Sugar Ray Leonard, an Arsenal snub and superstition. Antonio Labbate highlights the progress being made by Atalanta’s Andrea Consigli.
Cesare Prandelli picked four goalkeepers for the World Cup qualifiers against Bulgaria and Malta. Atalanta’s Andrea Consigli wasn’t one of them. He should have been and not just because he saved two penalties in the space of nine minutes against Cagliari in Week 2. Those stops, which denied Joaquin Larrivey and Daniele Conti from the spot, simply underlined all of the good things that the Cormano-native has been producing over the last two years.
Consigli has come a long way in the last 24 months. Always touted for great things after representing his country at all youth levels from Under-16 to U-21, it has taken time for the 2008 Olympic Games goalkeeper to rid himself, albeit not totally, of the uncertainty and mistakes that custodians will inevitably make. Now he’s within touching distance of a stage that he has always wanted.
“My reference point has been Gigi Buffon,” Consigli stated. “But as a kid I also had a weakness for Walter Zenga and Jose Luis Chilavert. I liked the Paraguayan a lot because he took free-kicks and I started life as a striker. That was until a game where there was so much fog that I found myself closer to our changing room than the opposing goal. I knew from that point that it was perhaps not the best position for me…”
Another graduate of the productive Atalanta youth system, he spent the early part of his playing days on loan at firstly Sambenedettese and then Rimini, clubs who offered him regular action. He returned to Bergamo in 2008 and, after initially ousting and then losing the gloves to Ferdinando Coppola, Andrea was eventually able to confirm himself as the outfit’s undisputed No 1.
Consigli’s career, though, could have easily taken him down a different path. In 2004 Arsenal made him an offer, but the net-minder opted against an experience abroad which had previously tempted other promising Italians in the same age bracket. “They were an option,” he recalled. “However, my agents and I decided that the right thing to do would be to grow in Bergamo because it is an ideal environment for a young player. After all, this is a club who let me play in the Primavera side when I was three years the junior of everyone else.”
Consigli, who idolises the “immense class” of Sugar Ray Leonard so much that the boxer’s name appears on his gloves and shinpads, is one of the superstitious breed of goalkeepers. Before each game he kisses both posts, touches the crossbar “and when I get my haircut nobody can score past me…” But the fact that he has reached this point of his career is more to do with quality than fortune.
One of Serie A’s most reliable ‘keepers last term, he’s started 2012-13 in memorable fashion. Called up by Prandelli for the experimental August friendly against England – he didn’t feature – the 25-year-old then had an evening to remember on Sunday 2 September when he followed up his double penalty saving exploits with a trip to the hospital after clashing with teammate Guglielmo Stendardo.
“I saw the game again in hospital when I started to feel better,” he noted. “It was beautiful, a dream for all goalkeepers. I’m always prepared for penalties and, thanks to technology, you can have detailed analysis to look at and that is a big advantage. I didn’t have any videos of Larrivey taking a spot-kick, while Conti usually hits his in the other corner. The two saves were therefore ones of instinct.”
Saving two penalties in one game was not a first for Serie A, in fact, it wasn’t even a first for Atalanta. Back in October 2000, Davide Pinato denied an embarrassed Daniel Andersson on two occasions in a 2-0 win at Bari. Nor was it new to Consigli, who famously parried two spot-kicks from a young Sebastian Giovinco when Atalanta faced Juventus in the 2002 Giovanissimi youth tournament Final.
“I’ve been following Consigli for years,” says Pinato. “And I have to say that I am seeing continual growth. In terms of personality, technical qualities and coolness, Consigli is amongst the top two or three Italian ‘keepers – and he has been for some time. If he manages to mirror what he did last season this term then he’ll find his way to a big club and he deserves that. He’s now complete, he really is an international ‘keeper.”
Prandelli, for now at least, has other ideas, but Consigli doesn’t have any ill feelings. “He has picked four excellent goalkeepers – Buffon, Morgan De Sanctis, Salvatore Sirigu and Emiliano Viviano – and I didn’t get annoyed at all,” he underlined. “If I am called back into the set-up then that will be a bonus for me. Until then, I am just thinking of doing well in Bergamo.”