The heat was fierce and the humidity strong, but Matteo Darmian just kept on coming. Claudio Marchisio and Mario Balotelli were the goal scorers as Italy ran out 2-1 winners against England in the pair’s opening game of the 2014 World Cup in Manaus, but the marauding full-back was arguably the man who made the biggest difference.
Time and time again, Darmian surged down the right wing before delivering a pinpoint cross, either from deep or closer to the by-line. Though Andrea Pirlo had understandably been marked out as the Azzurri’s danger man pre-game, the Torino defender was the biggest thorn in England’s side all night. It would have been an impressive performance for a seasoned international, but the fact that the Italian was making his debut for his country that night made his showing all the more commendable.
That game in Brazil was the perfect illustration of how the 25-year-old plays the game. Darmian is an energetic and dynamic player who is capable of getting up and down the flank for 90 minutes, something that made him the perfect fit for Torino’s 3-5-2 wing-back system. For a reported fee of just £12.7m, Manchester United have got a brilliant deal for Italy’s best full-back.
Darmian’s career began with Milan; the Serie A giants whom he joined aged 11 in 2001. After progressing through the Rossoneri’s youth ranks, he was handed his first-team debut by Carlo Ancelotti at just 16, playing 45 minutes in a Coppa Italia tie with Brescia.
Darmian found game-time hard to come by at the San Siro, though, managing only 59 more minutes in the famous red-and-black shirt over the next three seasons. A loan spell at Padova followed in 2009-10, before Torino secured his signature in the following campaign. Darmian excelled under the guidance of Giampiero Ventura, improving year-on-year as Torino won promotion, consolidated in the top-flight, then reached the knockout stages of the Europa League.
2014-15 was his best season to date, and it is no surprise that a major club like United have prised him away from the Granata. Darmian’s intelligence and attitude should in theory help him to adapt quickly to the Premier League, while his versatility – he can play on either side of the defence, as a centre-back, a winger or even in the middle of the park – will make him an important member of the squad whenever injuries or suspensions strike.
Liverpool’s capture of Nathaniel Clyne at the start of July raised a few eyebrows in Manchester, with United surprisingly dropping their interest in the former Southampton man to allow Brendan Rodgers’ side to wrap up a good-value £12.5m deal. With Darmian arriving for a similar price a couple of weeks later, it remains to be seen which of the northwest clubs got the better deal.
United fans, though, should be extremely happy with the signing of an excellent player for a relatively modest fee.
This article was taken from the RoM 2015-16 season preview. All profits go to Trafford Macmillan.