“He’s a very good striker. He’s tall, he’s quick and he has a great left foot.” That’s the verdict of Melania Gabbiadini when asked about the ability of her younger brother Manolo. Such an assessment is perhaps to be expected from a sibling, but she speaks with the benefit of her own experience as an international striker – and a relatively successful one at that.
Now aged 28, Melania’s list of honours is one which Manolo will perhaps find tough to match. Having started her career at local club ACF Bergamo, she moved to Bardolina Verona in 2004. To date, she’s won three Scudetti, three Italian Super Cups and two Italian Cups. In Italy’s on-going European Championship qualifying campaign, she’s banged in four goals and provided two assists in four games.
Manolo, though, is starting to make a name for himself in Italian football thanks to his heroics with the Under-21 side. Currently penalised by his inexperience at Atalanta, he is thriving for Ciro Ferrara’s seemingly unstoppable outfit. In 13 games for the Azzurrini, the 19-year-old has bagged 10 goals to date. It has been enough to get his agent talking about interest from the big clubs – inside and outside of the peninsula.
In reaching double figures for his country, Gabbiadini has become only the ninth Italian in history to score at least 10 goals at that level. Yet it is when comparing him with past Azzurrini goal kings that it becomes evident that a prolificness with the U-21 set-up does not guarantee a career path that is paved in gold.
For the success stories of Andrea Pirlo, Christian Vieri and Gianluca Vialli, there are the still to be judged playing spells of Giuseppe Rossi, Alberto Gilardino and Robert Acquafresca, as well as the ‘disappointments’ of Cristiano Lucarelli and Massimo Maccarone – two who didn’t quite reach the heights that many predicted while they were baby-faced assassins.
Fortunately, and refreshingly, Gabbiadini seems to be well aware that he is by no means the finished product. “I don’t consider myself as a talent,” he stated. “I have so much to learn and prove that I haven’t even arrived yet. I read considerations about myself in the media, but I try not to take too much notice. I can’t afford to let it go to my head because the road ahead is still long.”
One of Manolo’s primary problems is that while his agent talks about interest from Juventus, amongst others, the youngster can’t get a regular game in Bergamo. A product of the outfit’s famed youth system, Gabbiadini has been restricted to just 111 minutes of Serie A football this term – thanks to a combination of his age, boss Stefano Colantuono’s tactics and the surprising goal touch of Serie A top scorer German Denis.
However, Gabbiadini, who spent the 2010-11 campaign on loan at Cittadella, seems prepared to bide his time having been recalled to his beloved Nerazzurri following their promotion to the top flight last season.
“I’m young and I want to play more, but I have had the right impact with Serie A,” the 1.86m tall striker, who initially wanted to be a goalkeeper, stated. “We are doing well and I am learning a lot from my teammates in training and during games. I pay close attention to quality players like Denis, Maxi Moralez and Simone Tiribocchi. They are greats and examples for me.”
Being an Atalanta fan, you can understand where Gabbiadini’s patience stems from, but sooner or later he knows that he has to start playing – and with regularity – if he is to get close to his sister’s haul of goals and trophies.