Ryan Patrick Nolan was born in Shannon, County Clare, Ireland, that has a population less than half of the capacity of Frosinone’s Stadio Benito Stirpe. He got his footballing education via Torre- Pacheco of Murcia and is now the captain of Inter’s youth team, the Primavera. Below Irish freelance journalist Robbie Fahy, sheds a light on the Irish youngster’s season since being made captain of the side.
It’s not a well worn path but scout Pierluigi Casiraghi saw enough during a trip to the Cartagena region of South Eastern Spain to make him only the third Irish born player for Inter after Liam Brady and Robbie Keane, something which has set pulses racing with intrigue back home on the Emerald Isle, despite the fact he is yet to make his full Nerazzurri debut.
This season has seen the 20-year-old amass 36 appearances and over 3,000 minutes for Inter’s Primavera side, picking up a goal and five bookings while captaining the side in all but one of those appearances. This consistency has not gone unnoticed by coach Spalletti, who gave him meaningful minutes last pre season against Lugano and promoted him to the bench on various occasions this season, including against Rapid Wien in the Europa League.
Imposing at 6’1’’, Ryan is an unequivocally uncompromising Serie A style defender. He excels aerially and in one on one duels, winning 62.7% in the air and 45% on the ground, both well above average for the Campionato Primavera. His intangible skills; leadership and reading of the game are both undervalued during assessment by scouts but are a key factor to the good statistical numbers of the young Irishman. He is successful with 33% of his sliding tackles but averages less than one per game, highlighting the fact he is reading the play and positioning himself exceptionally well.
Italy legend Paulo Maldini once stated that “If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake” and Nolan seems to have taken this literally, as it appears he does not make too many mistakes.
Nolan also has a league high 2.62 clearances a game for a centre back, further emphasizing his anticipation of danger and ability to put himself in position to snuff it out for his team.
Ryan doesn’t tend to step forward in possession but in the style of the modern centre half he always makes himself available, averaging 37 passes (86% completion) including 15 progressive passes each game. This is one of the best defensive passing evaluators as it measures ‘passes to the final third or as analysts will call it, passing between the lines.
In this category, Nolan makes four or five a game, crucially with a 65% success rate which is very healthy for any player who is primarily seen as a traditional no nonsense defender. When he gets the ball, he moves it quickly and looks to be positive, two key components to executing a good counter.
Former Inter Primavera coach Stefano Vecchi described Nolan during his first year at the club as “a centre-back with good physical attributes. He’s good in the air and his determination is certainly his main strength. He stays very switched on and he’s determined and aggressive – those are his strengths. He’s made real progress because he’s so keen to improve.”
Safe to say he is now fulfilling that promise and progress.
When given the armband by Primavera manager Armando Madonna at the beginning of the year, Nolan stated “It’s an honour for me to hold this role. I have some extra responsibility but I’m happy to have the chance to set an example for my teammates.”
He has kept that part of the bargain, being a model professional by all accounts coming from the Angelo Moratti Sports Centre, regularly taking part in training with the first team and not looking out of place alongside Milan Skriniar, Stefan de Vrij etc.
The next step will be to make the breakthrough to the first team and earn his competitive debut, which given how tight it is in the fight for Champions League football, seems unlikely this season barring injury.
The signs that the step up is near are there, though he will hope for continuity of coach next season and unless the Neazzurri qualify for the Champions League, this too seems a forlorn dream. He remains highly regarded by Armando Madonna however and fans of Inter and Ireland would like to think that whatever happens in the Inter dugout next year, Madonna will have some influence over which youngsters are given the first team minutes.
There is no doubt that whatever the 2019/20 season holds for this heralded young defender, eyes from all corners of Europe will be fixed upon his progress. Whether it be for Inter or potentially out on loan, he is viewed as one of the future pillars of the Irish defence and one of the most promising players to come out of the Primavera in recent seasons.
Robbie Fahy is an Irish freelance journalist reporting mainly on football, with a special focus on tactical and data analytics.