With talk of young, athletic strikers dominating the thoughts of Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli, Alberto Gilardino is hoping that there is still room for a touch of experience on the plane to Brazil.
The 31-year-old broke on to the scene in Serie A as a talented forward for Parma, earning himself a move to Milan in 2005. Gilardino left the Rossoneri in 2008 for Fiorentina and has since become somewhat of a journeyman, playing for Genoa, Bologna and the Grifone again in a two year spell following his departure from the Viola in 2012.
A consistent scorer in Serie A, Gilardino has been a continual goal threat throughout his career and his role as the Genoa’s top scorer this season is no surprise. The former Fiorentina striker’s 14 goals in 33 appearances are by far the best offensive contribution from any Genoa player this season, with Luca Antonelli’s three goals the team’s next best tally.
Gilardino’s goals have been vital in maintaining Genoa’s Serie A status, accounting for 36 per cent of the Rossublu’s 38 goals so far this season in a style that has not been adapted or changed since his entrance into Azzurro consideration a decade ago.
Strong and adept at holding up the ball, Gilardino is a classic striker able to receive long balls to maintain offensive pressure, often looking to play a teammate through with a flick-on. A reliable presence from set-pieces, the 31-year-old is an assured finisher with his head and both feet.
Thanks to their time together at Fiorentina, Gilardino has often been a favourite of Prandelli – even being made captain for a friendly against Ukraine in 2011 and when Mario Balotelli suffered an injury during 2013’s Confederations Cup, it was Gilardino who started the remaining fixtures in the tournament. If not his goals, then Prandelli’s trust in the striker’s reliability could be what sees the forward in Brazil.
However, despite the relationship between player and Coach, Gilardino faces competition from a collection of talents, all of who are younger than he is. With Balotelli, Giuseppe Rossi, Ciro Immobile, Mattia Destro and Domenico Berardi all looking to stake their claim to a place in the Italy squad in summer, Gilardino’s window of opportunity may have shut.
The fate of Gilardino’s World Cup chances may depend on the fitness of Giuseppe Rossi, a player who Prandelli still hopes to be able to select for the summer’s tournament. If the Fiorentina man is still not 100 per cent from the knee injury that has kept him out of action since January, then Gilardino could be selected in his stead as a safety net for the mercurial Balotelli and other forwards who carry much less experience.
There is a lot of competition for the striker positions ahead of the World Cup and with no more than five spots expected to be open, there could be more than a few disappointed players in front of Coaches or on sunbeds in June. Gilardino will hope that experience and familiarity mean he’s not one of them.