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 By Ben Gladwell

Stefano Okaka could be top Italy striker, says Sampdoria coach

Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has tipped Stefano Okaka to become one of Italy's best strikers, if he can finally deliver on his potential.

Sampdoria coach Sinisa Mihajlovic has tipped Stefano Okaka to become one of Italy's best strikers, if he can finally deliver on his potential.

The 25-year-old was already being heralded for great things when he burst onto the scene as a teenager with Roma. He became the youngest Italian ever to play in Europe in 2005, having just turned 16, and his goal in the Coppa Italia just a few months later made him the youngest ever goalscorer in that competition.

His Serie A debut followed at the age of 16 and 125 days with his first goal coming just after his 17th birthday.

Since then, he has had spells with Modena, Brescia, Fulham, Bari, Parma and Spezia before arriving at the Blucerchiati in January.

"He's thrown away six or seven years," said Mihajlovic after witnessing him score a sensational individual goal in Sampdoria's 2-0 win over Torino on Sunday. "Now he's got to make up for lost ground.

"Technically he's excellent and he's physically strong, and kind too. He hasn't done anything yet, but he could become one of the strongest attackers in Italy."

Given his size and stature, comparisons with Mario Balotelli are inevitable. The Liverpool forward has also been accused of throwing away his talent, but Okaka hopes he realises before it is too late what he has to lose, and more importantly why he could lose it.

"Mario's a friend of mine and he will get back to what he was in England, but he has to understand that when he does things wrong, the blame is not always with other people," Okaka said to Sky Sport Italia. "You need to take a look at yourself at times too."

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