In the late summer of 2006 Juventus were a club in turmoil. Relegated to Serie B following the Calciopoli trials, the club lost its coach and a number of first team regulars.
Unsure of when they would see their beloved Bianconeri back among the elite of European football, the clubs fans consoled themselves with the fact their team would now be filled with promising young Italian players, turned out year after year by the country's most successful youth system.
Under the previous regime, these players were all too often destined to spend years being loaned around the league, or be used as leverage in deals for players who could help win trophies in the present—the future was another planet to this, the Juventus of Luciano Moggi.
Among the players expected to be given the chance to shine were two Turin-born youngsters who grew up dreaming of pulling on the famous Black and White shirts of their hometown idols. Claudio Marchisio and Sebastian Giovinco were ready to seize the chance that the clubs punishment would now hand them.
Giovinco was considered the more talented, an attacking midfielder with exceptional dribbling and play-making skills. Due to his short stature and his skills, he earned the nickname "formica atomica" (atomic ant) and was considered one of the most promising Italian footballers of his generation.
Marchisio, a hard-tackling, versatile midfielder, was often been compared to former Juventus and Italy midfielder Marco Tardelli for his tenacious style of play and good reading of the game. To follow his hero meant a great deal to the young player, who was expected to make less of an impact than his more skilful team mate.
Giovinco was a year younger, and in that first season in Serie B he struggled for playing time, as Juventus still had veterans Alessandro Del Piero and Pavel Nedved ahead of him, as well as Raffaele Palladino, a similar player who, being three years his senior, was considered closer to the finished article by then manager Didier Deschamps. He managed just three appearances, while Marchisio became a regular starter, playing 25 games.
The following season, after Juve returned to Serie A the pair were loaned to Empoli to gain more regular first team experience. There they both thrived, 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 equalizer in the last minute against Roma. It was a long distance curling free kick, reminiscent of Del Piero.
They also were both becoming regulars in the Italian Under 21 Team that season, helping the team to win the 2008 Toulon Tournament and being part of the Italy team at the Beijing Olympics. After these impressive performances, both were recalled to Turin, to be given their chance to impress for Juventus in Serie A and the Champions League, and here these two intertwined stories seem to separate and lead to very different places.
Marchisio had to fight for his place with a number of more famous, not to mention expensive, imports as Juve sought to return to glory. He rose to the challenge, becoming a first team regular, and even being named Serie A Player of the Month for December 2008. He also forced his way into Marcello Lippi's full national team squad, and can fully expect to play a part in the World Cup this summer.
Meanwhile Giovinco seems to be the odd man out far too often. Under Claudio Ranieri he was often overlooked, leading to the coach being criticised for wasting his talent as the team struggled. Ranieri's replacement Ciro Ferrara was previously in charge of the youth system that produced Giovinco, and it was expected he would get more of a chance.
Ferrara confirmed he would support new signing Diego in the trequartista role, and true to his word, with the Brazilian injured, Giovinco got the start he craved. He was poor, and benched after a game and a half. Then Ferrara altered formation, giving him a wide role in a 4-2-3-1 system. Here Giovinco thrived, but it was short lived and he was once more on the outside looking in.
Soon Ferrara himself would be replaced, this time by Alberto Zaccheroni. Again Giovinco was way down the pecking order, often not even on the bench. This has led to some questioning what these managers see in training everyday. After all, goes the logic, if he is as talented as we all believe, what have Deschamps, Ranieri, Ferrara and now Zaccheroni seen that we do not?
Two unquestionably talented young players, both with stories that begin in the same place, that have been twisted together through the Juventus and Italian youth teams, Serie B, Empolia and now back to Turin. There is time for both to be successful in Black and White, but for now they are in very different places.