Manchester United are set to announce their second move of the summer in the form of Italian full-back Matteo Darmian in a £14.3m move after Torino coach Giampiero Ventura admitted that a move is imminent.
“It’s true, Darmian will play in the Champions League with Manchester United,” the coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“Matteo deserves a top team and always dreamed of playing in the Champions League so now that dream will be realised.
It looks to be a good move for both the club and the player, who initially showcased his talent to the world for Italy in the 2014 World Cup, where he impressed against England in a 2-1 win.
Here’s all you need to know about the 25-year-old.
His love affair with football began quite young, encouraged by his father Giovani who was one of the coaches for Oratorio, an association representing the best talent in Lombardy. His first opportunity to thrive came thanks to Beniamino Abate, a scout for Italian giants AC Milan, who noticed Darmian’s ability and invited him to play for the Milanese outfit.
After spending the early 2000s in Milan’s youth academy, he made his first-team debut for the Rossoneri in 2006, making an appearance as a substitute in the Coppa Italia. His Serie A emergence did not occur until the following year, deep into the season, again as a substitute in a 3-2 win over Udinese.
The 2007/08 season saw Darmian preview his ability to be the leader on and off the pitch after being appointed captain of the club’s Primavera. Unfortunately, with such quality around him Darmian was unable to break through into the first team, making just one more appearance for the club in the Coppa Italia.
Loan To Padova & Move To Palermo
His move to Serie B club Padova was a step-down for the heavy heights at Milan, as despite the deal only being temporary it seemed likely Darmian would not be staying at the San Siro. In his first real taste of continuous professional football, he made twenty appearances and helped his interim club avoid relegation due to a play-off win over Trestina.
His impressive performances earned him a move to Palermo, which saw the Sicilian club buy Darmian in co-ownership with Milan in an €800,000 move. His debut came in a 3-1 win over Juventus in a two-year spell, but it was not until he was loaned to Torino before any progress was really made.
The Torino Years
Toro signed Darmian, initially on loan, in July, 2011 following the renewal of the co-ownership agreement between Palermo and Milan, before buying Palermo’s half of Darmian’s services for €825,000 after the full-back had made thirty-three appearances in Serie B and had been pivotal in the club’s promotion.
Following that successful campaign, Darmian made another thirty appearances in Serie A as the club survived it’s return to the top-flight, but it was the 2013/14 campaign that proved to be pivotal to the reasoning behind his World Cup selection.
The Breakthrough Campaign
Despite the prominence of stars Ciro Immobile and Alessio Cerci in Torino’s 2013/14 team, coach Giampiero Ventura believed in a strong base, with a reliance on his team’s full-backs, in a 3-5-2 where Darmian thrived, with an 83% pass accuracy with over half his aerial duels won, despite not being one of the tallest defenders in the division at 5ft. 11in.
His ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch impressed many, not least Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, who decided to select the previously uncapped Darmian in his World Cup squad.
The World Cup
It was sink or swim on such a big stage, but Darmian was one of the few Italians who could return home after failing to qualify for the knock-out stages with his head held high after being outstanding against England in Manaus, and impressing against Costa Rica and Uruguay.
“If you’d told me eight months ago that I’d be playing in the World Cup, I would have burst out laughing,” he commented afterwards.
“It was a childhood dream, but honestly I didn’t think I’d get here.”
After another stellar campaign in 2014/15, it was no surprise to see that Europe’s best came not only to knock, but to barge down Torino’s door to acquire Darmian’s services.
So, why was Louis van Gaal so keen to sign him?
His versatility is undoubtedly Darmian’s most outstanding trait. Able to perform exceptionally in both full-back positions in a 3-5-2, a formation favoured by Manchester United manager Van Gaal during parts of last season, the 25-year-old can also operate in the centre of the defence if the situation arises where that role needs to be deputised.
What can never be disputed as well would be the consistency a player like Darmian will provide. Consistency in such a position is a privilege given the calamitous full-backs that have “graced” the Premier League, but Van Gaal and those in the stands at Old Trafford should be more than happy with the Italian’s performance and work-rate throughout ninety minutes.
His 39 chances created betters that of United’s full-back Antonio Valencia, who only managed 26, whilst he also bettered the Ecuadorian on the number of key chances created, with 38 compared to 24 in Darmian’s favour. That total was also the third highest of any defender in Serie A last season, behind Danilo Fernando Avelar (44) and Edenilson (44).
Is there any faults to his game? Well, no one is perfect.
Despite his ability on the ball, Darmian could improve on the tally of his assists. His measly two assists should be improved with the likes of Wayne Rooney and Memphis Depay to convert the chances he creates.
This looks set to be a very astute signing by Manchester United in a move that will aid Van Gaal immensely, who signs the full-back at a prime age off the back of two very successful seasons in Italy.
Callum Connolly, Pundit Arena