The forgotten career of Vincenzo Iaquinta

by Frank Lopapa

iaquintaDuring the heyday of the Roman Empire, the Senate held the power to erase the remembrance of any deceased person that brought shame or discredit to the state. The action, known as damnatio memoriae (‘condemnation of  memory’), was mostly used on emperors who were unpopular within the Senate or by a rival who ascended the throne at the condemned’s expense. Historians today believe that only three emperors were ever subjected to this posthumous punishment.

Which leads us to the case of Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta. If one were to head over to the club’s official website and give the first team roster a look, over, he is conspicuously missing from the page. Iaquinta was not present during either of Juventus’s scudetto ceremonies during the past two campaigns even though he is under contract with the Turin outfit until the end of the month. Outside of a brief loan spell at Cesena in 2012, Iaquinta has barely been heard from since Antonio Conte took over as manager in 2011.

The Calabrese born striker joined Juventus in the summer of 2007 after they achieved promotion back to Serie A. Prior to that, Iaquinta spent seven seasons at Udinese where scored a modest 73 goals in 207 appearances for the Zebrette. He was also a part of the Italy squad that won the World Cup in 2006, scoring the second goal in a 2-0 win over Ghana in the group stage.

His time in Turin started out modestly enough, scoring eight times in 24 league matches for the Bianconeri, playing mostly as backup for legendary duo Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet. However, despite the signing of Amauri the next summer, then-manager Caludio Ranieri still rated Iaquinta highly enough to keep him on board, still as a backup but proving to be a regular fixture either off the bench or in the starting XI. He probably scored his most famous Juventus goal during the 2008-09 season in a Champions League match against Chelsea, playing a neat one-two with Trezeguet before rifling a shot past Petr Cech.

Iaquinta’s Juventus career started to go sour after a knee injury kept him out of the side for six months during the 2009-10 season, a season in which Iaquinta would only make 18 appearances in all competitions. Despite the limited playing time, Marcello Lippi still included him in his ill-fated 2010 World Cup squad, where he would score one of Italy’s four goals in the competition.

Iaquinta would shift in and out of the starting lineup under new boss Gigi Delneri, but when the club signed Alessandro Matri in January 2011 Iaquinta would only make one more start for the rest of the season, featuring mostly as a substitute even after Fabio Quagliarella’s season ending knee injury. Despite these factors, Iaquinta still managed to feature 24 times for the Bianconeri, however, his goal output fell to a mere six goals in those appearances.

By the time Antonio Conte arrived in the summer of 2011, it was clear that Iaquinta would now be surplus to requirements. Generally in this type of scenario, a player such as Iaquinta would understand as such and would agree, however reluctantly, to find a new club. For a midtable Serie A side, Iaquinta would have been a more than serviceable option. Fellow persona non grata Amauri was in the same boat for awhile before agreeing to move to Parma.

However, Iaquinta refused to move. The crux of the issue concerned his wages as the World Cup winner currently earns €3 million per year, more than starters Arturo Vidal, Mirko Vucinic, and Andrea Barzagli. Rather than agreeing to reduce his wages at another club, Iaquinta preferred to remain in Turin and collect his sizable pay packet. As a result, Iaquinta was banished from the first team and forced to train with the primavera.

Then the rumours started to emerge. Blogs, sport dailies, and message boards all speculated over Iaquinta’s fate. Some assumed it was down to his poor fitness after sustaining a string of injuries, while online forums were rife with speculation over a possible substance abuse problem, or simply (and most logically) that Conte did not believe the striker was up to snuff. On the final day of the transfer window in January 2012, Iaquinta agreed to move to Cesena on loan for the rest of the season, scoring once in seven matches.

With his contract running out in June 2013 it was expected that Juventus would offload him somewhere on the cheap or even terminate his contract with the club. Again, he refused, wanting to see out his contract with the club, and once again, he was banned from the first team. Were it not for the occasional whisper over his status, it appeared to the casual observer as if the earth suddenly swallowed him up without a trace.

In fairness to the club, what else could they do? Conte had his reasons for not wanting Iaquinta, and management tried to sell him to no avail despite reported interest from several clubs abroad. According to interviews with his father, Iaquinta was convinced that he could contribute to the first team in spite of the coaching staff’s opinion. Hopefully now Iaquinta will move to a club, whether in Italy or further afield, where he can contribute and get his career back on track.

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