As Marcello Lippi looks to secure qualification for next summer’s World Cup finals in South Africa, his defensive line needs reinforcing. The peninsula has always produced some of the world’s greatest centre-halves and fortunately for Lippi, the next generation has arrived. Step forward Marco Andreolli.
Born on June 10, 1986 in Ponte dell’Olio in the province of Piacenza, Andreolli started his career in Padova’s youth system before being signed by Inter in 2003. He made his full debut for the Nerazzurri aged just 18 in May 2005 against Reggina. The following season he made just two appearances for the first team and scored his first goal for the club in a Coppa Italia match against Messina. Despite playing a major role in Inter’s youngsters winning the Coppa Italia Primavera in 2006, a lack of first team outings convinced Andreolli to look elsewhere. And in July 2007 after making just seven appearances for Inter, he was taken on a co-ownership deal to Roma as part of the transfer that saw Christian Chivu heading for the San Siro. Again, Andreolli would be restricted to appearances in the Primavera squad for the Giallorossi. In the second half of the 2007-08 season, he went out on loan to Vicenza to gain some invaluable playing time and at the conclusion of the campaign, Roma Tactician Luciano Spalletti acquired his services on a permanent basis.
Andreolli is mastering his art with great aplomb. His positional sense is fantastic and his sense of timing near perfect, whether it is going into a tackle, clearing the ball to safety or arriving in the opponents’ penalty area at just the right moment. His effortless style and the way he seems to glide across the pitch are a joy to observe. Having the ability to play in the back line at either centre-half, or full-back, makes him the complete defender. Andreolli is two players packaged into one outstanding individual.
For the 2008/09 season, Andreolli was again put out on loan. This time his destination was Sassuolo – newly promoted to Serie B for the first time in their history. The big defender enjoyed a fantastic campaign under the tutelage of Coach Andrea Mandorlini, nearly helping the Neroverdi to gatecrash the end of season play-offs. The squad finished a respectable seventh in the end, missing out on the play-offs by just four points. Andreolli’s consistent performances for the Italian Under-21 side have also got observers talking. Azzurrini Coach Pierluigi Casiraghi, having been impressed with the youngster’s performances at youth team level, has made him a regular at the heart of his defence. Andreolli was an integral part of the squad that recently contested the European Under-21 Championships in Sweden. His performances in the tournament did little to harm his chances of a full international call up in the not to distant future. In the opening game against Serbia, Andreolli was simply outstanding at the heart of the defence, repelling all opposition attacks. Against the Swedes on match day two and after the Italians had been reduced to 10 men following Mario Balotelli’s red card, he marshalled the troops with a coolness and maturity that belied his tender years.
If Fabio Cannavaro is the past, then Marco Andreolli is certainly the future. No big fanfare to greet his arrival on the big stage, his development has been nurtured and protected, from his early years with the Padova youth side to establishing himself as a regular starter for Sassuolo in the Caddetti. This elegant defender from Emilia-Romagna has thus far been a model professional. It is testament to his self belief that despite having joined one of the giants of world football in Inter, he was not lured into delusions of grandeur and patiently applied his trade at youth level working on the most important components of his game. A level-headed young man, Andreolli has come to realise that playing time at senior level is what improves a player’s ability, and with regular first team football in the second tier of Italian football, it appears all his hard work and dedication are about to bear serious fruit.
As pre-season gets under way on the peninsula, Andreolli’s destination for the start of next season is still the subject of much speculation. The player himself speaks highly of his current coach Luciano Spalletti and has expressed his desire to remain in the capital with Roma. But again, lack of first team opportunities may force him to look elsewhere. Press reports at this time link the big defender to newly-promoted Bari. An offer is believed to be on the table but currently nothing has been finalised. This opportunity is surely one that Andreolli must consider seriously with next summer’s World Cup entering everyone’s thoughts. Competition for places in the back four is set to be fierce and Lippi will be looking for players who are playing regularly for their club sides. With eye-catching displays for the Azzurrini, Andreolli has an impressive CV on which to base his claim for selection. Casiraghi is an admirer and this should also work in the young man’s favour as continuity is what Lippi craves. If the stylish displays already witnessed for the Azzurrini and in Serie B can be replicated in the top flight, then South Africa 2010 could be Andreolli’s moment to showcase his burgeoning talent to the rest of the world.
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