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The look on the face of Palermo goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu as he trudged off the field after his team’s last minute defeat to Napoli last Monday said it all. The 23-year-old shot stopper had produced an outstanding display of world class goalkeeping to keep the home side at bay, but was cruelly denied a hard earned point by Christian Maggio’s late late show at the Stadio San Paolo.

Born in Sardinia, Sirigu started his career in the youth ranks at Venezia, his talent was obvious right from the start and in 2005, he made the switch to Sicily to join Palermo. Coach Luigi Del Neri had no hesitation in playing the youngster in the following season’s Coppa Italia and Uefa Cup ties against Sampdoria and Fenerbache respectively and at the end of the season, he was loaned out to Italian third division side Cremonese, to gain valuable domestic first-team experience.

After making 19 appearances in Cremona, Sirigu was loaned out to Serie B side Ancona for the 2008-09 season at a time when the club were going through a period of major upheaval. Two managerial changes during the season meant that the youngster’s time on the pitch was limited to only 15 appearances and at the end of the campaign, the club descended into financial meltdown and Sirigu returned to Palermo as number two shot stopper behind the club’s new signing Rubinho.

Legendary goalkeeper Walter Zenga, had now taken charge of the Rosanero and after some less than impressive performances by his new number one, decided to give Sirigu his shot at the big time. His official Serie A debut came away to Lazio on September 27 2009 and in a signpost to the future,  he gave a man-of-the-match performance in a 1-1 draw. Zenga knew he had an exceptional young talent on his hands and stuck with the youngster for the following match - a home game against Juventus. Sirigu was outstanding again, helping his side to a 2-0 win. Rubinho was shipped out on loan to Livorno as the tifosi at the Stadio Renzo Barbera saluted their new hero.

His International career started as early as 2005 when he was selected to play for the Italian Under-18 side, this was quickly followed by promotion to the Under-19′s, before breaking into the Under-21 set up in 2007 in a friendly match against France.In February of this year, Azzurri coach Marcelo Lippi gave Sirigu his first full international call up for the game against Cameroon and although he did not feature in the match, he gained vital international experience. In the summer of 2010, it looked as though he could make the plane for the World Cup in South Africa after he was selected in Lippi’s provisional 28- man squad, but he was one of the unlucky ones who didn’t make the final 23.

After a disastrous summer, former Fiorentina coach Cesare Prandelli took over from Lippi and immediately called Sirigu into his first squad against the Ivory Coast. On August 10 2010, the Sardinian made his full international debut in the 1-0 defeat against the African side. On September 3, he kept his place between the posts as the Azzurri beat Estonia 2-1 in Tallin in a Euro 2012 qualifier.

Sirigu has been in outstanding form this season and having signed a new contract with the Sicilian side that will keep him at the club until 2014, the future looks very bright for the man from Sardinia. His recent displays are receiving rave reviews from the Italian press and as Italy’s current number one goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, battles again debilitating injury which may cut short his international career, Prandelli can sleep soundly at night knowing he has world class back-up in the shape of Salvatore Sirigu.

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