Fabio Quagliarella's Inspiring Renaissance
More than three years since he last made the squad and more than eights years since his last goal, Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella is back in Italy's squad.
The Neapolitan celebrated his 36th birthday on the 31st January and has tied a 24-year-old scoring streak in Serie A of former Fiorentina legend Gabriel Batistuta of registering a goal in an 11th consecutive match, is leading his current team to a march towards Europe for the first time in years and has a chance to break the record against his home town club on Saturday night.
Could the start of 2019 have gone any better for him?
"Quags" as he is affectionately known in Calcio circles has been having a truly "Indian Summer" of performances recently, and his story is one of perseverance, persistence & prolific-ism, however, it has not always been so rosy and sunny for former Torino youth product.
He made his debut for Torino FC in the 1999-2000 season, staying on the Granata's books for six years, which included spells on loan to Fiorentina and Chieti, both of whom were playing in Serie C at the time.
His time with La Viola did not end well, following disagreements with their manager at the time. At the latter, however, he managed a respectable 19 goals in 43 games, showing his undoubted talent.
The man born in Castellamare di Stabia bounced around some more until he ended up at Sampdoria, for his first spell with the Blucheriati in the 2006-2007 campaign. At the Marassi, he took his game to another level, not only for his goals, but the spectacular nature in which he scored.
In fact, it has been said a number of times that Quagliarella is a "scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer"....I think we can all agree that in the past couple of seasons, he has put that theory to bed!
He truly seems to enjoyed playing for the 1992 Scudetto winners, as back then as now, his performances have led to him being selected for his nation.
He earned his first call to the Italy team in 2007 for Euro 2008 Qualifiers, and he was soon banging in the goals at the international level just as he was doing at club level, scoring a brace against Lithuania in a 2-0 win.
However, another obstacle was about to hit the player.....
Quags played at Samp in a co-ownership deal between Samp and Udinese, and unfortunately for him, the clubs could not come to an agreement, they had a blind auction and the Frulians won, and so he was on the move again. It seemed, no matter what the player could not find the stability he was seeking.
Despite this, he put his head down, rolled up his sleeves and got to work with the Bianconeri. He built a wonderful partnership with "Toto" Di Natale up front and the pair led Udi to the quarter-final stage of the UEFA Cup, with Quags grabbing a record-breaking eight goals....As we can see the man loves breaking records!
As previously mentioned, Fabio Quagliarella is a Neapolitan and the dream of any footballer from there is to play for their hometown club, and he got his dream move in 2009. However, the dream turned into a nightmare!
In his only full season with the Campanians, he scored a respectable 11 goals in 35 appearances, helping the club to 6th place and that having to find space in the team. The manager at the time was Walter Mazzarri and his preferred starters up top were Edinson Cavani and Ezequiel Lavezzi. Whatever issues happened on the field were nothing compared to those that he went through off....
After that one season, he left to join Juventus. For the Napoli fans, this was the ultimate betrayal. Leaving to join the hated team from Piedmont was unforgivable for them (see how Gonzalo Higuain is criticised now for the same move).
What the Napoli fans, in fact, nobody knew was that Quagliarella was being stalked. The irony was that it was a police officer that was committing the crime. The same person that was supposed to help and protect him and the general public was abusing his power.
To add to the irony, the same Police officer had helped him with a problem before. Soon after though, it all turned sour, as Quagliarella said an interview back in 2017, "I explained a password problem I had and he resolved it. Then I started getting anonymous letters with pictures of naked girls, accusing me of paedophillia, of working with the Camorra, dealing drugs, fixing games".
Not only was he in danger, but his father also received threats. The said police officer was actually pretending to "help" find the stalker. The ordeal obviously affected his performances on the field.
By the time the truth was revealed, he had spent six years in Turin, four with Juve, where he won three straight Scudetti and two with city rivals Torino for a second spell, helping the club to return to European competition for the first time since the early 90's. At both clubs interestingly, he had almost identical records of around 30 goals in just over 100 matches.
His departure from Toro was rife with controversy, however, and he went back to Sampdoria in 2016 and he has been there for the last three seasons.
Back at Sampdoria where he first rose to prominence just under a decade previously, he has improved every season he has been there with goals, all-round play and off-course his usual highlight reels of goals. He has almost re-created his own "Scorpion Kick" in recent times, with varying degrees of difficulties.
It is probably fitting that his Azzurri re-call has come at Samp, the place where he has enjoyed arguably the best moments of his career, not only on the field but off it as well.
His last goal for his country came against Romania in a 1-1 draw, but nobody should rule out the player who wears the number 27 shirt in honour of his childhood friend who died back in 2001, of getting on the scoresheet next month.
After all, this is a man who has faced severe trauma but has still bounced back to take the football world by storm!