Another addition to the Italian invasion is the 28 year old midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini, who arrives at Sunderland from Italian giants Juventus. Coming from the back of an impressive showing at this summer’s Confederations Cup, the signing of a pint-sized, technically gifted Italian international has excited most sections of the Sunderland faithful - and comparisons with former fan favourite Steed Malbranque have been made by a few. Just what to expect from the Italian international when he swaps the black and white stripes of Juventus with more preferable colours, however, is what we hope to make a little clearer.
Juventus coach Antonio Comte, despite using Giaccherini as a utility man for most of last season, seemed quite downhearted to lose his man.
“I’m happy for Giaccherini because Sunderland is a good chance for him, but I’m sad to lose him, If you ask me if I’m happy, the answer is no.”
The long-running transfer story over the midfielder certainly was not motivated by the club wishing to offload. Giaccherini’s agent, Furio Valcareggi, said as recently as last Monday that he “has a great relationship with the Coach. The club have absolutely no intention of selling him." In fact, drawing from quotes alone, it seems like the prime mover in the situation was Giaccherini himself, with the prospect of first team football in the Premier League possibly helping his hopes of a starting place in Italy’s national team. As Juventus chief executive Guiseppe Marotta said in a recent conference,
“The will of the player had priority over the club’s. Emanuele evaluated, not only the economic aspects but also the standing he will have at Sunderland, and it was a challenge he decided to accept.”
A fair sum of money (reported between £6.5m-£8.6m) for a bit-part squad player wouldn’t have looked too badly on the Juventus table, perhaps, but in any perspective this is a pleasing turn-around from the days when Fabio Cappello openly suggested that Darren Bent would have more of a chance in the England team if he was playing at a more fashionable club.
Whether this move will or will not help Giaccherini’s international ambitions is a matter, of course, out of our hands. The player was a surprise inclusion in Cesare Prandelli’s starting eleven for the tournament, but won over many of the doubters with some fine showings, looking intelligent and not out of place on the ball, with the inclusion of a goal against the tournament hosts Brazil. He was a late bloomer in international football, only earning his first cap at the age of 27 when he was called up to the Euro 2012 squad by Prandelli. Showing his utility, Giaccherini played his international debut out of position, as a left wing-back against Spain. He also has the honour of scoring the fastest goal in Italy’s history, with a goal in a charity match against Haiti in June 2013 coming after only 19 seconds.
Seems exciting stuff so far, then. But what is there to expect from the 5ft 6 Italian nicknamed, apparently affectionately, as the “Little Goblin”? We managed to get an interview with top Juventus website Juventus Blog - and here is what we found out..
WAW: Giaccherini is a player many of us have seen glimpses of in the past, particularly for the Italian national team - can you tell us a little more about the kind of player we have signed?
JB: Giaccherini is the classic American story, however set in Italy. A player who had started from the bottom, and only after a training period has realised his dreams of football: Juventus first and then National. Tactically and physically discreet, beautiful in the spirit of sacrifice and dedication to the club. From the soul on and off the field. He was born right winger, but also juggles well an attacking midfielder.
WAW: What are his strengths and weaknesses?
JB: Strengths are: professionalism, spirit of sacrifice, ductility, dedication and availability to their teammates. Weaknesses: not physically "gifted", not excelled in one on one and often inaccurate in last step of attack.
WAW: There have been some players moving from Italy to England who have struggled to adapt to the style of football - do you think Giaccherini will succeed in the English Premier League?
JB: Giaccherini will be successful in the Premier League. I'm sure if there is one to guide him it is Di Canio. Paolo will manage to pull out of Giak 110%, you bet!
WAW: We do not normally sign Italian international players - are you surprised he has decided to come to Sunderland and not a bigger English club?
JB: I'm not surprised because the Premier League in general has great charm about our players. Together with the Bundesliga championship is considered the most beautiful in the world; the spectacular stadiums are mind-boggling ... and then gain more than 2.5 million euro per year! A lot of money if we think that at Juventus came to less than one million euro.
WAW: Do you have any interesting stories about Giaccherini?
JB: Conte had said that as long as he would have been at the helm of Juventus Giak would not move from Turin, and instead...
WAW: Do you know much about him away from football?
JB: He is the classic home and church boy...you'll love it soon!
WAW: Finally, do you think this is a good signing for Sunderland?
JB: Good purchase, which will become great thanks to Paolo Di Canio. I'm sure your boss will know how to make the most of Giak.
We wish good luck to you all and Giak. I hope this little bit of Italy can take you to great successes. We will follow your every match and cheer for you!
Giaccherini has been somewhat of a grafter with his career in Italy, helping his first club Cesena progress through the Italian third and second flights before securing a co-ownership move to Juventus with impressive performances in Serie A. You could perhaps draw similarities with the careers of Steve Finnan and Tim Cahill in the English leagues in recent years, players who have gradually risen from lower leagues to become very able performers in the top flight.
Juventus fans are quick to assert the good attitude that he brings to his game, something which Di Canio is obviously in want of following from his very vocal end of season speeches on the unprofessional culture at the club. On top of this, he can obviously play too. While not being amongst the very best technically at Juventus, he certainly had the flair and ability to make his mark on games, be it in a central role where he had the tendency to make Keane-esque late runs into the box, or in his aptitude in speed and dribbling on the left wing. He is well-liked amongst the Juve faithful, and with good reason.
Whether he will be able to bring these positives to a different league, playing alongside individuals not as gifted as his Juventus teammates, will be left to the man himself to prove. Creativity from midfield is certainly something the team has been lacking for a good while now. If Giaccherini can provide the technique, the intelligence and the assists in the Premier League, the money spent on him would be worth it.