It has been said for a while now that the No 10 shirt had fallen out of fashion and lost its value. Whether that’s true or not, there are still several players around who certainly would not look out of place wearing that mythical set of digits.
This weekend two of them could meet in the most mouth-watering match of the season so far, as Juventus host Napoli. It should be a highly competitive clash as both teams look to grab the psychological edge after winning six, drawing one and sharing top spot for a while. Factor in that Juve are currently Serie A’s top scorers while the Partenopei have yet to concede on their travels and it’s the old unstoppable force meets an immoveable object paradox.
There are few solutions to this primordial conundrum with perhaps a singular moment of magic the only answer. If that’s the case, undoubtedly Juve’s superb Sebastian Giovinco and Napoli’s mini-maestro Lorenzo Insigne, if picked, are capable of deciphering the dilemma.
Sampdoria Coach Ciro Ferrara, who played for both clubs, is one that thinks along these lines. “It will be a top clash in tactical, physical and technical terms,” remarked the former Under-21 manager and Italian defensive legend. “Both teams have the single players who can add that extra bit of quality. It may well be decided by a flash of individual brilliance, as often happens in these cases.”
However, whether that flash will be allowed to flourish is debatable. Unlike Ferrara’s era when Juve had magicians like Roberto Baggio and Alessandro Del Piero, while Napoli had Diego Maradona and Gianfranco Zola, today it seems Coaches have little time for flair players. Instead they develop precise roles and tactics that leave little opportunity for unconventional expression.
If anyone should know this, it is ‘Magic Box’ Zola, who was pushed out of Parma despite his undeniable skills. “In Italy we changed the way we were selecting players,” said the former Azzurrini assistant boss. “We were looking for players who had power, pace and strength. For me it has been a disaster.”
Yet perhaps all is not lost and we may just have the new Del Piero and the new Zola, two players of yesteryear who had unparalleled skills and ability. And although not wearing the No 10 shirts, Sebastian and Lorenzo are arguably their modern day equivalents.
Former Lazio and Palermo Coach Delio Rossi, for one, believes Insigne resembles a young Zola. “Lorenzo is similar to Gianfranco and an advert for youngsters in Naples and the South,” he emphasised. “The boy has an ease in getting past his man, as he showed in the game against Malta recently.”
Meanwhile Zola, who worked with Juve starlet Giovinco in the U-21s, claims that today’s 25-year-old forward could indeed be Pinturicchio’s successor. “Giovinco is Del Piero’s heir in my opinion,” he insisted. “I thought I would find myself struggling for a classic finisher when he was with the U-21s, but he is equipped with class and creativity and has become an excellent second striker.”
Although obviously no one can replace ADP in the Juve fans’ affections, Giovinco is at least heading in the right direction. And both him and Lorenzo can be traced in a direct line from their footballing forefathers in a well defined hierarchy.
In Giovinco’s case his history is tied up with the likes of Omar Sivori, Liam Brady, Michel Platini, Michael Laudrup, Baggio and, of course, Del Piero. And although Napoli’s list is a little shorter, it is no less legendary with the innovative Sivori again, Maradona, Zola and quite possibly Ezequiel Lavezzi, all short in stature but giants on the field.
Of course both players have a long way to go to reach the level of their rather more famous forerunners, but making the right sort of impact in this Scudetto showdown will be another step forward in their promising careers.