1) Diamanti sparkles on Fiorentina return
Much travelled 31-year-old Alessandro Diamanti got the latest chapter in his career off to a good start last weekend when scoring a goal and playing well in Fiorentina’s 3-2 home win over Atalanta. 17 times capped Italian international Diamanti, who has played for Prato, Livorno, West Ham, Brescia and Bologna, returned to Italian football last November after a season with Marcello Lippi at Chinese champions, Guangzhou.
Bought on a loan deal from Guangzhou during the January transfer window, Diamanti was actually making a return to the Florence club having played for them back in 2003. Those were the post-bankruptcy days when Fiorentina, rescued in the wake of the Cecchi Gori era by the leather goods millionaire Diego Della Valle, were playing in Serie C2 (fourth tier) under the name of Florentia Viola.
Andrea Della Valle expressed his delight on Sunday at rehiring Diamanti, bought partly as a replacement for Colombian Juan Cuadrado (sold to Chelsea for a reported 33 million euros). After the game, new coach Vincenzo Montella joked: “He has got quality, charisma and experience. Mind you, I thought he would score with his first chance, not his third.”
When we last heard from Diamanti last October in an interview with Italian radio, Kiss-Kiss, he sounded glad to be far away from the polemics of Italian football. Evidently, that was a short-lived moment.
Not surprisingly, he has been telling the media that his season in China was a huge learning experience, both on and off the field. He says he is fitter than ever, having played a season in excess heat and humidity. As for his off the field observations, he says that Italy remains “behind other leagues in terms of its sporting and national culture”. He said it.
2) ‘Atomic Ant‘ Giovinco bids farewell to Serie A
For one player, Diamanti, who returns, there are those who leave. Perhaps the biggest name to leave Italian football was the pocket battleship himself, Sebastian Giovinco, of Juventus and Italy who moved to Toronto FC in the MLS. Offered what experienced Canadian football writer, John Molinaro, terms a “truckload of money”, Giovinco is believed to be on approx. $7 million dollars for five seasons through to 2020.
For much of his time in Italy, 5 ft 5 inch Giovinco suffered from critical reviews which suggested that, even if he is quick, skilful and gifted with terrific free kick, passing and dribbling skills, he is just too small and too light for the very highest level of football. This was probably unfair criticism since as his knickname, “formica atomica” (atomic ant) would indicate, the dynamic Giovinco in six Serie A seasons with Juventus, two with Parma and one with Empoli, played some terrific football. On top of that, lightweights (metaphorical or physical) do not win 21 caps for Italy.
Perhaps somewhat handicapped by media acclamations that he would take over the mantle of Alessandro Del Piero, Giovinco, whose Juventus contract ran out at the end of this season, last weekend vehemently denied that leaving Italian football at the age of 28 for the MLS represented a “failure”.
In an interview with Gazzetta Dello Sport, he said: “I won two [and a half] titles with Juventus. I could have done more but things became strange. After a while, I was accused of only scoring unimportant goals…I am a professional and now I am going to give everything for Toronto. I thank everyone at Juventus for some great years but now I’ve got to start thinking of my future.”
3) Daniele Verde – a name for the future
This is the time of year when Italian football pays a particular attention to youth football with the running of the annual Viareggio youth tournament, now in the second round with the final due on February 16. In that context, it may be worth recording the name of 18 year Daniele Verde, a regular Roma “primavera” or youth team player, who upgraded to Serie A on Sunday, playing an important part in Roma’s 2-1 away win over Cagliari.
Spotted in Naples by none other than ex-World Cup winner, Bruno Conti, currently in charge of the Roma youth programme, Verde could be anything. Conti described him this way to the media: “In the youth team, he is our leading goalscorer but he can also set them up. He has terrific personality. He just needs to stick at it now because we all know it is hard to make it to the top but it is so, so easy to fall down and give up.”