Neither artist nor artisan but as a brave blend of both, Parma’s Marco Parolo is certainly no one-dimensional player. Although perhaps not everyone’s first choice, his goals and readiness to do the more prosaic surely justifies a place in Cesare Prandelli’s squad.
As a midfield powerhouse, blessed with pace, aggression and tactical awareness, this ability to help the more creative players do their job could be very useful in Brazil. Overall he has been a microcosm of Parma’s positive approach this season and has consistently been man of the match, whether Coach Roberto Donadoni employs a 3-5-2 or a 4-3-3. “Our strength is the mentality of a group that unitedly follows the ideas of their Coach,” he explained recently.
One possible advantage of this unity and versatility is if Prandelli uses his recently mentioned Plan B, speculated to involve Antonio Cassano as a false nine. If so, then Cassano’s Crociati colleagues in World Cup contention - Parolo, goalkeeper Antonio Mirante and central defender Gabriel Paletta - offer La Nazionale Coach a secondary, secure ready-made spine.
Although not exactly a regular, Marco is no stranger to the Azzurri shirt after winning his first cap against Ukraine in March 2011, just nine months after leading Cesena into Serie A after two successive promotions. Over the summer of 2012 he was loaned to Parma and after one season earned himself a four-year contract, a second cap in the 2-2 draw with Nigeria last November and call-ups against Germany and Spain.
The steely 29-year-old who can play both deep and further forward and has shown an ability to be in the right place at the right time - he could be Prandelli’s ideal substitute. Nowhere was this class better seen than in his strike against Napoli in Week 32. Running from deep on to a sublime pass from Mattia Cassani, without a moment’s thought, he screamed the ball home from the edge of the box.
It is this highly desirable versatility of being able to score, defend and play in different systems that could give him an edge against his immediate competition - Milan’s Andrea Poli and Riccardo Montolivo, Lazio’s Antonio Candreva and Fiorentina’s Alberto Aquilani. He is also the highest scoring Italian midfielder in Serie A, not including penalties, with eight goals and seven assists in 34 games. Plus he has the highest average of tackles with four per game and most shots, 2.2, with only Candreva on more, with 3.2.
Parolo admires England’s Steven Gerrard and like the all-combative Liverpool midfield anchor he is always aware of his role, uses both feet and spreads the play well. “He always knows where to place a ball for the maximum return and his enthusiasm inspires everyone on the pitch and around the club,” maintained Donadoni.
This enthusiasm spilt over into a public statement recently. “I would go to Brazil even as the eighth midfielder or third choice goalkeeper,” he emphasised. “It would be a dream come true.” If he does go perhaps he can just give the Azzurri another dimension and help make their dreams come true as well.