Federico Chiesa was as crucial as anyone for Italy at Euro 2020, but he has not always been at the forefront of Juventus’ plans — until now.
The 23-year-old forward’s winner and all-action display in Juve’s 1-0 Champions League victory over holders Chelsea on Wednesday could be just what was needed for the Turin club to turn its stuttering form around.
While Chiesa played a key role in Italy’s Euro 2020 success, scoring in the semi-final against Spain, he has been in and out of the Juventus team since coach Massimiliano Allegri returned to take charge for the second time in the close season.
This has partly been down to fitness issues, but, according to widespread reports in the Italian media, there is seemingly a lack of trust between the player and manager.
READ | UEFA Champions League: Chiesa fires Juve to battling win over champion Chelsea
Earlier this season, when Allegri was asked why he appeared to be angry following Juve’s 1-1 draw with AC Milan in Serie A, the Juve coach replied: “I needed him (Chiesa) to take the ball to the opponent’s half. He must grow and become aware that we are at Juventus.”
Handed a start against Chelsea in the Juventus Stadium, Chiesa not only proved worthy of his spot in the side, but also that he could be its focal point.
Chiesa’s goal typified his movement all night, as he was one step ahead of the Chelsea backline, rifling Federico Bernardeschi’s clever pass into the roof of the net 10 seconds into the second half.
He again proved to be the man for the big occasion – Chiesa became the first Italian to score in four consecutive Champions League starts for Juventus since Alessandro Del Piero in November 1997.
Sky Sport Italia pundits and former Italy coaches Antonio Conte and Fabio Capello labelled Chiesa’s display “lethal” and at a “unique level” to everyone else on the pitch.
With Juve is still finding its feet following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Manchester United, Allegri sees a new role for wide forward Chiesa in the future, such was his impact against Chelsea.
“That was the first time Federico had played centre forward,” Allegri told reporters.
“I’ve not given my take on how good a footballer he can become but on him playing up front. I think he’ll ultimately become a striker.”
Hardly glowing praise, but as Juve hunt for someone to take on Ronaldo’s goalscoring mantle — with Paulo Dybala yet to fulfil his potential and consistency remaining an issue for Alvaro Morata — the fact Allegri is considering Chiesa as the central option is telling.
ALSO READ | UEFA Champions League: Ronaldo’s late show gives Man United win over Villarreal
“This is Juve!” Tuttosport, the Turin-based sports newspaper, declared on Thursday with the club finally starting to turn their season around after securing a third win in a row in all competitions.
Having failed to win any of its opening three league games for the first time in 60 years, it is certainly heading in the right direction.
It has taken six points from a possible six in the Champions League to sit top of its group. If it is to continue to improve, it will need a Ronaldo-shaped hole filled permanently with Chiesa a possible solution.