x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The humility of Juventus' homegrown hero

Juventus may have warmed to him, but Marchisio’s immediate ambitions need to be more circumspect than comparisons with the midfield great, Marco Tardelli.

Claudio Marchisio hails from Turin, and has been labelled as the Marco Tardelli of his generation by Juventus fans.
Claudio Marchisio hails from Turin, and has been labelled as the Marco Tardelli of his generation by Juventus fans.

The blue-eyed boy of Juventus was launching his first book on Tuesday in Turin.

When a footballer of only 25 makes a fuss of himself to the extent of going into print, it is wise to pose the question: has he really done enough to justify 126 pages?

To which Claudio Marchisio could legitimately answer that the work is mainly of photographs. What is more, Marchisio's unassuming off-the-field demeanour easily dispels any suspicion he may have become too full of himself.

The book should sell well in the lead-up to Christmas. Juventus are top of Serie A, happily installed in their new stadium, and they have warmed over the last four months to an authentic home-grown hero.

Marchisio, who comes from the Turin area and has been attached to Juve since he was seven, is the leading goal-scorer, with six strikes in a dozen games from his position in midfield.

He is also off the mark for Italy, for whom he scored his first goal in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Serbia in October.

There is an eagerness, among the Juventus supporters, to make Marchisio the emblem of a bright-looking future after two seasons of dashed hopes.

A persistent label stuck on him is that he is the Marco Tardelli of his generation.

Tardelli was the dynamic midfielder who was the galvanising force of the strong Juventus teams of the 1970s and 1980s, installed in the national Hall of Fame above all for his goal in the 1982 World Cup final, and the open-mouthed, sinews-stretched celebration after it, with the Azzurri on their way to victory.

Tardelli sees something in the comparison: "It's true we have some of the same physicality, similar roles in the team and the same club jersey.

"But you can't compare too much across different eras."

Tardelli's was a glittering one. Apart from a World Cup, he accumulated six scudetti - Serie A titles - and gold medals in each of the four different European club competitions of the time.

Marchisio's immediate ambitions are more circumspect.

The Coppa Italia, in which Juve meet Bologna tonight for a place in the quarter-finals - "is our Champions League this season," he says. Competing in the real European Cup must wait until next season, at least.

As for the league title, had he become the talisman Juve needed to carry them through to May at the summit for the first time in five years?

"I'm not a player who will win titles on my own," he said, "and Milan have a player, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who can almost do that. They will be a big threat."