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Sunday July 16 2017
Cerci's rise and fall

Alessio Cerci went from the new Thierry Henry to the new Antonio Cassano and now Fantantonio’s teammate, writes Andrew Richardson.

Alessio Cerci is back in Serie A, but it is not the triumphant return everybody hoped for when he joined Atletico Madrid back in 2014. The then 26-year-old was signed by the Champions League runners-up with the expectation he would become another gem the Liga side would later sell on for a massive profit.

However, fast-forward three years and he has joined newly-promoted Hellas Verona, having seen his Atletico contract terminated on the back of just two appearances last season. His Torino goal twin Ciro Immobile rediscovered his form at Lazio, so you might not bet against Cerci doing the same at the Bentegodi.

So where has it all gone wrong for a player so much was expected of when he made his debut as a 16-year-old?

There was a real buzz about Cerci right from the start. The young winger was nicknamed the 'Thierry Henry of Valmontone' and was given his professional bow by Fabio Capello at Roma in 2003 against Sampdoria, a year before he would be the young star of the club's Under-19 side.

After failing to nail down a first-team place for the Giallorossi, Cerci was loaned out to Brescia in 2006-07, before going to Pisa the following season, where he notched 10 goals, despite suffering a serious knee injury.

His was then sent out on loan for a third consecutive season, joining Atalanta, where injuries restricted him to just 13 appearances. Cerci's chance at Roma finally arrived in 2009-10 at the age of 22, but Claudio Ranieri used him mainly in the Europa League.

At the end of that season, he was sold on to Fiorentina, where he showed glimpses of his talent. His fondness of the Florentine nightlife and regular fines for the illegal parking of his Maserati around the city saw him endure a tetchy relationship with the fans. Despite that, he was playing well and became a target for Manchester City in 2011, with Roberto Mancini a big fan. However, Cerci opted to remain in Florence.

As his performances continued to vary from the sublime to the bizarre and his relationship with the supporters failed to improve, he was sold to Torino in 2012 and it was there that his career really kicked into life. He was reunited with his former Pisa boss, Gian Piero Ventura.

In his first season, Cerci contributed eight goals and as many assists, earning a first call-up to the national side for a friendly against Brazil, before later being included in the FIFA Confederations Cup squad that summer.

Ventura opted to move the then 25-year-old further forward in his second campaign with Torino. He had operated mainly as a winger throughout his career, but would now be deployed as a second striker. The move paid dividends, with Cerci netting 13 times and contributing 11 assists as he enjoyed the best season of his life.

Impressed, Diego Simeone convinced the Atletico board to part with €16m to bring the Italy international to the Vicente Calderon, and in September 2014, he signed a three-year contract to join Atletico.

He struggled to adapt to life outside of Italy and made a swift return to homeland just four months later, joining Milan on an 18-month loan deal, with Fernando Torres going in the opposite direction. Again, he failed to make the grade.

Cerci became the victim of Rossoneri boo-boys after a string of under-par performances, particularly in a 1-0 defeat at Bologna. In January 2016, he joined Genoa on loan, where he scored four goals in 26 appearances.

Cerci returned to Atletico at the end of that season and would eventually play his first Rojiblancos match in over two years when he was selected for a Copa del Rey clash against Guijuelo.

He would make just one more appearance for the La Liga side, but he still had time to cause more controversy as he posted a photo of himself strolling around Madrid during his side's defeat to Barcelona.

At Verona, Cerci will find the man whose career path he appears to have emulated in Cassano. The two child prodigies were expected to shine at Roma, before earning defining moves to La Liga sides where they started to unravel amid controversy off the field.

At a time when Italian football is producing more talented teenagers than ever before, Cerci's incredible downfall is a reminder that having the talent is just half the battle. It takes an incredible dedication to be a true champion. At least Cerci and Cassano can swap regrets and horror stories in the Hellas locker room, acting as a living reminder of how a career can go horribly wrong.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
There was literally NO rise. He was an overrated hyped player who due to a poor generation of players, got an International call to the Azzurri. He was never a top player, and one good season in Serie A scoring a bunch of goals only fueled the hype. Same with Immobile,Pazzini, and Montolivo. All horrible players from one of Italy's worst football era's.
on the 17th July, 2017 at 4:44pm
Stephan El Shaarawy
Alessio Cerci
Federico Macheda
Domenico Criscito
Vito Mannone
Alberto Aquilani
Fabio Borini
And so many more..

I liked Cerci a lot. Hope he bounces back.
It's sad that not many Italians play abroad, I think it could help them stay afloat.

Hope to see La Gumina, Bentivegna, and Lo Faso shine
Forza Palermo
on the 16th July, 2017 at 10:55pm
@Anonymous: Cassano had arguably three seasons in his entire career which weren't ruined by his laziness and bad attitude. That does not make a "great career" and he had a penchant for turning invisible at crucial moments. Anyway, who knows, maybe Cerci can pull a Luca Toni and try to turn things around once again at Verona? Unlike Cassanata he still has time.
on the 16th July, 2017 at 5:06pm
Just another italian talent that was probably over-hyped to begin with... what is it with Italy these days? The vast majority of the talent these days just fizzles out after a few years of high expectations.. I have a feeling a similar article on Veratti will be published... SES is already at this point... I can go on an on. Others feel free to add to this list!
on the 16th July, 2017 at 3:58pm
Of course that no one who knows the man could argue with most of the points made in this article, but the fact of the matter is that Cassano made much bigger career, both in the teams he played, and especially as international, compared with Cerci.
And when it comes tom sharing horror stories in the locker room, well, that one's definitely right on the head! The Verona youngsters will definitely have someone/s to learn from!
on the 16th July, 2017 at 11:39am
You could argue that cassano cerci attitudes were such a handicap that they achieved the most out of their respective careers. Both are disappointments briefly peaking before self savaging their careers i guess in cerci case there is still time to change but it seems unlikely. They should be in good company there are plenty of players at verona which haven't lived up to the hype or expectations put upon them. Verona are going to hard to predict this season.
on the 16th July, 2017 at 10:26am
This author perpetuates common myth: while Cassano did not live up fully to his potential, that does not diminish his great career.By 30, Cerci's age, Cassano had recorded great seasons with AS Roma, Sampdoria and Milan. He had been Italy's best player at Euro 2004 and helped to lead Italy to the final of Euro 2012.Cassano's performances justified his place as the most talented attacking Italian player of his generation.Cerci would do well to come close to matching Cassano's achievements.
on the 16th July, 2017 at 4:57am
Cassano represents the most talented attacking Italian player of his generation. By 30, Cerci's age, Cassano had recorded excellent seasons with Roma (2003-2004), Sampdoria (2008-2009, 2009-2010) and, in spite of injuries, AC Milan (2010-2011, 2011-2012). With the Nazionale, he was Italy's best player in Euro 2004 and played a major role on 2012 team that reached the final. He has not lived up to his potential, but has had a great career. Cerci, who I admire, has much to do to match Cassano
on the 16th July, 2017 at 1:36am

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