In the summer of 2011, both Luca Marrone and Antonio Conte came back to Turin after a spell at Siena, but the arrivals of the two men could not have been more different. While the coach was hailed as a returning hero, the future of his young charge was open to numerous questions.
Having helped the Tuscan minnows earn promotion to Serie A together, their careers once again diverged, the coach leading the Bianconeri to three years of incredible success, whilst the young player struggled to carve out a niche with the club.
Marrone was sent in co-ownership to Sassuolo last term, just as Conte was guiding the Grand Old Lady of Italian football to a third consecutive league title. The former was then sold back to Juve, arriving just in time to see the coach walk out on the club he had restored to prominence.
While he has now taken the job as national team coach, the future of Marrone appears to be with the club Conte has left behind. Born in the Torinese municipality of Bosconero, he helped the under-19 side lift the prestigious Viareggio Cup before moving on to Siena where he played a key midfield role.
Since then, however, he has evolved into a very different position, becoming an understudy to Leonardo Bonucci in the centre of the back three. Only this week, Beppe Marotta cited the improvements in his play as a reason the club would not be pursuing defensive reinforcements before the transfer window closes.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the director general said that “the positive start Marrone has made” meant La Madama would “begin the season with the same defensive options that we currently have available to us," per Juventus.com.
Looking for what has lead to that assessment, it is impossible to ignore Marrone’s displays for Juventus in 2012-13, his first campaign in his new post. After being the subject of transfer speculation last January, the player declared that it was “better to play 10 games for a big club like Juventus instead of 30 games for another team,” per Football Italia, and did just that.
The Bianconeri won nine of those games, drawing the other fixture, and his stats made for impressive reading. According to WhoScored.com, Marrone averaged 1.8 tackles and 1.6 interceptions per appearance, whilst his passing was excellent—a major factor in his ability to adapt to the role.
Like Bonucci, he shared playmaking duties in order to free up Andrea Pirlo, averaging 48.9 passes per game and completing them at an excellent rate of 91.8 percent.
That form prompted another of his Italian international team-mates to hint at what may lie ahead for the talented Marrone, as Andrea Barzagli told reporters, per Goal.com's Stefan Coerts:
Luca possesses great quality. He’s good at man-marking and can withstand physical contact.
He is very good as a central midfielder, but he also knows how to adapt well as a central defender.
When he’ll be able to play more regularly he’ll also gain consistency and will be the future of Juventus.
With Sassuolo struggling and only narrowly securing their Serie A status for this term, Marrone failed to build upon that impressive start, but it seems Massimiliano Allegri looks set to continue Conte’s work with the talented 24-year-old.
Five of the club’s pre-season fixtures—including Wednesday’s traditional encounter with a youth-sector side—have seen Marrone feature in central defence, and he was listed as a defender for their tour of Asia and Australia earlier this month.
However, the new coach also sees the need to play with a four-man back line, and in that framework he is likely to become a deputy for Pirlo in midfield. Playing time there may be even more difficult to find, but all indications are he will feature much more heavily this time round.
It appears Barzagli’s assessment of him may well prove accurate, and Marrone might yet be the future of Juventus.