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Flying under the radar: Sebastian Giovinco

April 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Fans of Italian football have known about the talent of Sebastian Giovinco for some time now. He is one of one of those players who seem to have been around forever even though he is still only 25. Outside of hardened Serie A followers, Giovinco’s fame is very limited, but if his recent form for Parma is anything to go by, he may be about to make a real name for himself.

The diminutive second striker has become a key component of Roberto Donadoni’s side as they look to avert the threat of relegation. He is a vital source of goals in a team that has struggled to find the net in Italy’s top flight this season. If he is not scoring them himself, he is making goals for teammates, as is shown by his team-best totals of ten goals and seven assists in 2011/12.

Giovinco has come into his own at Parma

This form has seen him become an increasingly regular inclusion in Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squads and the Parma man should get the opportunity to showcase his talents at this summer’s European Championships. In fact, Giovinco may very well be in the shop window come June as Parma currently lie only four points clear of the drop zone in Serie A. If he performs well for Italy, he will surely attract the attention of bigger clubs who may be able to secure his services for a cut-price fee if Parma are relegated to Serie B, a division for which Giovinco is undoubtedly too good.

One potential destination could be Juventus, his hometown club. The Old Lady still hold 50% of his sporting rights as the €3 million Parma paid last year only got them 50%. Italy’s current league leaders could do a lot worse than look at a player who may be a tailor-made replacement for the aging Alessandro Del Piero.

Giovinco is of course a product of the Juventus academy having learned his trade there from the age of nine. In his time as a junior at Juventus, Giovinco won a league title and a cup with the club’s Primavera team and although he made over 40 appearances for the Juventus first team, he was never able to command a regular starting place and so he moved on loan to Parma at the beginning of last season. Since then, his career has been on an upward trajectory.

At just 5’5, the man aptly known as formica atomica (atom ant) lacks the physical presence of many modern day footballers. He does however, more than make up for this with excellent technical ability. He is equally comfortable with either foot and this, along with his low centre of gravity and extremely quick feet, make him a formidable opponent when dribbling. In fact, it would not be inaccurate to state that at times, his slaloming runs resemble those of, dare I say it, Lionel Messi. This ability to dribble and beat defenders is a rare commodity in Italy and has earned him many admirers. He is capable of playing out wide or through the middle as a classic number ten and his set piece accuracy is second to none. All of this makes him a valuable attacking option to have in a team.

His performances since moving to Parma have rightly earned him rave reviews and led some to exalt him to the status of the ‘new Roberto Baggio.’ This is typical modern footballing hyperbole, but his form has not gone unnoticed, with the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool and even Barcelona all being strongly linked with his services. If such a club were to put up sufficient cash, Parma would have to sell and his excellent contribution to Parma’s cause this season, it is surely only a matter of time until someone tests their resolve to keep him. If Giovinco does secure a move to one of Europe’s leading clubs, it will provide him with the perfect platform to showcase his talents and then he will very much be registering on everybody’s radar.

Name: Sebastian Giovinco

Place of Birth: Turin, Italy

Nationality: Italian

Date of Birth: 26th January 1987

Club: Parma

Previous Clubs: Juventus, Empoli (loan)

Career League Appearances: 130

Career League Goals: 26

Total Career Appearances: 148

Total Career Goals: 28

International Caps: 7           

International Goals: 0

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Categories: Football

Flying under the radar: Antonio Valencia

April 1, 2012 3 comments

Manchester United is arguably the biggest club in world football so it may seem strange to say that one of its players flies under the radar. However, even big clubs have unsung heroes and Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia certainly fits in to this category. Whilst the likes of Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Nani take the plaudits on a weekly basis, Valencia’s performances often go unnoticed. He does not however, make an issue of this and instead just focuses on playing as well as he can and helping his team win matches. His contribution to United’s latest title charge cannot be overstated.

At the beginning of the season, it did not look like Valencia would be a key component of a potentially title-winning team. Whilst representing Ecuador at last summer’s Copa America, he sustained an ankle injury which forced him to miss United’s entire pre-season training and tour. The club’s blistering start to the season, coupled with the excellent form of Ashley Young and Nani, meant that Valencia initially struggled to force his way back in to Sir Alex Ferguson’s side. The Scot’s squad rotation policy and injuries to Young presented the Ecuadorian with a chance to re-establish himself and he has not looked back since.

Only Manchester City’s David Silva can better Valencia’s 11 Premier League assists and he has played ten more games than the United winger. In short, it is no coincidence that Wayne Rooney’s sudden surge in scoring has come at the same time Valencia has had a prolonged run in the starting line-up. Rooney has in fact publically lauded the winger’s ability to keep it simple and whip perfect balls in for him to convert. This is where Valencia differs from the club’s other star wingers, Nani and Ashley Young. He does not possess the natural skill and trickery of these two, but he is quicker and more direct. Whereas Young and Nani often look to beat a defender more than once, Valencia does not. He instead uses searing pace and excellent physical strength to leave defenders in his wake before crossing for the likes of Rooney and Hernandez. It would be fair to say that Valencia is one of football’s few remaining out-and-out, old-fashioned wingers. He is also extremely hard-working and very much a team player. He always helps out the full-back, often covering if the defender has pressed further up the field and he has in fact sometimes played right-back himself during injury crises. This aspect of his play is a clear advantage over Nani and in fact, Sky commentators remarked during last week’s victory over Fulham that playing behind Valencia must be easy as you do not have to do anything.

 

Valencia scores in a recent game against Wolves (This image is the property of Getty Images)

Valencia chips in with goals and this is an aspect of his game that has improved greatly since he joined United from Wigan in the summer of 2009. If there is a criticism however, it is that he still does not score enough, but as long as he keeps creating them for others, Sir Alex Ferguson will live with this.

Valencia was singled out for his poor performance in last May’s Champions League final as Ferguson opted for his work rate over Nani’s trickery. In truth, Valencia did look out of depth, but it is unfair to single him out as United as a team were played off the park by a Lionel Messi inspired Barcelona.

His recent performances in the Premier League have put the likes of Arsenal, Bolton and Wolves to the sword and may see him make the PFA Team of the Season for the second time in his career. Then again, his shy and retiring nature means that he does not get the credit he deserves so probably not. Manchester United know how important he is though and have tied him to the club until the summer of 2015. Replacing the great Cristiano Ronaldo was always going to be impossible, but Valencia has done as good a job as anybody could have. If United do win a 20th league title, he will be able to look at his medal safe in the knowledge that it is fully deserved.

Name: Luis Antonio Valencia Mosquera

Place of Birth: Nueva Loja, Ecuador

Nationality: Ecuadorian

Date of Birth: 4th August 1985

Club: Manchester United

Previous Clubs: El Nacional, Villarreal, Recreativo de Huelva (loan), Wigan Athletic

Career League Appearances: 244

Career League Goals: 27

Total Career Appearances: 289

Total Career Goals: 33

International Caps: 51

International Goals: 6

Categories: Football