Adam Digby profiles the Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool-linked Angelo Ogbonna, who looks to be on his way to pastures new this summer...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: May 23, 1988
- Place of birth: Cassino, Italy
- Height: 6ft 3in
- Position: Centre-back
- Club: Juventus (54 apps, 0 goals)
- Former club(s): Torino, Crotone (loan)
- International: Italy (10 caps, 0 goals)
The career of Angelo Ogbonna has, thus far, been one played out in the shadows. Moving north from his hometown of Cassino at the age of 14, he joined the youth ranks of Torino, a once-great club that has been forced to look on as city rivals Juventus surpassed their early accomplishments to become the most dominant club in Italy. While the Bianconeri were contesting league titles and European trophies, the Granata became a yo-yo side, forever bouncing between the top two divisions and never recapturing the glory with which they were once so synonymous.
After making his Serie A debut aged 18, Ogbonna spent a season with Crotone to gain experience, returning to Torino for the 2008/09 campaign and becoming a regular in the side. Within a year he was handed the captain’s armband and his international debut, impressing many who watched him as he shifted from his initial role at left-back to a spot in central defence.
The new role was Ogbonna's making: he took to it comfortably and continued to improve enough to be named in the Italy squad that reached the final of the 2012 European Championship.
Despite reported interest from Manchester United, it was Juventus who gave him a chance to advance his career in 2013, paying around €13 million to secure his signature. But joining the Bianconeri hasn't gone exactly to plan, and the 27-year-old has been forced to battle for playing time against a trio of established defenders who have excelled for both club and country.
Why you need to know him
Andrea Barzagli, Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini formed the peninsula’s most impenetrable backline, but gradually the club’s newest signing earned the trust of Antonio Conte. He's able to play all across the coach’s back three and has made almost 50 appearances for Juve, winning two Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia winner’s medal and gaining invaluable Champions League experience along the way.
When Massmiliano Allegri moved away from the 3-5-2 formation that had been ingrained at Juventus over the previous three years, Ogbonna found playing time increasingly hard to come by. That only intensified as first Patrice Evra rediscovered his best form and then Barzagli returned from a long-term injury.
Thus, he has made just seven league starts since the start of 2015, leading to speculation that he will leave Turin as reports linking him with a move to the Premier League continue to gather steam. Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool are the reportedly interested parties in the 27-year-old stopper.
Standing 6ft 3in tall and imposing, Ogbonna’s physical strength is impressive and he rarely loses a one-on-one battle with an opposition striker. With that, he's able to comfortably engage in challenges both on the ground and in the air. Quick across the pitch too, he's switched on tactically which allows him to slot into any system, and he's had no problems playing a part in Allegri’s new-look four-man defence.
The defender is also intelligent in his distribution with the ball, completing over 90% of his passes across the last three seasons and making more than 50 passes per game. He rarely gives the ball away, and is able to provide accurate crosses on the rare occasions he has been deployed in his original position of full-back.
While Ogbonna clearly has all the tools to be a top quality central defender – and he has improved steadily in all facets of his game since arriving at Juventus – there is one problem that continues to hinder his progress. He is sometimes guilty of lacking concentration, switching off for a split second that allows an opponent to steal into the box and score. This issue was evident when Juventus lost the first leg of their Coppa Italia semi-final clash with Fiorentina last month, when Mohamed Salah took advantage of a momentary lapse to put the Viola firmly in charge of the tie. With Ogbonna dropped to the substitutes bench for the second leg, Allegri’s side controlled the game comfortably, emerging 3-0 winners and going on to win the trophy as the former Torino man looked on from the sidelines.
"Ogbonna is a young talent who has the ability and work ethic to not only become one of the best defenders in Italy, but of anywhere in Europe,” mused Conte shortly after the player joined Juventus in 2013. The current Italy coach is not the only one to offer such high praise, with team-mate Barzagli also expressing his opinion on the eve of last summer’s World Cup. "Angelo can become a leader," the stopper insisted. "His presence will be important not only on the pitch but also in the dressing room."
Did you know?
Ogbonna had a fortunate escape during his time at Torino, somehow emerging unharmed after his car fell from a bridge into a river in December 2008. Having played for the club in a memorable victory over Napoli, the player lost control of his vehicle due to poor visibility and had to be rescued by local police.
Ogbonna was reportedly conscious and responsive as he was pulled out of the water and taken to a nearby hospital for observation, and he was released the following day without any major injuries.
- Shooting 4
- Heading 8
- Passing 8
- Tackling 8
- Pace 7
- Dribbling 4
- Creativity 5
- Work-rate 6
What happens next?
Ogbonna may find space at Juventus even more difficult to find next season, so a move looks like a sensible option for all parties. Martin Caceres – absent for most of 2014/15 due to a variety of injuries – will return, while the club have also signed promising youngster Daniele Rugani from Empoli. Juve stated publicly last summer that it would cost interested parties €15m to tempt them into selling, but 12 months later that figure is likely to be lower. With his age, skill set and temperament all well-suited to English football, Ogbonna may well decide the time has come to step out of those shadows and test himself abroad.