Serie A's 5 Unsung Heroes
Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio was an unsung hero for several years before finally being recognised as an elite midfielder.
Claude Makélélé is the classic example of an unsung hero. It took Real Madrid falling to pieces for his importance to be recognised by the general footballing public.
Here are Serie A's five unsung heroes based on this season’s form.
5. Valon Behrami, Napoli, Defensive Midfielder, Age: 27
Valon Behrami registered 153 tackles and 65 interceptions in 31 league games last season for Fiorentina.
He took his talents to Napoli, where he has averaged 5.3 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per league game.
Which defensive midfielder in Europe's elite leagues has the highest tackles per game average?
4. Gianluca Pegolo, Siena, Goalkeeper, Age: 31
Earlier this year, Lecce held on to a 1-0 win over Inter Milan due to Massimiliano Benassi's heroics in goal.
Eight months later, Inter watched Gianluca Pegolo save 11 goal-bound shots, as Siena won 2-0.
What do Mauro Cetto, Mauro Bollino, Edinson Cavani, Mauricio Pinilla and Ante Vukusić have in common?
They've all had their spot kicks saved by Pegolo in the past year.
Atalanta's Andrea Consigli started the season strongly but right now, Pegolo has been the most impressive keeper in Serie A.
3. Antonio Candreva, Lazio, Right Winger, Age: 25
It's easy to overlook Antonio Candreva when Hernanes is dinking his way past several opposing players and Miroslav Klose continues to score goals.
Candreva is an Arsène Wenger-type wide player.
The Italian can dribble, he has excellent vision, is creative, has been productive this season and is comfortable in a central position.
The latter point is relevant when you factor in Wenger's propensity to switch wide players into central players and vice versa.
2. Borja Valero, Fiorentina, Centre Midfielder, Age: 27
Even when Borja Valero doesn't score or create a goal, he is always involved in keeping the Fiorentina midfield running.
He averages 61.9 passes per game and has combined brilliantly with David Pizarro, who has had a resurgence like Steed Malbranque at Lyon.
When Valero is being productive, that is when you flirt with the idea of classifying him as a world-class midfielder.
Since I'm not going to talk about Fiorentina anytime soon, I'm going to give you my thoughts on Matías Fernández.
Heartbreaking, isn't it? Where is the Fernández that had the world at his feet as a teenager?
He'll go down as one of the most unfulfilled talents to ever play the game.
At least, he slogged it out in Europe, whereas the likes of Jorge Valdívia, Yasuhito Endō, Mohamed Aboutrika and Ismail Matar will always leave you wondering what they could have been if they played in Europe's elite leagues.
1. Luca Cigarini, Atalanta, Centre Midfielder, Age: 26
From a defensive stand point, Luca Cigarini is world-class. He is an elite ball-winner because he wins back possession 5.3 times per league game.
He has a knack of blocking shots which is unusual for a midfielder, but that just illustrates his willingness to track back and put his body on the line.
He has blocked 14 shots in league play whereas Guglielmo Stendardo and Thomas Manfredini combine for 15 blocked shots.
Another facet of Cigarini's game is his passing because he is Atalanta's creative outlet.
He's an elite midfielder with the potential to become a world-class player in the coming seasons.