As Matteo Darmian spoke to the Press following his World Cup finals debut, he was as surprised as many at his inclusion in Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad.
“If someone had told me a few months ago that I would be here, honestly I would have laughed,” the 24-year-old confessed.
What the Torino man refers to is a three month period that would be represented on a graph as a consistently ascending line. Darmian’s World Cup selection followed an excellent season for Giampiero Ventura’s Granata that for the most part flew under the radar - he played 37 games in a variety of positions including either sides of midfield, centre-back and as either full-back.
Darmian has now turned into a crucial component of a club side that finished seventh in Serie A last season and is now, most recently, a starter for Italy - playing every minute of the Azzurri’s 2-1 win over England on Saturday night.
However, despite giving the impression he has simply popped out of the ground, Matteo Darmian will enter his third season as a Serie A regular after the World Cup. Appearing first as a 16-year-old substitute for Milan in 2006 before a collection of loan moves - first to Palermo and later to Torino in 2011 - cemented his status and first attracted the attentions of the Italy Coach.
Born in the Northern Italian town of Legnano to parents of Armenian descent, Darmian excelled at youth level for Milan, captaining the Diavolo’s primavera side at 17.
However, in June 2012 the Rossoneri sold their stake in Darmian’s contract to Palermo, ending an 11-year relationship with the player. The decision has proven to be an oversight - Darmian evolving into a consistent figure in Turin while Milan have struggled for quality at either full-back position in recent years.
Quick and industrious, Darmian was a constant threat on the right flank against England with overlapping runs and measured, intelligent movements. Displaying accurate crossing and incisive, calm passing, the former Palermo man combined well with Antonio Candreva, including one occasion that led to the Azzurri’s winning goal in Manaus.
Darmian’s effectiveness led to many lauding the performance, including Inter and Azzurro icon Sandro Mazzola.
“I didn’t expect Matteo Darmian to be so decisive at these levels but he really impressed me,” the former midfielder remarked. “England didn’t realise he was there and it allowed us to punish them.”
Darmian’s Italy involvement is a credit to Cesare Prandelli, who has once again trusted his instinct to value talent over experience. The choice of the Torino prospect instead of the more tournament tested Ignazio Abate and Christian Maggio has proven to be a worthwhile risk so far, Darmian representing another weapon that provides much-valued tactical flexibility.
It is only one game for the Torino talent who is very much at the early stages of a prospective Azzurro career, but the first indications are promising. With little expectation attached to the chances of finding a long-term solution at right-back out of either Abate or Maggio, Darmian has a real opportunity to make the position his own. Although if he did, it probably wouldn’t much of a surprise anymore.