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With the international break
wasting everyone's time taking place, it's time to discuss the present and future of the other best young Italian striker: Manolo Gabbiadini.
When "impressive young Italian strikers" is the topic of discussion, Mattia Destro is usually the first name to get mentioned, with Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Stephan El Shaarawy following respectively. This is neat from a Juventino standpoint, as Destro grew up a Bianconero, Ciro Immobile is thankfully still part-owned by Juventus, Insigne’s lifelong idol is Alessandro Del Piero and El Shaarawy’s hair boasts more black and white stripes at any time than all of the jerseys Nike has designed for the Old Lady the last nine seasons combined. Unfortunately, this also means the talented Manolo Gabbiadini is regularly overlooked, despite possessing a tremendous upside and arguably one of the best left feet in the entire peninsula.
From Calcinate, the same small Bergamo town that gave Juventus and Italian football Pietro "the Czar" Vierchwood, Manolo is the youngest of two children. Football runs in the family blood, as Manolo’s father Giuseppe enjoyed an amateur career as goalkeeper for a number of regional sides, while his sister Melania plays professionally as a striker for the Bardolino Verona Italian Women’s Serie A club and the Italian Women’s National Team. A product of Atalanta’s storied youth system, Manolo made his Serie A debut in 2010 at 18 years old.
After collecting two appearances during the 2009-2010 season at Atalanta, Gabbiadini moved on co-ownership to Serie B side Cittadella, where he saw greater exposure to first team football, as he ended his season with 29 total appearances and 5 goals. Having previously scored twice in three presences with the Italy U-20 team, the 2010-2011 season saw Gabbiadini get called up by U-21 boss Ciro Ferrara. Manolo didn’t disappoint and scored 4 in 8 while becoming a focal point of Ferrara’s tactics. The positive Serie B experience convinced Atalanta to buy back Cittadella’s half in the summer of 2011, a 2011 year that also saw the young striker score 10 goals in 13 appearances under Ciro Ferrara.
In 2011-2012, Gabbiadini made 24 appearances for Atalanta, scoring 2 goals mainly as a substitute for the team’s top striker German Denis.
In the summer of 2012, Beppe Marotta (finally) pulled the trigger and agreed a deal with Atalanta that consisted of 11 million Euros to be paid by Juventus over the course of 3 years for the full rights of the player, with Atalanta buying back half of the player’s rights for 5.5 million Euros also to be paid to Juventus over the course of 3 years. As part of the agreement, Juventus acquired ownership of the free temporary disposal of the player’s rights and immediately loaned him out to Bologna for the 2012-2013 season, since the Sorensen experiment had turned out perfectly successful the previous season!
At 1.86 m and 81 kg, Manolo Gabbiadini is a tall, seemingly thin striker with a long and deceivingly lanky physique. His frame and excellent positioning make him a serious threat in the air, while his athleticism and good off-ball movement allows him to be a danger in counter-attacking situations and while playing on the opposing line of defense. Gabbiadini is mostly known, however, for his placed shots and surgical left foot. Manolo has been compared to Casiraghi, Padovano, Inzaghi and Vieri. The Vieri comparison makes sense in terms of size and how the two shoot, although every young Italian striker is the new Del Piero, the new Vieri or the new Inzaghi these days. Vieri was much more powerful of a finisher and physically devastating, in comparison. While I was too young to watch Ravanelli score with a Juventus jersey on, I have had the chance to see his goals as a Bianconero and Gabbiadini’s style of play reminds me of him: tall, yet a strong athletic physique, good technique, a fine first touch and incisive left foot.
Manolo is currently on loan at Bologna, where he has accumulated 5 appearances and zero goals. He faces serious competition and while his head coach seems to have some faith in him as evident by the regular cameos as a sub, Pioli doesn’t seem to want to risk starting a 21 year old as he attempts to avoid relegation. Alberto Gilardino’s arrival and ridiculous start to the season, has been an unfortunate point against Gabbiadini’s growth as a player, as well, and it looks as if the latter’s best chances at starting are dependent upon Gilardino’s health status.
Gabbiadini needs to get out of Bologna. Immediately. The decision to loan him there was a mistaken one in the first place. It is only the beginning of the season, but thus far the Sorensen experiment is repeating itself. The Dane was sent to Bologna after an impressive first Serie A season as an 18 year old with Juventus, and his chances were fairly limited. Bologna was in the market for a striker both before they obtained Gabbiadini on loan AND after, and Gilardino’s arrival was a concern for numerous Juventini excited with Gabbiadini’s purchase. Marotta and Paratici made a mistake after making a significant investment for the future and that investment needs to be protected. Gabbiadini’s situation looks similar to that of Immobile in the 2010-2011 Serie B season: some playing time with the first club he was loaned out to, but the kid is mostly wasting his time, just like Immobile’s loan to Siena was interrupted halfway into the season to send him out to Grosseto, Gabbiadini should be called back and sent to a team that can guarantee him better chances of starting football. Pescara is a club that comes to mind, as their roster can use all the help it can get (seriously, go on Wikipedia and look at it if you don’t believe me). Palermo is another option, as they have just lost Abel Hernandez for what is most likely the remainder of the season, and Miccoli, Budan and Dybala are simply not enough strikers for Gasperini. Siena is also a logical option, not only are they a friendly club, but they are playing with Ze Love in attack, for the love of everything that is holy! Stefano Padovan is a better striker in comparison, but then again, chances are that even Tobias Del Piero in a stroller is a more capable forward than Ze Love.
If Gilardino will continue his current form, Gabbiadini will continue to be a dying minutes option for Pioli and he will get loaned out to a different club in January, where he will ultimately get his season rolling and surprise a lot of people. This season’s Destro.