Anyone who holds the grand Old Lady of Italian football dear cannot fail to recall two days at the Stadio Friuli; one of which was the saddest in recent memory, the other a source of constant joy and laughter.
The former came on November 8, 1998 and concerns a 2-2 draw where the game was far from being the real story. Iconic captain Alessandro Del Piero collapsed and was stretchered from the field, suffering an injury from which it would take nine months of hard work to recover.
The latter concerns an improbable title win, recognizable to Juve fans simply from the date: May 5, 2002. With bitter rivals Inter holding a one-point advantage at the top of Serie A, a win away to Udinese—coupled with the Nerazzurri loss to Lazio—handed Marcello Lippi’s side the Scudetto and left Ronaldo in tears.
The current campaign has become something of a procession, and however this latest match unfolded, it was unlikely ever to come close to those memories. As such, it was quite fitting that the opening goal on Monday came from Sebastian Giovinco, a player who has also summarily failed to live up to lofty expectations.
Tipped for greatness at a young age, he has struggled to live with the "next Del Piero" moniker bestowed upon him when he was still a member of the Juve youth sector.
Growing up at his home-town club, he blossomed as an attacking midfielder with exceptional dribbling and playmaking skills, consistently displaying the kind of skill that set him apart from his peers at those levels.
He helped the Bianconeri win both the 2005 and 2006 Viareggio Tournament, a prestigious annual summer event attended by the best teams in the world. Shortly after, with Juventus thrown into turmoil and relegated to Serie B following the Calciopoli trials, Giovinco was among the promising youth players given the chance to shine.
From there, he was sent on loan to Empoli to gain more regular first-team experience, playing significant minutes and helping the club qualify for Europe for the first time in its history. Giovinco caught the eye, particularly when he scored an equaliser in the last minute against Roma. It was a long-distance, curling free-kick, strikingly reminiscent of who else but Del Piero.
Recalled to Turin, he remained the odd man out under both Claudio Ranieri and Ciro Ferrara, eventually being sold in co-ownership to Parma, the new management regime at Juve unwilling to begin a new era dealing with the old issues.
Some players thrive in being the biggest name in town, and he was certainly that at the Tardini side in a way he simply never would be at Juventus.
Seemingly finding space away from the glaring spotlight that is ever present at a club such as Juventus, Giovinco settled into life in the provinces, showing clear signs of being able to mature and develop to his incredible potential.
Regular calls to Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad followed as he netted 23 goals in 70 appearances, also chipping in with 14 assists over his two seasons with the club.
Once more he returned home full of promise, making 23 starts in 2012-13 and weighing in with seven goals—two of which also came at the Stadio Friuli—and six assists.
The increased attacking quality this summer has seen him slip much further down the pecking order, however, making just his fourth league start against Udinese and netting only twice all season.
His future remains unclear, but recently his form has been much improved, and as he proved here, he can offer a viable alternative to Carlos Tevez alongside Fernando Llorente.
Watching him flourish is pleasing to everyone who has followed his career to date, but whether Sebastian Giovinco will ever shine as brightly in Juventus colours is something yet to be discovered.
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