It is said that all good things must come to an end; this is a statement that would appear to be reflected in football. The cyclical nature of the world’s most popular sport tends to dictate that though some highs can be incomprehensibly high, given time, they are likely to eventually become no more than a fond memory.
Italy has long held a reputation for being one of the most productive nations in the world when it comes to manufacturing quality defenders, with examples such as Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi and Alessandro Nesta to name but a few.
The production line appears to have stalled in recent years, and if you were to look at Serie A beyond Juventus in the last few seasons, there weren’t too many top-class defenders in the Italian game.
That cycle appears to be working its way back around quicker than many anticipated, with the emergence of Alessio Romagnoli, Daniele Rugani and one or two others in the last couple of years.
It won’t be controversial for me to say that one of the most exciting defenders in Italy over the past three seasons has been Matteo Darmian, who has just secured a transfer from Torino to Premier League giants Manchester United.
Nobody who has seen him play will be surprised by the deal, nor would they begrudge him the move. However, there is one baffling thing about the move – that other Serie A clubs allowed the move to happen without making a greater effort to keep the 25-year-old on the peninsula.
The Premier League has a unique attraction to it. It is surrounded by an absurd and grotesque financially-weighted gravitational pull, one that simply cannot be matched by any other European league, so it could be understood if some of Serie A’s bigger clubs felt they could not compete with the interest of Manchester United.
In Darmian, United have signed a fantastic footballer that was reportedly a target for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at points throughout the season.
His performances for Toro in the 2013/14 season helped the Granata earn a place in the Europa League, albeit ultimately because of Parma’s failure to be granted a license.
His brilliant season did not go unnoticed by then Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli, who called up Darmian to his World Cup squad and chose him as his first choice right-wing-back.
In what was a tournament to forget for the Italians, the Torino man was one of few players who could return home with a clean conscience, knowing he had not let his country down.
Unlike many players who feature in a World Cup, the subsequent season for Darmian was as good as the one which preceded it, this despite an increased number of games due to Toro’s participation in Europe.
One of the Italian international’s best features is his competence when playing on his ‘weaker side,’ though it is hardly fair to even refer to it as such.
Last summer’s arrival of Bruno Peres at the Stadio Olimpico dictated that Darmian would have to play on the left more often and rather than cause his development to stutter, this assisted it.
He looks as comfortable on the left as he does on the right, and his game does not suffer in any way. With last season’s injury problems for Luke Shaw considered, the arrival of Darmian could be even more important than it initially seems.
As well as his versatility in terms of side, he is equally as effective when playing as a full-back in a back four as he is as wing-back in a back five. This is a feature that could prove vital in his success as a Manchester United player.
Louis van Gaal’s tendencies to deploy a mixture of formations will not be a problem for the Italian. While most full-backs look more comfortable either attacking or defending, Darmian is more than assured in both situations.
He is excellent in possession and possesses a great ability to play a long pass, something that Van Gaal is fond of (so long as you don’t mistake it to be a ‘long ball’.) Moving up field, he is more than comfortable when crossing and will fit in well at United.
One of the most exciting things when talking about Matteo Darmian is his continuous improvement. His rise during the last few years has been phenomenal, and at 25, he is only coming into the peak years of his career, meaning he is likely to improve.
Given he is now at one of the world’s biggest sporting institutions, it is not outrageous to suggest that he could develop in to – if he is not already – one of the best full backs in the world.