- ESPN FC writer
- Times World Football columnist
Gabriele: "Manolo Gabbiadini has always been an interesting case. First of all, he has a sister who is an outstanding footballer, Melania. She’s a former Serie A Player of the Year and an Italian international. I can just imagine them as children - your big sister being so good at football is probably a motivating factor!"
The Atalanta system
Gabriele: "Gabbiadini is a product of the youth system of Atalanta, which is generally thought to be one of the two best teams in Italy in terms of sheer numbers of players produced. They don’t necessarily produce that many superstars, although way back in the day they produced Roberto Donadoni, who went on to win the Champions League (with AC Milan). In more recent years they’ve produced players like Montolivo, Pazzini, Bonaventura, all of whom have played for Italy. They produce good, serviceable players who can play in the top two tiers, huge amounts."
Above: Gabbiadini during his early days at Atalanta, in action against Inter Milan.
Gabriele: "Atalanta are very good at working on fundamentals and if you look at Gabbiadini, one thing that strikes you is that he does not make stupid mistakes. He’s someone who is very technically solid, very team oriented and very unselfish. He has all those really good fundamentals drilled into him. In some ways, some people may argue that’s part of the reason he hasn’t achieved superstar status, because he’s not selfish, if that makes sense. He’s been a victm of his own versatility."
Gabriele: "He was a good player when he initially broke through with the idea that he’d be loaned around and develop. He had his break-out season at Sampdoria when in half-a-season he scored seven goals (at the start of 2014-15) and that got him a move to Napoli. He did okay there in his first half-season in terms of scoring, he played on the wing sometimes, up front other times, but what hurt him was in his second season (2015-16), Gonzalo Higuain set a new Serie A goals record (36) playing at centre-forward. Gabbiadini had to play on the wing, but Napoli had Insigne, Callejon and Dries Mertens. It was a situation where those guys are more natural wingers, so he kind of fell through the cracks a little and he’s not the type of guy who will create a stink if you ask him to sacrifice himself for the team."
Above: At Napoli with Gonzalo Higuain.
Milik and Mertens
Gabriele: "This season, Napoli signed a Polish forward Arkadiusz Milik, who scored a ton of goals for Ajax last season (Higuain moved to Juventus). The thinking was that they’d alternate, Gabbiadini would play on the wing sometimes, but Milik suffered a very bad injury in October and this is where Gabbiadini was unlucky - he got a few starts at centre-forward but then out of nowhere, Mertens, who had only really played on the wing, all of a sudden started scoring goals like there was no tomorrow. He played centre-forward like a ‘false nine’ and he’s scored 24 goals already this season. At that point there was no way Gabbiadini was going to get back in."
An intelligent player
Gabriele: "Gabbiadini is a very intelligent player who reads the game well. If you move half-a-second earlier than the other guy because you’ve sussed out where the ball is going to go, you will get there first. He’s a very skilful, technical player in the way he strikes the ball, both when he’s shooting and passing. He really has the fundamentals down pat, there is no question about that."
Above: Celebrating with Southampton.