With the countdown to Brazil on, Luca Cetta asks if Alessio Cerci should be considered for an Azzurri starting position.
Watching Alessio Cerci play, it echoes back to the time Gianluigi Lentini donned the famed Granata shirt. Lentini was the promising star whose career stalled following a world-record transfer move to Milan, in part thanks to a horrific car crash.
Cerci, on the other hand, moved to Turin to get his career back on track. Likened to Thierry Henry in his youth, Cerci hasn’t come close to emulating the Frenchman. After frustrating top flight spells with first club Roma and then Fiorentina – he calls them ‘wasted years’ – he is now making a mark at Torino.
Cerci’s first season with Toro saw him net eight times – second only to Rolando Bianchi – and lay off many more for his teammates. Reunited with Giampiero Ventura – who coached him in Serie B with Pisa – Cerci flourished, so much so his contributions were recognised by Cesare Prandelli. Making his Azzurri debut against Brazil earlier this year was what Cerci called the first achievement he had laid out following his Torino switch ticked off.
Cerci made one appearance at the Confederations Cup and has only strengthened his Azzurri claims since. He’s already equalled last season’s goal tally in just 12 matches. That includes the strike to end Roma’s historic streak. It’s come as Ventura’s switched from his more traditional attacking 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2, starting the 25-year-old in attack. “I am a winger, but I can also play as a striker,” Cerci noted in September.
Since Euro 2012 Prandelli has tinkered with various formations. He says leading up to the Germany and Nigeria friendlies there is a precise idea in mind, which is two strikers. But he’s also looking at other options, as recent games have shown. One system that’s come along in fits and spurts is the trident attack. Such a formation would put Cerci on the radar. Assuming Mario Balotelli is the central striker, Giuseppe Rossi and Lorenzo Insigne would battle for the left-sided role, leaving the opposite flank up for grabs.
When fielded out wide this term it’s generally on the right, where Cerci can cut in on his left foot. Antonio Candreva has been favoured by Prandelli for this role and offers higher workrate, but Cerci presents natural width and greater ability on the ball, plus creates an explosive front trio. Not to mention with the presence of Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio behind in midfield, Italy have an energetic engine room. If they need something going forward, Cerci would be the preferable choice.
The Torino man just wants a chance, no matter where. “Now I want to prove my worth, it doesn’t matter what role I will be used in.”
Is he good enough for a starting role at international level? His Coach thinks he can get there. “Alessio is on the right path,” said Ventura earlier this year. “Now it’s up to him to decide – if he carries on with the hard work he’s been doing then he can become a player capable of playing at the European level. Otherwise he risks losing himself again.” On the flipside, he’s not been tested in Europe like his teammates, nor has much experience at the highest level.
Nonetheless, Cerci continues to improve. Given his start to 2013-14, he offers another option in a two-man attack, but admittedly faces stiffer competition for a starting role with the wealth of attacking talent available to Prandelli at present.
Having steered himself down the right path, Cerci is in a position to put pressure on Prandelli. He is most likely on the shortlist of candidates to cross the Atlantic Ocean next June. Should he continue his fantastic opening to the season in Turin then it presents Prandelli a welcome headache come the World Cup.