Today in football everyone talks about passion, but it’s not enough to simply have it, you have to show it and if there is one Serie A player who shows it in bucketfuls, it is Torino’s Alessio Cerci. With his former club Fiorentina he earned a reputation as a troublemaker, yet in retrospect perhaps it was more his frightening self-assurance, a confidence in his game, rather than the suggested arrogance. Whatever it was, it’s all in the past and today he is the epitome of what a modern footballer should be - integral, intelligent and insatiable.
This season the 26-year-old has been all that and more, he has played in every game and now rightly believes he offers a lot to a team. “I have matured and in a 4-3-3 there are few players able to do what I can,” he considered recently. “I have unique characteristics. My best position? I am known as both a winger and someone who adapted to being a striker, whilst my preference is to play out on the flank.”
As a pacey and clever right winger, he is at his most dangerous when waltzing through defences before cutting inside to score with his lethal left foot and most of his goals have come in this manner. Full-backs may know this and invariably have it drummed into them before a game but they have still proven powerless to stop him. He scores goals, creates them, converts penalties, is exciting to watch and with 13 goals and 11 assists in Serie A, is a player bang in form.
With Torino he plays just behind central striker Ciro Immobile and they share a chemistry that almost guarantees goals, with the pair scoring or assisting in all but two of Torino’s 49 in the League. And while Cerci is at his best on the swift counter-attack, always ready to exploit the slightest defensive mistake, he is always an outlet for the long ball out of defence.
His assist and goal against Cagliari recently were perfect examples of this alertness. On the stroke of half-time Cerci collected the ball, screamed down the right, stole a few more yards on a defender and served up a teasing delivery at the back post for Omar El Kaddouri to head home the opener. In the second half it was his turn as he snapped on to a superb through ball behind Cagliari’s defence and with the unshakeable coolness of a leopard stalking its prey, simply slotted it past the onrushing ‘keeper from an angle.
It’s these sorts of skills that should make him a more than an obvious choice for Brazil. Even though he has yet to score or produce an assist in 12 international appearances, albeit with only two of those being starts, ‘Henry di Valmontone’ Cerci is a player on the kind of form that Cesare Prandelli may not be able to overlook.