Il Principino’s versatility has made him stand-in regista at Juventus, where he is proving to be a worthy protégé on the eve of Fiorentina, says Jeremy Lim.
The silly booking picked up by Andrea Pirlo against Milan means he misses the first tie of Juventus’ triple header with Fiorentina this weekend. Ordinarily, the prospect of facing such a redoubtable opponent as Vincenzo Montella’s men without their midfield maestro would leave the Bianconeri faithful quaking. Not this time, however - this time, they have Claudio Marchisio. Specifically, Marchisio in his newest guise as Pirlo’s understudy and closet regista.
Serving as stand-in normally fell to Paul Pogba. The French sensation’s wide array of skills and ability to change a game established him as a mainstay in 2013. Wowing the club and public alike with his precocious ability, Pogba began making up the engine room alongside Pirlo and Arturo Vidal, displacing Marchisio from the starting XI. Previously unthinkable, the shuffle was testimony of how much the Italian champions had moved on.
It would not be the last Old Lady supporters saw of Il Principino, though. Instead of becoming disenchanted with a lack of playing time, Marchisio evidently spent his time on the periphery upgrading his skill set. The player’s versatility and willingness to improvise ensures he has stayed relevant over the two decades spent representing his boyhood club; first as an attacker, then a midfielder, followed by out to the wing, and again back in the centre.
Now the crowd favourite has been rediscovered slotting in front of the defence. Pirlo’s knee injury in December presented a golden opportunity to force his way back into the reckoning. Coach and former midfielder Antonio Conte went against the grain and thrust the keys to midfield into the hands of the man he has constantly built up in his own image.
Showcasing remarkable intuition and speed of thought versus teams such as Sampdoria and Trabzonspor, pass completion rates of 90% would become the norm for Marchisio in his new role. Demanding proactivity and responsibility never fails to transform the Turin native into a world-beater. “Marchisio is proving he can move very well as a deep-lying playmaker,” teammate Vidal affirmed in glowing tribute. “After all, we already knew Claudio can do anything in midfield. He can be the inside line pushing forward or the man who sets the tempo.”
Pinging precise cross-field passes around may have defined the rejuvenated workhorse's positional exploits, but neither has he shunned the dirty work entailed by the position. Indeed, after seeing him put in robust performances to his usual high standards in important results away at Atalanta and Lazio, it is difficult to comprehend why someone who has seemed so natural for the part was not considered for it before.
Juventus have ordained a candidate to be Pirlo’s heir through their diverse use of Marchisio. Pondering a tangible future for the club product in the regista role, particularly with their current mainstay in the waning days of his career, does not seem so far-fetched anymore. Now dictating play with the best, Marchisio will seek to cement his status as a worthy protégé with another influential display come Sunday’s clash with Fiorentina.