Meet Giovanni Simeone: Genoa's Juventus-slaying striker who wants to join his dad at Atletico Madrid
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: July 5, 1995
- Place of birth: Madrid, Spain
- Height: 5ft 11in
- Position: Striker
- Club: Genoa (13 apps, 5 goals)
- Country: Argentina U20 (12 caps, 10 goals)
'EMOCIONANTE'. Diego Simeone tweeted just one word – Spanish for “exciting” – all in capital letters, alongside two pictures of men celebrating goals against Juventus. The first was from April 2000 and showed himself racing away at the Stadio delle Alpi, his header having given Lazio a vital three points against the Bianconeri on the way to the Serie A title.
Below was a picture showing his son Giovanni in an almost identical pose, the youngster's own strike having put Genoa ahead against the reigning champions earlier that day. The youngster rifled home a low shot at the second attempt, showing great composure after Gigi Buffon had denied his first effort with a superb save.
Unlike his father, however, the 21-year-old is a striker rather than a tenacious midfielder. So just 10 minutes after opening the scoring he took another chance, this time glancing home a header at the near post in clinical fashion. As much as Diego clearly enjoyed watching his son make a decisive contribution in such a high-profile fixture, the Atletico Madrid boss would also have admired Genoa’s overall performance, which featured relentless pressing and swift counter-attacks.
— Diego Pablo Simeone (@Simeone) November 27, 2016
"I'm happy he’s in Italy," Diego told La Gazzetta dello Sport shortly after Giovanni moved to Genoa in the summer. "He can learn and improve there. It's not easy, but he has the necessary qualities… and good blood in his veins!”
Why you need to know him
The 21-year-old had already made quite an impression having risen through the youth ranks at River Plate and shining during a loan spell at Banfield, where he scored 12 goals in 29 appearances. In 2015 he was also the South American Youth Championship's top scorer with nine net-ripplers which helped Argentina claim the title.
Together those exploits prompted Genoa to hand over €3 million over a year later, in the hope that the forward could provide cover for star man Leonardo Pavoletti as the campaign progressed. Simeone scored twice in some brief early outings, which convinced manager Ivan Juric to field him in place of Pavoletti when the latter was struck down by injury.
The Grifone boss has been rewarded with some excellent displays, the best of which came against Serie A champions Juventus. His secret appears to be genetic. "His father was a tough guy and I took several elbows off him," former Italy international Alessandro Costacurta remarked on Sky Italia this week. "And I can see that Giovanni is clearly Diego's son by his character."
Simeone has scored five goals and hit the target with an impressive 62 per cent of his attempts so far
Simeone's most notable asset is his speed – an essential trait in Juric’s system. The striker has shown both excellent acceleration and timing despite his limited opportunities, while also demonstrating a clinical edge in front of goal – he's scored five times and hit the target with an impressive 62 per cent of his attempts so far.
Unsurprisingly, he also has a solid work ethic and a diligent approach whenever his side lose the ball, averaging one tackle and 0.4 interceptions per game despite being deployed exclusively as a central striker.
Simeone often finds himself trying to beat one more defender than is necessary
While he looks like a solid all-round player, there are various aspects of Simeone’s game that still require work. The Genoa frontman possesses sound technique and skill, but he often finds himself trying to beat one more defender than is necessary, which explains his meagre 27 per cent take-on success rate.
The same is true of his distribution: Simeone averages just 9.3 passes per game, with a third of his efforts failing to find a team-mate. He has created just one scoring chance for his team-mates in 12 appearances to date, despite the fact that Genoa require him to bring others into play up front.
He has his father’s hunger and will to win
While a promising young striker and a long-retired midfielder would appear to have little in common, Giovanni has been forced to live with people measuring him against the standards Diego set during his playing days. "He has his father’s hunger and will to win," his team-mate Nicolas Burdisso said recently – but Genoa's coach Juric wants people to stop comparing the two men.
“Simeone is a good player in the area, but with a lot of room for improvement out of it. He runs a lot and we are happy with him,” Juric commented during a post-match interview last month. “However, I would prefer it if people talked more about him and not his father. I don’t think it is an easy comparison for the boy.”
Did you know?
Simeone is proud to represent Argentina at international level despite being born in Madrid and having spent much of his life in Europe, with the family relocating every time Diego swapped clubs. Less than two years after Giovanni's birth the Simeones moved to Milan, then Rome, before Diego's return to Atleti in 2003.
What happens next?
There has been remarkable interest in Simeone Jr. after his brace against Juve (and, quite likely, because of his surname). In recent days, Napoli have reportedly identified him as the man to ease their striking woes following the departure of Gonzalo Higuain and injury to Arkadiusz Milik.
A raft of Premier League clubs have also been mentioned, but the Grifone may instead choose to sell Pavoletti, creating space for Simeone to continue his impressive start at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. Given Juric’s ability to guide young players he could well benefit from an extended stay at the club, particularly as his development is still far from complete.
Simeone does, though, have his heart set on a return to his birthplace one day. "I would love to play for Atletico," he told Cadena Ser this week. "Not just because of how the club has treated my father but because of how they have treated our whole family. They are a great club, very humble."