Manchester United have agreed a £12.7m deal with Torino for Matteo Darmian. It is believed the Italian defender has agreed terms with the Premier League club and he is due in England to undergo a medical before finalising his transfer to the Red Devils.
Darmian was part of the Italian team which beat England in Brazil last summer, and yet he remains somewhat of an unknown talent to English football fans. So, Who is Matteo Darmian and what will the defender bring to United?
Despite coming through the fruitful youth system at Milan, Darmian’s career didn’t take flight until he moved to Serie B side Torino in 2011. Acquired for the modest fee of just €2m, Darmian was thrust straight into first team and helped to ensure Torino were promoted to the Italian top flight.
It was during the 2013/14 season that Darmian really began to show his true potential. Playing at right-back for the North Italian club, Darmian was named in the Serie A Team of the Season alongside teammate Ciro Immobile, who went on to join Borussia Dortmund that summer. Outstanding performances earned further praise as Darmian played a key role in the club’s highest league finish in recent years.
At the age of 24, Darmian was named in the Italian squad to compete in the 2014 Brazil World Cup. Given his performances throughout the season prior to the tournament, the addition of the versatile defender came as a shock to very few. Italy were to bow out at the group stages, however, the performances of Darmian were one of a few shining lights for the Italians.
As England fans know all too well, Darmian played a pivotal role in the victory over the Three Lions in Manaus, during their opening game of the tournament. He consistently overlapped down the right flank, taking advantage of Danny Welbeck’s lack of defensive awareness. It was a man of the match performance, and he went on to prove that it wasn’t a one off during the Turin friendly against Roy Hodgson’s men in March.
Able to play on the left or the right flank, Darmian is renowned for his adventurous bursts forward which frequently causes problems for the opposition full-backs, as Leighton Baines will testify. However, United manager Louis van Gaal will no doubt be drawn to his versatile positional abilities, something which cannot be said about current United right-backs Antonio Valencia and Rafael.
Darmian is rarely caught off guard. His marauding runs forward are topped off by his defensive solidarity. During the 2012/13 season he made the most tackles per game across Europe’s top five leagues, averaging 5.3. This physicality makes the talented Italian perfectly suited to the English game.
The Manchester United manager is a big fan of width, but this tactic often cost them dearly last season, when they were often caught out on the counter-attack, but Darmian would appear to be the perfect solution to that problem.
It has been no secret that United have struggled to fill the gaping hole that was left following Gary Neville’s retirement in 2011. Rafael was tipped to fill the void, but his inconsistency and injury troubles have meant the right-back position has been a weak spot in the United side for some time. Following interest from abroad, Rafael is expected to leave Old Trafford this summer, making way for the talented 25-year-old.
Darmian’s style of play and the quality of his attributes have led to some high profile comparisons, with the Italian often likened to Paolo Maldini and Antonio Cabrini. If he could come close to replicating the achievements of those two Italian legends, he would represent a tremendous signing for both Van Gaal and Manchester United.