I like to think of Paolo De Ceglie's career trend as a car that has a horrible transmission. I know it's not exactly something you'd like to be compared to, but it's just the first thing that came to mind. It's odd, I know.
(No, before you go away, let me explain.)
Look at how things have gone for Paolino: Start, stop. Start, stop. Start, stop. He runs smoothly, makes progress — then gets injured. Then the cycle unfortunately repeats. Be it a collapsed lung or his knee cap getting all blown up, injuries have always gone along with — and stunted the progressing form — of Juventus' young Ashton Kutcher lookalike.
When it comes to primavera players breaking into the senior team, there's not exactly a plethora of examples. That's just how it's been lately. With Juventus' youth sector being a little, hmm, neglected in recent years, the numbers of players to have more than a cup of coffee in Torino is pretty small.
De Ceglie is certainly one of those for me — and I'm not the only one.
We've all seen the problems Juventus have had in recent years when it comes to its fullbacks. Different players arrive, usually play mediocre at best, then are out the door within a year or two. Cristian Molinaro was, well, Cristian Molinaro. Fabio Grosso was thought to be a decent signing, only to show that just because you have a quality tan doesn't mean you're a quality footballer.
Not De Ceglie, who has been with Juve's first team since the 2008-09 campaign after a season on loan at Siena. PDC has shown what others haven't — potential. He hit the ground running under Gigi Delneri and continued to turn in quality performance after quality performance before he got injured.
That, unfortunately, had been the story of Paolino's time with Juve. Just when you thought he was making serious progress and taking that next step to really establishing himself in the starting lineup, he'd get sidelined by some kind of injury. Start, then stop. Start, then stop.
But this season seems to be the real deal. As we've seen since he became a regular under Antonio Conte, De Ceglie — like most young players who get regular playing time — has developed right in front of our eyes. You can see the confidence building game after game. His defense — the thing that many have said would hold him back when it to being a regular player as a left back — has drastically improved, as it did the last time he received regular playing time.
See the trend?
And let us not forget, De Ceglie is four months younger than a certain Claudio Marchisio.
The burning question: Can De Ceglie become Juventus' left back of the future? There's no doubt in my mind that he can. If he keeps improving the way he has been as of late, he'll be more than deserving of a starting spot. And not just next season, but for many years to come. Add in the fact that Martin Caceres is 24 years old (25 on April 7) and Stephan Lichtsteiner is 28, and Juventus, outside of a backup here or there, are set up fullback-wise for a good amount of time.
That's how important De Ceglie's development has been. He's filled the void Juve desperately needed him to and shown that he can hang at a club like Juventus. He has earned the trust of his coach the old fashioned way — he earned it. And now with a new contract until 2017 signed, sealed, and delivered, Paolo can continue on this upward trend of awesomeness. I certainly approve of it.
The non-believers can keep on doin what they do. So, carry on as you were. I'll just be sitting here on the bandwagon with my #TeamDeCeglie shirt on. Come on aboard if you'd like. There's still plenty of room.