Italy is famous for two things – pizza and defending. From the time of Passoti to Maldini, Cannavaro and now Chiellini, defending in Italy has been considered an art form.
With Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli nearing the end of their international careers, the door is wide open for someone new, someone raw, someone fresh. 22-year-old Daniele Rugani is expected to be the one to take advantage of this opportunity.
For the last few years, Daniele has been considered by many to be one of European football’s best defensive prospects and he has lived up to that billing.
We profile the young man who has been shooting up the ranks at Juventus.
Born in Lucca, Rugani joined Empoli at the age of 6 and spent 12 years with the club, steadily rising through the ranks. He was sent out on loan to Juventus, where he was a major part of their Primavera Coppa Italia success. Following his success in his first season at the club, the Serie A giants decided to purchase him outright.
Sent back to Empoli the following campaign on loan, Rugani was responsible for the club winning back promotion to the Serie A after 6 long years in the second tier. His consistently high level of performance led to Rugani being crowned the best young player in the 13/14 season.
The Italian youngster remained at Empoli the following season and went through the entire season without missing a minute. He also ended the season without picking up a booking. His performances earned him a place in the Serie A team of the year, a major achievement for a player so young.
Rugani returned to his parent club for the 2015/16 season, playing a minor role in their run to the title.
Rugani is considered by many to be a perfect, graceful defender. The youngster is excellent with his feet and lauded for his intelligence. An aggressive tackler, Daniele has the ability to avoid unnecessary challenges, a major skill in someone so young. A brilliant reader of the game, Rugani relies on his positioning to deal with offensive threats rather than launching into tackles.
At 6 ft 3 inches, he is a major aerial presence, both offensively and defensively. Another key asset Rugani possesses is his ability on the ball, which makes him one of the most complete defenders on the market.
Rugani idolises Barzagli, and like his idol, is a real stickler for hard work. He is generally the first to arrive at training and the last to leave.
A player blessed with natural ability, Rugani does not possess too many weaknesses but there are a few areas he must improve on in order to be the best.
Not the quickest player, he lacks mobility which could expose him when faced against serious pace. He often gets into trouble defending with his left foot, which is not the one of his stronger suits.
Another major flaw in his armour is his highly self-deprecating nature. Rugani focusses on negative aspects of his performance, which is often detrimental to his confidence.
“Daniele arrived as a 21-year-old, has come on a great deal and is on the right track for a guy who has 10 to 15 seasons at Juventus ahead of him,” Giorgio Chiellini was quoted as saying.
One of Italy’s best defenders, Bonucci also spoke about Rugani, saying “ Rugani is a player of great promise and is such a good professional. We already noted his quality when he was in the Primavera youth team. He doesn’t pull back and is humble, so over these last few years his growth at Empoli has been exponential.”
One of the best young defenders on the planet, Rugani has still not reached his peak. With Barzagli’s exit inching closer, he is expected to play a major role in Juventus’ title defence, if they manage to keep hold of him. With interest from both Arsenal and Manchester United, Juventus could be hard pressed to keep him at the club.Published 01 Aug 2016, 16:49 IST