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Claudio Marchisio: Bandiera Today, Bandiera Tomorrow, Bandiera Forever

Juventus FC v US Citta di Palermo - Serie A Photo by Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

Dec. 6, 2009. A date that will live in infamy. The day that I officially became a Juventino. The day that Claudio Marchisio received a ball in Inter’s half, played it to Momo Sissoko, and then scored on the rebound after Sissoko took a shot. The day that seventh-placed Juventus beat the 2010 champions of Europe. The day that Claudio Marchisio grabbed me and said, “This is your club, this is your passion, and I am the man who will lead you to glory.”

Granted, he was a bit premature. Alessandro Del Piero was still at Juventus, and Juventus wasn’t exactly a top Italian team at the moment. Though Juve beat Inter in that match, they also lost to them in the Coppa Italia a month later (Gianluigi Buffon made a save, and Mario Balotelli scored off the rebound seconds later) — and while they went on to win Champions League, Juventus finished seventh that year. Just enough to get into Europa League qualification.

Juventus FC v FC Internazionale Milano - Serie A Photo by Valerio Pennicino/Getty Images

It’s odd to look back at this moment. We know now that Juventus would rebound, our Old Lady would resume her place as the best squad in all of Italian soccer. But at the time, Marchisio was being played out of position on the left wing as a mezz’ala. He did a fine job at this role, but it was clearly not what he was meant for. Still, in retrospect, we know that Antonio Conte would come, and by sheer willpower he crafted Juventus in a Scudetto-winning squad. And then he left, and Max Allegri came, and Juve found even more success at the European level.

But through it all, there was always Marchisio. And granted, there was also Buffon, Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Still, much as I love all of them, none of them quite personified Juve as Marchisio has managed to. This is most evidenced by the ridiculous goal tally that Marchisio racked up during the first half of the 2011-2012 season. Indeed, when the resurgent Juve squad first met the reigning Serie A champs A.C. Milan, it was Marchisio who scored both goals en route to a 2-0 Juventus victory. A few weeks after, I ordered my first Juventus jersey — the No. 8 jersey, the Marchisio jersey.

As we all know, Juventus went on to win the Scudetto that year. And the next year. And the year after that. And then Conte left, and Allegri was the new man in charge. Yet still, Marchisio managed to again ingratiate himself to the new manager. Andrea Pirlo was still the focal point of the midfield, yet Marchisio was subtly pushing his way into the role, and Allegri noticed this.

Pirlo remained the director of Juve’s midfield, and attack, that season. But after the loss to Barcelona in the Champions League final, it seemed a change was going to come. Pirlo was going to MLS, and Marchisio was about to embark on a new role at Juventus, once again.

It’s interesting to look at Marchisio’s comments after that match, because ultimately they have been proven correct. “Our cycle is not finished, we still have plenty of hunger for winning. We hope to return to the last four next year.”

He was a bit premature — Juventus lost in gut-wrenching fashion to Bayern Munich in the first knockout round the following season, but two years later they gained a measure of revenge against Barcelona. Juventus, without Marchisio playing a minute, won 3-0 on aggregate.

As we all know, Marchisio blew his knee out against Palermo towards the end of the 2015-2016 season, in an ultimately meaningless match in mid-April. My memory of this is non-existent, as I was sleeping during the match, which I believe began at 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Suffice to say, waking up to find out Marchisio had suffered a serious injury is not very fun. I was upset, and I was afraid. I was afraid that he would never recover. I was afraid that he had been cut down in his prime and that he would never be the same. Of course, after Juventus sold Paul Pogba to Manchester United, I was also worried that Juventus had crippled their midfield.

I remember the conversations I had with fellow Juventini last summer. We were scared. Sure, Juve had bought Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain, but, what about Marchisio? Could he recover from his injury? Could our midfield return to the same level without him?

At the beginning of this season, the answer was a resounding no. While Juve managed to grab ultimately satisfying results without Marchisio, it was obvious that this was largely down to the skills of the strikers — Higuain, Paulo Dybala and Mario Mandzukic — and our midfield was suffering.

A few months into this season, Marchisio returned. And yet, he still had to get back into form. He struggled in his first two games, against Sampdoria and Napoli, respectively. And in his first Champions League appearance, against Lyon, he received a yellow card. The road to recovery was not an easy one. Claudio persisted, and in the end, he persevered. On Nov. 22, 2016, in a Champions League group stage match against Sevilla, Juventus earned a penalty. They chose Marchisio to take the kick. He stood up to take the penalty, and he scored.

Sevilla FC v Juventus - UEFA Champions League Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

While the penalty was a nice moment, it ultimately proved to be more symbolic than concrete. Marchisio followed the Sevilla performance up with an assist in a game against Atalanta, but his overall play since then has been consistent if unremarkable. He certainly has not played poorly this season, but work remains for him to return to his pre-injury self.

Due to this, and due also in large part to the recent shift in formation and tactics, Marchisio seems to have fallen in the depth chart at Juve. With the two-man midfield being the new default, Sami Khedira and Pjanic are the preferred starters for larger matches. This continued through the two fixtures versus Barcelona. However, Marchisio’s recent performance versus Genoa indicates he is still very much a top level Serie A player, despite any recent shift in Juve’s tactics.

It's hard to be disappointed in his recovery given the fear we all felt when he first got hurt. It helps too that the squad is also playing well. Finally, one should see Marchisio’s new status in the squad as a continuation of his history of putting Juventus over himself. Throughout his career, he has made himself a veritable Swiss Army Knife in the midfield for his coaches. From Gigi Delneri, through Conte, and now under Allegri, Marchisio was always there, serving Juventus.