Sebastian Giovinco’s mentality has often been called into question, with his loan move to Parma last season – followed by a co-ownership agreement with Juventus ahead of this campaign – making some wonder whether he was really cut out for the glittering career so many had tipped him to achieve.
But, one thing which has never been disputed is his ability. This season – in his second year at Parma – he has won the hearts of the Emiliani, dazzling the Tardini with some 15 goals, effectively booking his flight to the European Championships in the process.
His irrepressible energy has seen him chasing, creating and scoring, forming an strike partnership with his polar opposite – the rather gangling Lazio loanee Sergio Floccari. Only Andrea Pirlo and Fabrizio Miccoli have more assists to their name than Giovinco, with just sixplayers bettering his goal tally this season.
Now, the inevitable has occurred. Parma news sites are bombarded with rumours and refutations, as clubs all around Europe are linked with the formica atomica. From Barcelona to Zenit or indeed a return to Juventus, the rumour mill has been grinding faster than ever.
Giovinco has dropped the occasional hint, be it about how he loves Naples to the lure of the number ten shirt at the Juventus Stadium. Meanwhile President Tommaso Ghirardi has – as a matter of course – reaffirmed that Parma do not have to sell the atomic ant, whilst simultaneously admitting that it will be difficult to ‘restrain the ambitions’ of the 25-year-old.
All of this has left Gialloblu tifosi resigned to life without Giovinco; the happy reminder of a bygone era when the likes of Gianfranco Zola graced their teamsheet and the UEFA Cup adorned the Tardini trophy cabinet. So integral has he been to the current campaign that it is difficult to envisage a Parma without him.
Then again, with so much uncertainty surrounding the side’s line-up ahead of next season (with about half of the first team on loan or co-ownership deals), it is anyone’s guess as to where Roberto Donadoni’s side will end up. The mid-week victory against Inter was the first time that Parma had won five games on the bounce for twelve years. Perhaps even more surprising, was the belief among fans before the game that they could.
Since the change of coach in January, there is a new-found optimism reverberating around Parma. Having well and truly banished the haunting scream of relegation, the players now chase the faint chorus of Europe. While it is unlikely that the Crociati will close the deficit to Lazio with a game to play, the prospect of similar successes next year are a mouthwatering prospect for the fans.
As of yet it is impossible to answer whether Giovinco has the mentality to play for a top club, although it is highly likely that we won’t have to wait long to find out. Personally, I can’t see him struggling a great deal – his reasoning for leaving Juventus was feeling isolated from their first team; being treated with a lack of respect.
After starting the season faster than a Maurizio Zamparini firing (well, almost) – with five goals in the first four games – he unsurprisingly faded. However, his powerful volley into the top corner of Gianluca Pegolo’s goal to secure Parma’s record sixth win on the trot on Sunday served as a stark reminder of his quality. Wherever he will end up, it is unlikely he will be too far from the starting eleven.
In the meantime, sporting director Pietro Leonardi will have some tough work to do to find a replacement who can fit into Giovinco’s small – yet metaphorically enormous – boots. The 2012-13 season lurks tantalisingly on the horizon. Whether it can live up to expectation or not largely rests on the shoulders of Ghirardi and Leonardi. Buy well, and it could be one which lives long in the memory.