainly be replacing the aging pair of Aaron Mooy and Tom Rogic sooner rather than later in the Socceroos midfield.
Unfortunately, it still seems as if Volpato needs to do more to impress Graham Arnold.
“I’ve had this experience now with a number of players over the years,” Arnold told Fox Sports when questioned about the 18-year-old recently.
“Cristian has a big choice to make, and his heart will tell him what’s right.
“I’m not a person that’s going to bring him into [the] camp, cap him, and give him one minute on the field just to control the rest of his career."
Volpato came off the bench for Roma's senior side earlier this month. (Getty Images)
Marco Tilio - Melbourne City
Another young attacking midfielder, Tilio, starred at the Olympic Games in Tokyo and broke out during the 2020-21 A-League Men campaign.
He began to stake his claim for regular appearances in the competition.
“I believe [that] as long as you’re confident then you are able to perform [at] your best, and towards the end of the season I was given an opportunity,” Tilio explained to MyFootball when discussing breaking into the Melbourne City starting lineup.
“I just wanted to reward the coaching staff and help the team to success, and we were able to do that. Building on that, I want to keep moving forward in my career."
Fast forward to this season, and Tilio has only started two of the five games City has played.
The reigning champions' sheer quality in the front third is difficult to dislodge, particularly after they added experienced Socceroo Mathew Leckie in the off-season.
However, Tilio's pace and creativity as a playmaker in his sporadic outings this season have threatened each opponent he has faced.
He currently averages 21 passes per match at 77% accuracy and 1.8 key passes per game, an impressive tally considering he has not started every game.
Given City's situation with Nathaniel Atkinson potentially departing to Scotland and other potential injuries, Tilio could find himself back in the starting eleven very soon.
Tilio (19) celebrates scoring for the Olyroos against Argentina at the Olympic Games. (SMH)
Thomas Aquilina - Western Sydney Wanderers
Another breakout star from the past A-League Men season, Aquilina has now effectively cemented his starting spot as a full-back in Carl Robinson's side in 2021-22.
The Camden-born youngster has kept Tate Russell out of the Western Sydney team all season, with Aquilina starting all five matches at right-back.
His blistering pace and attacking impetus have caused problems against each opponent he has faced.
Alongside Bernie Ibini, the duo can provide a constant threat to every A-League Men defence.
Defensively, the 20-year-old has averaged 2.2 tackles per game and has won the majority of his duels with opposition players.
He has registered a 74% passing accuracy in the opposition half regarding attacking statistics.
Due to his pace, allowing him to draw late challenges, the full-back has been fouled 1.4 times per game this season.
European clubs have reportedly taken an interest in Aquilina's services.
With his contract expiring at the end of the season, keeping him in Western Sydney will be a challenge.
“You want to play with the best in Europe. It’s fair to say that’s the capital of football, and that’s where all the best players end up and where the best leagues are," he told FTBL recently.
"I’ve got to keep working at it and continue to keep playing well; that’s the most important thing.
“If the time’s right and the opportunity is right, one hundred per cent I’d love to go to Europe or wherever it takes me. I think that’s everybody’s ambition as a young kid."
Aquilina in action for the Wanderers. (Kick360)
Jing Reec - AGF Aarhus
Not a name that would be familiar with the average Australian football fan, but Reec could be the most exciting name on this list.
After making only one appearance for the Central Coast Mariners in the 2020-21 A-League Men season, Reec departed for AGF in Denmark.
The 20-year-old has impressed so far in Denmark, with four direct goal involvements in 13 games whilst playing for the U19, reserve, and senior sides.
AGF has Reec on the cusp of the national setup and possibly other European clubs.
Reec may have only made one senior appearance but has two goals and one assist in four outings for the reserves and scored once in eight games for the U19's this season.
Reec spoke of his ambitions to stay involved within the first-team setup at AGF.
“I want to stay involved with the senior team now - things are moving fast. There’s a big tradition of Australian players here, and it’s a great club to develop and learn," he told FTBL.
“I’ve been made welcome from day one, and I just want to do all I can to stay in and around the first team now.”
Reec alongside his teammates at AGF. (FTBL)
Cameron Peupion - Brighton & Hove Albion
Peupion left Sydney FC in August 2020 to depart for English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion.
A central midfielder by trade, Peupion is heavily influenced by Socceroos duo Tom Rogic and Aaron Mooy.
“Unfortunately, because of COVID, and I was in the 18s and 23s setup, I didn’t get that much opportunity to train with the first team last year. There were just lots of bubbles, and you couldn’t get outside your bubble," he told Optus Sport recently.
“I didn’t get to meet Mat Ryan because he left the club before I had any exposure to the first team, but I met them both (Mooy and Rogic) briefly.
“They are big idols for me, growing up in Australia watching the Premier League and watching Aussies do well over there. It was nice to meet them.”
So far, the 19-year-old has played 15 Premier League 2 games this season, scoring once and grabbing one assist whilst also featuring in four EFL Trophy matches.
"It was good to have a year in the under 18s where I could shine a little bit, score a couple of goals, and do well. This season, moving into the 23s, [it's] a lot more professional. You’re full time properly, the standard [is] higher, but when you’re playing with better players, you push your standard[s] up, and you play better as well," he added.
“I’m happy with where I’m at at the moment. I’m playing good football, playing regularly, week in, week out mostly, so I’ve been happy."
In Peupion's four games in the EFL Trophy, he created one big chance whilst averaging a total of 16.3 passes per game at 55% accuracy.
“Everyone at the club wants to play in the Premier League. Any boy's dream is to play in the Premier League," he said when asked if a Premier League debut is what motivates him to improve every day.
Peupion in action for Brighton's U23 side against Everton. (Optus Sport)