The career of Mattia Perin feels like it should have been much more-straight forward. The talented goalkeeper looked destined to become one of Italy’s most established names, but injuries and an unfortunate career move saw him surprisingly poised to join Benfica this week. When reports emerged that his move had been put on hold after he failed a medical, things seemed to be falling apart for the 26-year-old. Just where did it go wrong and with the strength of Serie A’s goalkeeping roster, has he any other choice than Portugal?
Perhaps failing a medical wasn’t all that surprising, even if the move to Benfica could be postponed to January rather than cancelled altogether. It is true that the former Genoa custodian has been unlucky with injuries and has ruptured the cruciate ligament in both knees as well as having two operations in his right shoulder (all in the space of three years).
It wasn’t always like this, the former Grifone goalkeeper was tipped to be one of Italy’s rising stars, but the injuries certainly haven’t helped. He still managed to get his move to Juventus at the beginning of last season, but saw his playing time limited as Wojciech Szczesny kept him away from the top spot. The move to Turin was understandable, as why wouldn’t you want to move to Italy’s biggest club, but it seemed strange he would knowingly go there to be second choice? Especially as he was making headway with the national team.
Perin joined Genoa from his hometown club Latina in 2008. Successful loan spells at Padova and in particular Pescara put him on many club’s radars, but Genoa quickly made him their number one and he never looked back. At 6ft 2in he isn’t the tallest of goalkeepers, but his natural athleticism and superb reactions gave the impression that he was rather a spectacular goalkeeper. The height he could get when taking crosses is quite extraordinary and his bravery in close quarter saves is second to none. One has to think however, that this style may have been the cause of so many injuries.
His time at Genoa saw him often be the hero as the Grifone battled relegation after relegation, but his ability meant staying there couldn’t last forever. Whilst many in the city yearned for him to stay and become a club legend, he was always going to move on. What followed (despite talk from Inter and Napoli) was a move to Juventus, little playing time (nine games in total), injury and in the end an exit.
Whilst Benfica are a great European club and there is no doubt that Perin needed to leave for more playing time, at first it seemed strange that no Serie A club made a move. It is perhaps testament to the Italian topflight and the quality of the goalkeepers that there were no takers. Inter, Milan, Napoli, Fiorentina, Roma and Lazio all have top quality goalkeepers, whilst even Sampdoria and Genoa now have men they trust between the posts.
Torino also have a good custodian and Atalanta have a man who is emerging with a good reputation, so there simply wasn’t anywhere for Perin to go. It is quite amazing to see how in the space of a year, one of Italy’s better goalkeepers was forced to look abroad to get playing time.
The final indignity was the failed medical. This perhaps also shows why Perin’s stock has fallen so much and so quickly. Who would take a risk on him? Now he will have to go back to Turin to recover and has Gigi Buffon right back in front of him in the pecking order.
For Perin, it may be the start of a new chapter. If he can get himself fit for January, then perhaps this move to Portugal can be rekindled, become the established number one, injury free and playing Champions League football whilst winning domestic honours. For a goalkeeper of his quality, it would be a shame for this to be the beginning of the end. Let’s hope that it is instead the dawn of a new chapter.
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