As a rumoured target for Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini in the January transfer window, I’ve decided to take a look a Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini. Chiellini started his footballing career as early as six years old with his hometown club Livorno. While continuing to study business and economics, he signed a contract with Livorno to play in their youth ranks at age 13 and progressed to playing in their first team at the time when the side were still in Serie C1, effectively Italy’s third division.
He started life out as a left midfielder but he eventually found his best position at left back. He made his debut for Livorno in 2000/2001 season at the age of just 16 and he was on the fringes of the first team as the club got promoted to Serie B. Livorno were on the rise through the divisions due to the investment of Aldo Spinelli and Chiellini became a regular in the first team as Livorno were promoted to the top flight in 2003/2004 season. His performances impressed many in Italy and he was purchased by Turin giants Juventus for €6.5million in the summer of 2004. At just 19 years of age, he was one of the top prospects in Italian football and had already won the European Under 19 Championships with Italy in 2003 as well as winning a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
Immediately after his move to Juventus though, Fiorentina purchased half the player for €3.5million on a co-ownership deal and Chiellini spent the 2004/05 season as a regular at full back for the Florence club. After an impressive season which saw him make his debut for his country against Finland in November 2004, he was bought back fully by Juventus for €4.3million at the start 2005/2006 season and played a sizable role under manager Fabio Capello as Juventus won another league title.
The scandal that engulfed Italian football, and especially Juventus, at the end of that season though, as inquests were held over the influencing of referee, led to the Turin club being relegated to Serie B in the summer of 2006. Under Didier Deschamps, Juventus came straight back into the top flight and Chiellini became an important member of the team. He was named in the UEFA team of the tournament at the 2007 U-21 European Championships and his stock would rise further on his return to Serie A with Juventus.
An interesting turn of events made the 2007/2008 campaign a very different one for Chiellini. New manager Claudio Ranieri decided to convert the player from a left back into a centre back, and the move paid off handsomely as the 23 year old Chiellini formed a great partnership in the centre of defence with Nicola Legrottaglie. They conceded 37 goals, the second least amount of goals conceded in the league that season. During the season, Chiellini evolved into an uncompromising centre half as he went into every tackle fully committed, picking up his fair share of yellow cards in the process. He is very dangerous with his height at set-pieces in the opposition penalty box and offers balance with his left foot in the heart of the defence. Versatility, anticipation and commitment are the fundamental pillars of his game, attributes which got him a call up for Euro 2008.
At the tournament, he was involved in a famous incident where he accidentally injured Italy’s captain Fabio Cannavaro in a training session, ending the former World Player of the Year’s tournament early. The injury consequently meant that Chiellini had a place in the Azzurri defence and played a key role in stopping Spain’s dangerous forward line from scoring a goal in the European Championship quarter final.
Now 25 years of age, Chiellini plays regularly for both club and country, but with Juventus once again off the pace in Serie A, the Italian defender may be looking for a move in January and the Premier League could be a possible destination.