U.S. youth national Team attacker Joshua Perez signed a professional contract with ACF Fiorentina on Thursday, his agent announced on Twitter. Perez also confirmed that he joined the Serie A club on his own account.
Perez has long been a target for the Italian club, but getting him registered with the club has been a complicated issue. The teenager did not have access to a European passport and was forced to sit until his 18th birthday, which was on Jan. 21. Perez signed his first professional deal with the club a few weeks after the big day as final details were ironed out in the contract.
Perez is a talented player who recently featured with the U.S. U17 men’s national team at the 2015 U17 World Cup. He made three appearances at the event, as the U.S. crashed out of the competition in group play.
The Southern California-native is among the most promising prospects from the 1998 birth year, which also includes Christian Pulisic and Luca de la Torre. Perez is a winger with a mind for the game. His decision-making on the ball has set him apart from the crowd since his earliest days playing soccer.
Perez burst onto the scene in 2011/2012 as a member of the U.S. U14 Boys National Team and part of the Chivas USA U16 Development Academy team. Perez, at the time, was playing three years up in the Academy under the guidance of head coach Mike Munoz. He never shied away from the challenge and he was given that freedom thanks to a coach who saw the long-term development of the player above everything else.
While the youngster benefitted from that time period, his involvement with the Development Academy was brief. He was a hot commodity and multiple European clubs tried to lure him into their academies over the years. Perez seemed comfortable with Fiorentina early on and the club was eager to bring him in. The complications from signing youth players put the deal on hold and afforded Perez some flexibility to return to the Residency Program in the build up to last summer’s U17 World Cup.
Freed from the limitations of his youthfulness, Perez inked a deal with Fiorentina that is rumored to be for four years and relatively lucrative for a U.S. youth player. The Italian club is serious about pushing Perez into the first team in the coming years, but a loan could be in the works if first team minutes are not available in 2016/2017.
Perez’s potential stems from his upbringing. His father, Giovanni, has been around the game as much as anyone. Perez’s uncle, Hugo, is a former U.S. men’s national team great and the former head coach of the U.S. U15 Boys National Team. The pedigree set the younger Perez off on the right foot since he could first kick a ball.
His technical ability allowed him to overcome the size disadvantage he faced while going against older competition, and his intelligence on the field allowed him to excel at the international level during that same period. He will need to rely on those same skills in order to excel in the tactical nuance of the Serie A. He has the tools to succeed in that type of league, but the question will be if he has the toughness to excel while outside of his comfort zone in the pressure-driven world of European soccer.
Perez’s history with Fiorentina and the city of Florence should help him overcome the normal challenges of a teenager’s move to new club in a new country. There is a strong possibility that Perez develops into a contributor for the full national team, but his immediate concern needs to be getting game fitness after the long delay in getting his club situation settled.