2013-14 SERIE A REVIEW

Serie A Player of the Season 2013-14

Carlos Tevez, Juventus

Carlos Tevez’s spectacular debut season in Serie A means he deservedly clinches Football Italia’s Player of the Season award, writes Jeremy Lim.

When Alessandro Del Piero departed Juventus, he left the club’s iconic No 10 shirt without a bearer for the first time in 17 years. The debate it spawned lasted the entire season it went vacant. Del Piero believed it should not be retired, in order to have others continuously aspiring to wear it.

Then Carlos Tevez arrived from Manchester City, and the Old Lady took the opportunity to pass on the baton and bestow him as their ‘top player’. Finally, they had identified someone in Pinturicchio's mould, who could influence matches with moments of sheer quality. Enthusiasm for the signing was widespread, and patron John Elkann encouraged the Turin faithful to keep those levels high, saying: “Juve now have another great No 10.”

Tevez’s words at his presentation consisted of a right mix of deference for Juve’s legendary former captain, yet he was clearly not overawed by the mantle. “Obviously I didn't want to forget Del Piero who was the last player to wear No 10. It is a great pleasure and honour to wear this jersey with his number. I already inherited that shirt from Diego Maradona at Boca Juniors. I respect it, it provides me with a challenge,” he assured.

Queried on how he would get along with the passionate and fiery Coach Antonio Conte, Tevez was clear: “With one word. Respect.” The Argentine’s reputation for golf escapades and touchline meltdowns had preceded him of course, sparking reports later that he turned up for July pre-season training overweight.

But Conte would vouch for his star from day one, an indication of the trust the striker already enjoyed from his boss. “He’s extraordinary,” the trainer declared after initial rounds of contact. “He’s a great professional, a splendid person, always willing and working exceptionally well.”

The two-time Premier League winner absolutely wasted no time in vindicating such faith and in proving his focus lay solely on the pitch and on his football. A dream start to the season, where he netted on his competitive Bianconeri debut in the Supercoppa thrashing of Lazio and then in his Serie A bow against Sampdoria, provided good omens for what was to come.

Bringing an altogether new dimension to Juventus’ attack with his direct running and all-action style, Tevez was involved in the Capocannoniere race till the end. Solo strikes like the one against Genoa and that blockbuster past Milan helped underline that he was the final piece previously missing in his new outfit’s puzzle. In the end his 19 goal tally was pipped by Ciro Immobile and Luca Toni, but still neither party could claim to have had such a bearing on the way their teams played.

It was Tevez who spent the first to last minute of each match chasing down every loose ball, becoming a public nuisance for opposition rearguards. He fired in the second goal on the way to his first Juventus hat-trick in the 4-0 home thrashing of Sassuolo like such, doggedly latching onto a wayward backpass to slot home.

Even when not involved at the business end, the 30-year-old’s industry and work-ethic drove the team on. Consider when he won the ball back in Week 35’s return clash at the Mapei outside the Neroverdi’s area, with Juve trailing. From there, Claudio Marchisio finished the move that sealed their comeback, ultimately breaking the back of fellow Scudetto contenders Roma's challenge.

After never having been so previously reliant on a single source of firepower upfront when clinching their previous pair of Scudetti, the constant outlet Tevez provides the Italian champions with now is certainly a winning contribution they can savour. And though his strike record in Europe does not speak wonders, he still has a couple more seasons left on his contract to remedy that statistic.

Like Del Piero did in the No 10 before him, Tevez embodies the spirit of the Old Lady in all her challenges. Now a firm fan favourite, the club look definite to be facing the similar dilemma of identifying another bearer of the fabled shirt once Tevez finally calls time on his spell in Turin.

Honourable mentions

Arturo Vidal - El Guerrero was the battling presence in the centre that drove Juventus to produce her extraordinary heights of consistency this term. Serie A’s most prolific midfielder with 11 goals.

Ciro Immobile - Former Serie B top scorer and now Capocannoniere in A with 22 strikes, the striker from Naples will hope to fully emulate Italy legend Paolo Rossi by representing the Azzurri at the World Cup.

Mehdi Benatia - The rock-solid defender was assured and uncompromising at the heart of a Roma defence that kept 21 clean sheets this season, the most the Giallorossi have managed in a single campaign.

Andrea Pirlo - Now 35 but showing no signs of slowing. The Juventus midfield maestro showcased his full repertoire of free-kick abilities this season and directed the Bianconeri to their record points haul of 102.

Alessio Cerci - Italy’s Thierry Henry produced his most consistent year to date with 13 goals and 11 assists for Torino. He will rue the penalty miss that left his side with Europa League qualification heartbreak, however.