As an American Juventino who mainly follows Serie A and MLS I can securely say these two interests rarely overlap. However, that has changed a bit lately, as more and more Italian players are linked with transfers to clubs like Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact. Usually that means someone like Marco Di Vaio is transferring, or someone like Marco Borriello is being linked with a transfer.
Well, that all changed this weekend. Sebastian Giovinco, a Juventus youth product who never quite made it at Juventus, signed a big money deal with Toronto FC and MLS. Giovinco will be making a base salary of around 7 million dollars a year, which is insane compared to the wages at Juventus. When this news was announced I saw many MLS fans and commentators praising the league for inking a player of Giovinco’s stature – no pun intended – but I have to put a damper on these exaltations.
First, a quick overview of his career. Giovinco is a Juventus youth product, one of only a handful currently in Juve’s senior squad. He came up at a similar time as Claudio Marchisio, and Marchisio is in many ways a vision of what Giovinco could have been. Like Marchisio, Giovinco spent time on loan at Empoli, before then heading to Juve’s senior squad. He was hyped up – as were other young Juve attackers – as an heir to Alessandro Del Piero. However, when Alberto Zaccheroni replaced Ciro Ferrera in the middle of the 2009-2010 season, Giovinco sort of fell out of favor at Juventus. That summer he went to Parma on a co-ownership deal. He would spend two seasons there and really excel, becoming one of Parma’s key talents and even scoring against Juventus in a game. In his final season at Parma, he scored 16 goals and was one of the top scorers in Serie A, greatly increasing the hopes of Juventini. His tenure at Parma earned him one more shot at Juventus, this time under coach Antonio Conte.
Conte was a big fan of Giovinco. At least at first. This resulted in the best season Giovinco had at Juventus – 11 goals in 42 appearances through all competitions. He wasn’t really a starter, but he was a very consistent substitution option. Of course, this was before the club signed Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tevez. However, Giovinco wasn’t very stellar in this first season, so he never really earned a starting spot of his own. Also, Conte’s tendency to only use a 3-5-2 meant Giovinco was only available as a striker, and not as a winger or attacking mid. Regardless, by his second season at Juve he was at best a super sub and only had three goals in 30 appearances. Again, many of these appearances were substitutions.
This season he has been seen even less. Perhaps Max Allegri just does not rate Giovinco. The rumors of his exit have been strong since the summer, and of course his contract wasn’t going to be renewed by Juventus. Sadly, the Juventus youth product wasn’t good enough to be a big player for Juventus. The previously mentioned Verona game from last week was a nice surprise, but ultimately will be a footnote in Gio’s career. Days later the news about his move to Toronto FC broke, and today Toronto officially the move, with Giovinco saying hello to the supporters via video chat.
So, that’s his career in a nutshell – or a few paragraphs. But what about his characteristics as a player?
Sebastian Giovinco is by no means a poor player. He hasn’t been good enough – or consistent enough – to start for Juventus, but he had a very fine two year run at Parma, and has shown flashes of great skill at Juventus. His run with Parma was – so far – the highlight of his career, he was one of their best players during tha time and scored 23 goals and 22 assists in 70 appearances. He scored three fewer goals in 131 appearances for Juventus. However, I will say he had a fine match last week versus Verona. His first goal in that game was off of a free kick, and I would venture to say his free kick taking may be his greatest strength.
What are some of his other strengths? I am a fan of his movement off the ball, he is a fine passer, and he’s a solid – but not spectacular – finisher as a striker should be. In the context of Serie A, he’s slightly above average. In the context of MLS, he could be up there with Robbie Keane as one of the league’s top strikers. That said, there are a few glaring issues that I fear can affect him poorly in MLS.
For starters, MLS is a very physical league. It’s clear to see, especially compared to Serie A, that the defenders aren’t as technically sound, but they are very strong and very fast, and they don’t mind issuing a rough challenge to an attacking player. I’m not even necessarily talking about fouls, as the whole style is a bit more physical than most places in Europe and the refs act accordingly. This will probably be Giovinco’s biggest issue.
In Serie A he already struggles with defenders knocking him over. And these aren’t fouls, he’s just not very strong. Also, he doesn’t really dive much either, so it’s not like he’s looking for fouls. I was discussing this with Aaron Giambattista and Aaron West, two other Juventini, and while they disagreed on if Giovinco could change this, they both agreed that his lack of strength was a great hindrance to his career. I really can’t see him not struggling with MLS defenders, who will hack him down if they need to.
Similarly, while he can dribble, his dribbling really isn’t that good. Some people consider him to be skilled with the ball, but I usually see him trying to dribble around an opponent, and then losing possession to that opponent. Like I said, he’s got good movement, and he makes good passes, but his dribbling really isn’t that great. Perhaps here the gulf in quality from Serie A to MLS will mean something, and maybe his dribbling will be more effective with Toronto.
Sebastian Giovinco never fulfilled his potential at Juventus. Blame him, blame Conte, blame Allegri, blame whoever. But it just never happened. Now, he’s making a boatload of money in MLS, and he’s left Europe at only 27 years old. While we may have been harsh on him in the past, we here at JuveFC.com wish the best to this Juventus youth product, and we will be rooting for him to dominate the MLS. We just aren’t so sure if it will happen.