Did you see Lorenzo Insigne’s goal for the Italian Under-21s against England in midweek? Now that’s what a No 10 should bring to the table. Furthermore, he was absolutely outstanding in the first half and – along with several others – should be in the Azzurri’s World Cup squad next summer.
The way he caressed the ball and twisted through England’s defence rekindled memories of past greats, Italian legends such as Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Francesco Totti, Gianni Rivera and Giancarlo Antognoni. They too were all fabulous players and could change a match in an instant. Furthermore, they all had one thing in common – the No 10 shirt was their second skin.
Sadly, the strength and prestige of that mythical number today has been very much diluted. Some may think it’s just a figure, but there are those who believe the 10 should not be handed out willy-nilly, especially in Italy where it’s not just a number but a calling card.
It is the shirt that is worn by the individual, like any of the above, who has unparalleled vision, the player who floats between the front line and the midfield as well as linking them. He is that special character who is blessed with an ability to see two or three moves in front of his teammates and exploit it accordingly.
In Brazil later this month, during the Confederations Cup, that special shirt will be handed to Juventus’ Sebastian Giovinco. For all his diversity, the Juve No 12 is hardly a salute in the direction of the greats who wore the shirt before him.
Clearly that number is not exclusive to the very best any longer after players of differing character – including Daniele De Rossi, Antonio Di Natale and Pablo Osvaldo – have worn it in the recent past.
What is mystifying, however, is how can Giovinco be a No 10 for his country when he has failed to claim the same unused jersey in Turin? It just doesn’t feel right. For a player to wear the 10 shirt for their national team, particularly on the peninsula, you would expect him to wear it for his club side.
Of course, not too long ago, it was expected that he would become the new Del Piero, but that has just not materialised. His only relevance to Pinturicchio, in reality, is that he is playing for Juventus. He may have been one of the Old Lady’s top scorers in the past campaign, but he rightly has his doubters – even amongst the Juve faithful.
There’s actually an argument over whether Sebastian should have even been called up to the Azzurri squad, never mind being handed the biggest shirt of all. There are a number of Under-21 internationals who Prandelli has admitted are pushing for full selection and Giovinco could be a victim of that talent which is coming through.
Right now, at best, Giovinco will only come off the bench in an emergency situation. He is certainly no driving force behind this side, not a player who can change the match in an instant. And he’s definitely not big or atomic enough to be given the sacred Italian No 10 – no matter how thin the squad may be.