“I don’t remember De Ceglie scoring two even in training… The important thing is to get into scoring positions too and that’s what De Ceglie did tonight.”
Roberto Donadoni couldn’t believe his eyes, and it’s highly likely that most Serie A purists couldn’t either. The sight of Paolo De Ceglie scoring twice is a rarity in the world of Calcio, given that the left-back had never achieved such a feat in eight years of professional football.
In fact, you would have to scroll all the way back to the 1996-97 season for the last time De Ceglie scored two – in an Under-10s match. But with all curses, they exist to be broken, and the left-back resoundingly dispelled his during Parma’s 2-0 victory over Inter on Saturday.
The Ducali’s problems have been well-documented this term, and with Antonio Cassano struggling to buy a goal in his last few matches, a lack of firepower only added to their woes. Yet no-one expected De Ceglie to follow his Coach’s orders and become an unlikely catalyst.
The former Juventus defender opened his side’s account midway through the first half against the Nerazzurri. Plugging away at his marker, De Ceglie showed great anticipation to meet a low cross at the far post and coolly side-foot the ball past a statuesque Samir Handanovic.
The Gialloblu admittedly rode their luck for the next hour, as Inter wasted numerous shooting positions, but the 28-year-old took full advantage of their carelessness when he was alert to the rebound from Cassano’s shot and poked his finish between the goalkeeper’s legs.
Sadly, a goal to round off his hat-trick wasn’t forthcoming, but he came agonisingly close to finding it moments later, as he again darted forward down the left wing and smashed a stinging effort on target, although Handanovic was not to be fooled this time around. Even so, his impressive performance even earned him an incredible 70 Euro Fantasy League points.
And if he wasn’t a thorn in the Inter box, the ex-Siena man was back defending at the other end. His tactical flexibility allowed him to make a timely intervention on Zdravko Kuzmanovic, who was ready to fling himself on to the end of Mateo Kovacic’s cross but crucially denied.
Emerging from Juventus’ youth system, the stopper enjoyed a promising start to his Bianconeri career, scoring on his second appearance, before he went one better with Siena a year later, as he made 29 Serie A appearances to help the Robur equal their best-ever top-flight placing.
However, De Ceglie’s big break in Turin never occurred. Injuries derailed two of his first three seasons in his second spell at the club, and when he was finally dealt a clean slate by Antonio Conte and handed the No 11 jersey, the left-back saw red on the Coach’s debut against Parma.
Functioning as nothing more than a squad player in each of his last two seasons with the Scudetto holders, a loan spell at Genoa during the second half of 2013-14 ensured he would not descend into oblivion, as he did enough to earn a permanent transfer to the Ducali in the summer.
While Parma’s problems continue to wager on in the background, big characters must come to the fore. De Ceglie’s experience and pedigree puts him in good stead, and with Conte looking for wing-backs to fit into his Italy squad, the defender may have another Coach to prove wrong.
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