The team bus pulls up. Mattia Destro throws his bag into the luggage compartment and climbs aboard. He sits in the same seat as always. Later, he pulls out his iPod, places his headphones over his ears and plays two songs – a Jennifer Lopez number and the Danza Kuduro dance anthem. The striker is ready for action.
“Yes, I’m superstitious,” he admits. “I also have a particular routine in the changing rooms too. Before each game I always make the same two gestures, but I won’t tell you what they are.”
Whatever the big secret, it has certainly been effective for the striker. At the end of just his second Serie A season, the youngster had netted 12 goals in 30 League games, as well as one in two Coppa Italia ties. In doing so, he won comparisons with the scoring exploits of Roberto Bettega who in 1970-71, as an Under-21 international like Destro, grabbed 13 goals for Juventus. It was the kind of form which wasn’t lost on Italy CT Cesare Prandelli.
“His call-up to the national squad is no fluke,” said Giuseppe Sannino, his boss in Tuscany this term, after the uncapped forward was included in the 32-man preliminary party for Euro 2012. “Prandelli would have seen how the player has improved, but I don’t think he knows just how good he actually is.”
Destro arrived at the Stadio Franchi in the summer from Genoa in a co-ownership deal. Although he had scored on his Serie A debut for the Rossoblu, he needed a spell in the provinces to give him the opportunity that all youngsters require to showcase their potential. He didn’t start the term as the club’s No 1 striker, but certainly finished in that role by benefitting from the injury which ruled out Emanuele Calaiò from March onwards.
The U-21 star, just one of a number of interesting attacking talents at the disposal of Azzurrini Coach Ciro Ferrara, has come a long way since his goal-hanging days as a kid. “I used to just stay static in attack and wait for the right ball to be played for me to bang it in,” he notes.
That’s not the kind of player that Prandelli has called up. While Destro’s chances of making the final cut may be slim, the fact that the tactician has even given the boy such an opportunity highlights the assumption that the Coach may already be thinking about his possible options for the 2014 World Cup campaign.
“It’s not easy to score 12 goals in Serie A,” Prandelli highlighted this week. “He’s not your classical centre-forward. He’s a modern day attacker and he’s shown this season that he has the characteristics that we are looking for in our attacking department.”
Whether or not Destro does make the championships, his name is set to be a constant in the summer transfer rumour mill. Genoa chief Enrico Preziosi has declared that he is part of their future, but the Marassi chief is no stranger to agreeing sales when one of the big clubs come knocking. Juventus have been linked, but a return to Inter is also being mooted. Andrea Stramaccioni’s public praise of Mattia this week did nothing but fan those particular flames.
“I was there in the year of the Treble,” Destro recalls. “But I was just a young kid and I had some real monsters ahead of me in the pecking order. Really, what could I have expected? But I spent some important years in the Inter system after my move from Ascoli.”
The Beneamata were forced to sacrifice the kid born in 1991 when they made a move for Genoa’s Andrea Ranocchia, the centre-back whose star has fallen this term while Destro’s has simultaneously risen. But the attacker holds no grudges against the decisions of the past.
“I obviously hoped to graduate to the first team after going through the Inter youth sector, but there are players who are immediately ready and others who need to mature elsewhere. I’ve never held any resentment against Inter and I’d happily return because it is everyone’s dream to win something with a big club.”