It was 2014, England vs. Italy in the Brazilian rainforest in Manaus, a game maybe perhaps best remembered as the starting point of England’s dismal World Cup… or that Sterling goal that wasn’t… or maybe even Three Lions physio Gary Lewin breaking his ankle in a goal celebration.
But on the pitch one unknown star really stood out. Whilst Andrea Pirlo was at his majestic best in midfield, Matteo Darmian, a player most English fans wouldn’t be familiar with, caused England no end of trouble down their left side.
The former Torino full-back put in an outstanding performance in the hot, humid conditions as he flew up and down the flank from a wing back role in a 3-5-2 formation. The Italian was given license to show his attacking capabilities and he did just that.
He didn’t score in the game, nor did he assist, but it was his presence down the right that was one of the deciding factors in the game.
Darmian did indeed announce himself on the world stage and maybe some clubs could of taken a punt on the former Palermo man last summer.
But no one did, he remained in Serie A with Torino and had another fantastic season. And maybe why no one took a punt was down to the fact that he was so unknown, which of course beg the question: how did Darmian go under the radar for so long?
He made his AC Milan debut at just 17 but barely played for the Italian giants – three games in three years. He had to leave to get football and went to Padova and Palermo before signing for Torino two years ago.
However it isn’t uncommon for a player like Darmian to have such a slow rise, youth isn’t trusted in Italy. It is rare to see a teenager get games in Serie A. That along with some coaches not knowing Darmian’s best role made it a struggle at first.
He was tried in midfield, defensive midfield and at centre-back before finally settling at right back. It is his slow rise into full-back that has also worked in Darmian’s favour, as he is now a versatile player.
Along with his versatility, his other strengths are his professionalism, his discipline and the way he plays with personality. But maybe it is discipline that is his most impressive skill.
He has incredible energy which allows him to fly up and down the right flank so well, he does his attacking duties and defensive duties diligently, too. He won more tackles than any other Torino player last season and also created the second highest amount of chances.
He is in the mould of the modern day full-back, good defensively and excellent in offensively. He is also a man for the big occasion having scored winners against Juventus and Athletic Bilbao at San Mames – a historic win as no Italian side had ever won there before.
United boss Louis van Gaal will be delighted to have signed a player who is reliable and versatile. But most of all he has signed a high quality player for a very good fee.
He cost a rumoured £14.9m including add-ons, more than that Liverpool paid for Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton. The Englishman was a player many United fans would have preferred to sign, but Darmian could well prove to be the better of the two.
He is less well known, but that is no bad thing and given some time he will show why he could be a household name one day.