With a conclusion reportedly in sight, Scott Fleming looks back over the Mattia Destro transfer saga and asks whether the young striker is worth the hype.
It's fair to say that if Serie A fans were appointing a spokesperson, Enrico Preziosi wouldn't be the first person we turned to. But on Friday the Genoa President seemed to say exactly what we were all thinking.
“I am nauseated. Either Mattia Destro signs for Roma or he can stay at Siena. In my 22 years in football the Destro affair is the silliest thing that has ever happened to me. We are talking far too much about a lad who so far has scored only 10 Serie A goals.”
Aside from stealing two goals from the boy – Destro actually scored 12 last season, the highest tally an Italian his age has struck in Serie A since Roberto Bettega 31 years ago – Preziosi was spot on.
The Siena and Genoa owned striker has this summer starred in his very own version of The NeverEnding Story, the transfer saga to rule them all, outdoing the others both in terms of its length and sheer tedium. Euro 2012, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the Open have come and gone, Serie A's players have returned from beach holidays with their unfeasibly beautiful lady friends and began the annual 23-0 pre-season defeats of amateur sides – and still, STILL, the Destro saga is rumbling on.
It began as soon as last season finished, his sharp shooting on loan at Siena, and the gold star pinned to his chest by Cesare Prandelli with his inclusion in Italy's 32-man provisional squad for the Euros, attracting the interest of Inter, Milan, Juventus and Roma. In those early days Inter – who signed Destro from his home town club Ascoli when he was 14 and reared him in their youth system – seemed to have the edge, Preziosi stating that the Serpenti had a “moral advantage” and that “if a team offers €10m and Inter €9m, I will give him to Inter.”
Surprisingly, Siena then exercised their option to buy a half share in the 21-year-old, Robur President Massimo Mezzaroma claiming “there was a power outage that forced us to exercise our right of redemption,” as he emerged from a local sub station holding a pair of bolt cutters.
The initiative was handed to Roma, Fabio Borini's move to Liverpool freed up space at the Olimpico, and late last week the deal was very nearly complete. But then talks broke down regarding the Azzurrini forward's wages, Destro's head reportedly turned by the larger pay packet on offer at Juventus. And it was at that point that Preziosi embarked on the aforementioned rant. So, who is Destro, and does his actual ability justify all of this fuss?
Prolific in various different age groups for Inter and Italy throughout his teens, he was inducted into the Nerazzurri's senior squad during the treble season, and though he saw no game time, clearly made an impression. “You could already see back then that he was a great attacker, complete and technically good,” recalls Diego Milito.
The following campaign, his first in Serie A, was spent with Genoa after being used as a make weight in the Andrea Ranocchia deal, but he made just five starts and scored only one goal. It was only last year at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, under the tutelage of Giuseppe Sannino and in partnership with Emanuele Calaio, that he blossomed, his skill and ability to run with the ball as eye catching as his finishing, a notable example being when he forced Simon Kjaer into conceding a penalty with a burst of pace in Siena's 1-0 victory over Roma last February.
Some other miscellaneous facts? He “can't decide” whether he prefers blondes or brunettes, is “a magician with a vacuum cleaner” and his name roughly translates as Matthew Right. Yes, like the Channel Five guy.
You'll be needing all these facts because thankfully, at long last, the end is in sight, with rumours gathering pace throughout today that the differences with Roma have been resolved and the deal finalised.
Was it all worth it? Does the saga show that big Italian clubs are finally willing to prioritise promising youths and not use them as currency? Or that they're broke and no longer able to attract talent from abroad? The answers to all these questions will become apparent with time, for now, just be thankful that it’s finally over. We hope…
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