It is only in the cynical world of football that after such a bright and distinguished start to a career that a player can be branded a flop so soon after. Alberto Gilardino has been tagged just that midway through a career that so far has seen him score close to 100 league goals and 10 on the international stage after stalling in Milan. The striker that had pioneered the violin-playing scoring celebration to the tune of his goals at Parma found himself recognised in Milan as the ‘Bidone d’Oro’ – literally the golden bin – of Italian Football. After netting 36 times in 94 games for the Rossoneri, Gilardino found himself warming the substitutes bench, the violin banished from Carlo Ancelotti’s orchestra.
Fast forward to October and approaching Week Six, the man ridiculed as a dud has already struck four times for new club Fiorentina in Serie A and three times on the Champions League circuit. His most notable performance so far was away at Lyon where in a hostile setting the 26-year-old helped himself to a classy brace, only for that to be cancelled out by a late Lyon equaliser. His renaissance was complete in Week Five against Genoa when he received a nothing ball dropping from the heavens that he managed cushioned with his head, prior to lashing it in his left foot into the bottom corner from an acute angle.
It is impossible to ignore the part played by Viola tactician Cesare Prandelli who believed in Gilardino enough to power the Florence clubs return to Europe’s elite competition. Prandelli chose to ignore the critics and, having previously overseen Gilardino’s rise to prominence whilst at Parma, set about reviving the fallen striker once again. This is fast becoming a common characteristic of Prandelli having already nursed Gilardino’s strike partner Adrian Mutu back to form. While Mutu’s troubles are seemingly on-going in the wake of recent times, this hasn’t affected his goalscoring touch in Florence. Prandelli has evidently shown the faith in a potentially troublesome pairing and put them together to create a partnership of the highest calibre.
Notably Gilardino’s return to goals will have most surprised Carlo Ancelotti, whom after splashing out £19m in 2005 refused to give the marksman a staring role. Even opting to create strange formations over starting the Violin playing frontman, confining him to the bench and the history books as yet another player not to fulfil star potential whilst at the San Siro. Arguably for the Rossoneri are they any better off with another flop in Andriy Shevchenko?
It is astonishing what a difference a move can make to a player, demonstrating that a change of scenery – even if it means a less glamorous setting – can paint a prettier picture. However, surely the highlight for Gilardino in recent weeks was making Marcelo Lippi’s much debated Azzurri squad and answering the critics with a goal against Austria. Noted that these critics had seemingly forgotten who assisted Del Piero’s famous strike against Germany in the World Cup semi-final to set the Azzurri on the road to glory. Gilardino’s hard work and perseverance through a difficult time in Milan is now paying dividends under the tutelage of Prandelli. The new “no11” has shown courage, determination and a self-belief in his own abilities to cut his losses in favour of a career away from a place that has tormented so many potential superstars. As for Ancelotti and his ageing Milan side they will be not looking forward to the prospect of facing the former ‘Bidone d’Oro’ in January. The Violin is on standby.