Meet the Italy international who Tottenham have already missed out on this month
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: November 26, 1991
- Place of birth: Calcinate, Italy
- Height: 6ft 1in
- Position: Forward
- Club: Napoli; 0 apps
- Former clubs: Sampdoria, Bologna (loan), Juventus, Cittadella (loan), Atalanta
- National: Italy; 2 caps, 0 goals
As a three-time player of the year with nine major trophies to her name, plus 30 international goals for Italy, Melania Gabbiadini is perhaps the peninsula’s finest-ever female player.
She is also perfectly placed to judge her younger brother, with Manolo playing in the same attacking role for Sampdoria that she occupies for AGSM Verona. “Technically we are a lot alike,” the Azzurre star told a local newspaper in Bergamo where the pair grew up. “My brother has a great shot, physicality, speed and vision.”
It was the perfect place for Manolo to gain his footballing education, with Melania adding to the superb coaching he would receive from Atalanta’s renowned academy.
Graduating to make his first-team debut as an 18-year-old in March of 2010, a season on loan at Cittadella would see him forced to play as a lone striker as the Serie B side looked to take advantage of his 6ft 1in frame. But he was ill-suited to the role, and netted just five goals in 27 appearances, returning to Atalanta after a wasted year.
Seeking to make up for lost time, Gabbiadini scored his first Serie A goal in the 2011/12 campaign and his performances caught the eye of Juventus, who signed him in a co-ownership deal worth €5.5 million.
After temporarily joining Bologna as part of the agreement, he bagged six times for the Felsinei, prompting Sampdoria to buy Atalanta’s stake in the player and bring him to Genoa in time for the 2013/14 season. The club struggled, narrowly avoiding relegation in a disappointing campaign where Gabbiadini bagged a career-high eight goals.
The arrival of Siniša Mihajlović as coach transformed both the club and player, the Serbian proving a far more intelligent and insightful tactician than many assumed. Gabbiadini benefited greatly from his guidance, and netted seven times in just 13 appearances in the first half of the season before joining Napoli for €13m this month amid reported interest from Tottenham and others.
The 23-year-old is now lethal from free-kicks and corners, and it is easy to see the influence Mihajlović has had on the left-footed forward, who was helping Sampdoria mount a surprisingly serious challenge for third place in Serie A before his move.
Why you need to know him
Gabbiadini's move to Napoli this month has always felt inevitable; a minor image rights issue was the only niggle in his move to join Rafa Benitez's side. It's a move that not only means he now plays for one of Italy's biggest and well-supported clubs, but also presents the 23-year-old with a chance to play in Europe for the first time.
As his sister Melania pointed out, Gabbiadini possesses all the attributes of a modern forward; his equaliser against Juventus last month showcased the power of his left foot (below). Learning from former Yugoslavia international Mihajlović, he has become a set-piece specialist, though the player himself professes admiration for another legendary free-kick taker, Juninho Pernambucano. “I liked how he took them a lot,” Gabbiadini told La Gazzetta dello Sport. He's already scored two goals this season bearing resemblances to the Brazilian maestro.
Looking good whether deployed on the left, where he can provide accurate crosses, or his favoured role on the right where he can cut in and attack the heart of defences, Gabbiadini was excellent in the “The most important thing is to do well with the team, and to win,” the Italy international declared. “If I manage to score more goals then that's good, but if not, then no problem.”
Having played largely in a 4-3-3 formation at Sampdoria, Gabbiadini has been fortunate that Mihajlović has not charged him with many defensive responsibilities. Averaging just 0.8 tackles and 0.2 interceptions per game, he will need to contribute much more if he is to succeed at Napoli. Benitez’s tactics demands far greater effort from the attacking players, and he will need to adapt quickly. Gabbiadini’s passing also has room for improvement – a completion rate of 74.2% simply isn't good enough at the highest level.
Mino Favini, the man responsible for the success of Atalanta’s incredible youth sector and one of the peninsula’s finest scouts, has compared Gabbiadini to Gigi Riva. A comparison to Italy’s record goalscorer may be some stretch for a 23-year-old yet to win a major trophy, but his sister can understand why. “They choose Riva because he was left-footed,” Melania said, “and these statements are not made by a gentleman at random.”
Did you know?
With 12 goals for Italy's U21s, Gabbiadini trails only Alberto Gilardino (19) and Andrea Pirlo (13) in the Azzurrini scoring charts. He has now progressed to the full national team, making his debut against England in August 2012, and added his second cap against Albania earlier this year. But he would again display his humble approach, expressing his desire to improve. “To me it’s just a start,” Gabbiadini told reporters when asked about his recall by Antonio Conte. “It means I have done well in Serie A, but I just want to keep getting better and better.”
- Shooting 8
- Heading 6
- Passing 6
- Tackling 5
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 8
- Creativity 8
- Work-rate 6
What happens next?
Gabbiadini’s Sampdoria days are over, but they aren't the only ones to profit from his move: Juventus have pocketed 50% of the forward's transfer fee after admitting last month that some of their young attacking talent would be sold in the future. “We will have to make some choices,” director general Beppe Marotta told TuttoSport, confessing that the Bianconeri “could well release one from [Simone] Zaza or Gabbiadini”. With an impressive group of strikers already in Turin, the logic is understandable, but the Old Lady’s loss is Napoli’s gain.