Giorgio Chellini. Alessandro Nesta. Paolo Maldini. Some of the world’s greatest defenders have been from the beautiful country of Italia. The Italians are renowned for being great defenders as well as having attacking flair, but are classy defenders, not ones to make many rash challenges and good on the ball. Manchester United have recently recruited Matteo Darmian, an Italian fullback from Turin-based club Torino for just under £13m and is touted to become a future great and an integral part of the Italian national team. However United’s recent Italian acquisitions have been more Italian incidents rather than inspirations, for example Giuseppe Rossi and Federico Macheda, who’ve both been flogged off back to Italy and to the championship respectfully. The Italian is largely unknown in the grand scheme of things so that real question is, who exactly is Matteo Darmian?
Darmian was born in the Legnano region of Italy to two Italian parents although comes from Armenian roots, meaning he was eligible for both the Italian and Armenian national team. Darmian was first spotted by former goalkeeper Beniamino Abate, who has given the task to find and scout talent in the Lombardy area, where Darmian was seen by Abate and impressed the former man between the San Siro sticks. Darmian joined the AC Milan youth system in 2000 when he was 10 years old. He continued to work up the youth ranks and then in 2006, was given his first team debut at the age of 16 in the form of a substitute appearance in the Coppa Italia. Later that season he was also handed his league debut against Udinese and ended his first professional season as a footballer with a Champions League winners medal, as AC Milan went on that season to become European Champions once again, revenging the bitter and sour taste left in their mouths after the 2005 final, which they famously lost after being 3-0 up at half time. He stayed in and amongst the Milan youth team and reserves before being loaned out to Serie B side Padova for the 09-10 season, making 20 appearances for the club and scoring 1 goal, his first professional goal. They finished a disappointing 19th in the league but did win the relegation play-off however. Many deemed his loan spell a moderate success and had progressed significantly as a player. The following season the Italian was deemed surplus to requirements so he was sold to fellow Serie A team Palermo for a fee around €800,000. He went on to make 16 appearances for the Southern Italy club before being loaned out to another Serie B side, this time to Torino. He excelled in Italy’s lower league for Turin, going on to make 33 appearances for the Turin club as well as help them achieve promotion to Serie A. In June of 2012 Torino bought 50% of the rights to Matteo, obtaining the full player rights in 2013. In the 13/14 season, he emerged on the big stage and was voted in the Serie A team of the season. This prompted the Italian national manager to call up Matteo for the 2014 world cup and played in the group opener against England and tormented England’s left hand side. The season just gone he had a great season, even if Torino only managed a top half finish.
Matteo Darmian is a the perfect example of the modern fullback, having the defensive qualities of a centre-half but the athleticism and attacking prowess of a winger. He has a great engine on him, he can run up and down the right hand channel as he is quite the athlete. His technical ability is quite good for a defender too, as he can use his left foot just as well as his preferred right foot which just adds to his versatility as a player, as he can play in a variety of positions such as right back, left back, centre back and as a right midfielder quite capably. Darmian registered 4 goals and 4 assists last season in all competitions as well as having 78% passing accuracy. He won 0.8 arial duels on average per game and is by no means short, measuring out to be 5’11. He also averaged 2.5 tackles a game as well as 1.3 interceptions. The strengths in his play are his defensive contribution and his tackling however a significant weakness is his crossing, something which Louis van Gaal will undoubtably get him to train and improve on.
Overall, I think Matteo Darmian will become a great and dependable defender for both Manchester United and Italy and because of his versatility of being able to play in a number different positions, he seems like the ideal Louis van Gaal type of player and will be a vital to Italy’s future successes.