Golden Boy to Prince of Turin. Claudio Marchisio, Juventus For Life

CDA0A17E-0CB5-4F6F-818F-0E7CB5ADAAD9.jpegAS Juventus legend Claudio Marchisio enters the twilight of his playing time with the club, he often finds himself plagued by injury or on the fringe of first team selection. The now 32 year-old has only played 441 minutes of the 2017/18 campaign, putting him third from bottom among his Juventus peers.

Marchisio’s role has been diminished as his body fails to cope with the rigors of competing in multiple competitions. Juventus have missed ‘Il Principino’s’ industry, craft and support in midfield, as Sami Khedira seems to have hit a wall (another entering the twilight of his time at the club) and Blaise Matuidi who despite being defensively sound, fails to offer the same dynamism as the ‘Prince of Turin.’

Perhaps the most frustrating aspect for Juventus fans has been the fact that whenever Marchisio has featured, they’re given a taste of exactly what has been sorely missed without him in the team. Marchisio has performed admirably each time despite a lack of consistency and there’s no doubt they’re much stronger in his presence.

For Marchisio, Juventus has been his entire life, his story with the club something of a romance. A career dating back to 1993 aged 7 with their youth sides, even captaining the Juventus Primavera to their first Campionato Nazionale Primavera in 12yrs in his final season with the junior side. A Turin native, he was born into a Juventus supporting family and grew up wanting to emulate his hero, Alessandro Del Piero. It wasn’t until 2006 at the age of 20 when Marchisio finally got his senior debut alongside his hero in arguably the most difficult period in club history, following the Calciopoli scandal in Serie B.

It was October 28th 2006, Juventus were playing at home against Frosinone and coming on as a late substitute for Juventus legend David Trezeguet was a baby faced youngster by the name of Claudio Marchisio. At this point the midfielder had been with the club for 13yrs, developing through the system and molding his football personality the ‘Juventus way’. Marchisio even stating in the sides ‘First Team: Juventus’ Netflix documentary “Growing up at Juventus, I learnt first to become a man, then a footballer”. As the season progressed he found himself becoming a regular under French manager and ex-Juve midfielder, Didier Deschamps. Marchisio’s fine season capped off with an assist to his hero, Alessandro Del Piero for the first goal in the 5-1 thrashing of Arezzo, securing Italy’s biggest sides passage back to Serie A.

Following Calciopoli, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for the young Prince of Turin. Marchisio was always highly rated from those within the doors of Juventus but he saw himself deployed unnaturally on either wing and often thrown around from position to position as Juventus underwent a number of trophy less seasons and endured some of the darkest periods in club history under a spell of different coaches. This continued until Antonio Conte made his way to Juventus in 2011, ensuring stability and steadying the Juve ship. This was where Marchisio finally tapped into his true potential with the club, playing in a more natural central midfield role, forming a formidable partnership alongside Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. The 2011/12 season seeing him shift from golden boy to outright star, ending the season with a place in the Serie A Team Of The Year and a career best 10 goals across all competitions for the campaign. Marchisio’s impressive form under Conte continued into the 2012/13 season with an eventual nomination for the UEFA Team Of The Year and another spot in the Serie A Team Of The Year.

But perhaps Marchisio’s most difficult career moment came in 2016 after suffering a devastating ACL injury in a 4-0 home victory over Palermo. Marchisio fell awkwardly after colliding with Palermo attacker Franco Vasquez. This injury Subsequently sidelining the gifted midfielder for the next six months and forcing him to miss the UEFA Euro 2016. Juventus went on to win the Serie A title in 2016 with captain Gigi Buffon dedicating the victory to Marchisio, a classy gesture for someone with obvious respect amongst his peers.

It can be argued Marchisio hasn’t been the same player since the injury that kept him out for 6 months. In the 18 months since his return from the ACL injury, Marchisio has gone on to miss a total of 15 matches due to various injury problems, including another knee related injury. Putting things in perspective, that’s as many matches as he’d missed in the 36 months prior to the ACL rupture.

Physical issues aside, Marchisio remains an integral part of this Juventus side. His calming presence and ability to lead the side in possession is invaluable. The ‘Prince of Turin’ has no doubt entered legend status among fans who incessantly moan each time his name isn’t read out on the team sheet. They feel he deserves better than being benched ahead of the likes of Sami Khedira or inexcusably at times, Stefano Sturaro. But why the hesitation from Max Allegri to start such a talented and valuable player like Marchisio?

To his credit, Allegri has shown his tactical versatility this season, lining the side up in a variety of formations and experimenting with different tactics but something of a constant throughout his time at Juventus has been his ability to effectively man manage. He deals with the mental aspect when considering his lineup as much as he does physical, at times sacrificing quality for work rate in order to stabilize the side and take a more pragmatic, less risky approach. Just take the Mario Mandzukic case as an example. Mandzukic was converted into a winger at the age of 30 and despite his clear lack of dribbling ability in comparison to more natural options like Douglas Costa or Federico Bernardeschi, he would still get the starting nod due to other invaluable qualities he brought to the XI like hustle and ‘grinta’.

We saw it when dealing with youngsters such as Alvaro Morata and Paulo Dybala, and we also saw it when integrating then newcomers Miralem Pjanic and Gonzalo Higuain. See, Marchisio is now deemed fit, yet Allegri seemingly doesn’t choose to rely on Marchisio’s talents as heavily anymore despite his obvious ability to contribute to the side. Sami Khedira, Miralem Pjanic and Blaise Matuidi have each established themselves as regulars and anything other than those three is seen as a shock to the system at this point of the season to Allegri.

Something may have to give for Max though… and it might’ve already. Sami Khedira’s performances in midfield over the last few months have seen his stock fall dramatically. His statistics including tackles won, interceptions and passing have dropped off severely which may open a door for Marchisio. The midfielder, who, whilst it would be natural to suggest his value at the club is descending given his age and physical issues, his reestablishment into the lineup could be just the spark this Juventus side needs for immediate Champions League success as it makes its run for the elusive trophy.

Marchisio’s form whenever deployed in the starting lineup has been exceptional for someone lacking continuity and peak fitness, proof that with regular game time he’ll only get better. The fact that he’s now back from injury and available gives Allegri something to consider heading into the vital weeks of the season. Their ability to dominate and control matches from the offset played a huge role in their run at two Champions League finals in the previous three years. The 2-2 draw at home to Tottenham exposed Juve’s current vulnerabilities, where they’re sorely lacking composure and confidence in possession.

Claudio Marchisio is Juventus to the core. His journey with the club identical to something you would read about in the most spectacular romance novel. The ‘Prince of Turin’ isn’t quite ready to be dethroned and though his role may seem a little diminished right now, brewing beneath the surface is the unquestionable character and fight of a man looking to best live out his boyhood dream of representing the black and white stripes of Turin.

By Patrick Gullaci with artwork by Wiskie

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