Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Owen Neilson On October - 28 - 2011

Serie B Focus: Age A High Price To Pay For Maturity

“But age, with his stealing steps,

Hath claw’d me in his clutch,

And hath shipped me intil the land,

As if I had never been such.”

I don’t think the Clown in Hamlet was singing about a footballer’s career, but in the same way age steals away life’s vigour, so it diminishes the speed and skill that creates quality players. Serie A can resemble an old people home at times; Gennaro Gattuso’s failing eyes, Alessandro Del Piero constantly wrapped in a blanket; but for those who feel they still have something to offer, or have spent all their money on fireworks, Serie B beckons.

While most men are coming to terms with being a walking talking adult around thirty, in a warped microcosm, a footballer is termed experienced. Four sides in particular invested in such bonafide knowledge, and this week the column examines the success of those moves.

At 36, Michele Marcolini is practically a pensioner in footballing terms, and so it was deemed by Chievo in the summer after a final three-season flourish in the top division. Fourteen starts and twelve substitute appearances weren’t enough to keep Marcolini at the Bentegodi, but he’s begun his 19th professional year brilliantly with Padova recording seven assists in the opening six games.

On matchday one his left boot combined with Omar Milanetto from a corner to create my goal of the season so far, and again provided for Raffaele Schiavi to level things against Sampdoria. In all four of his assists have come from dead balls, while his tireless running across midfield has belied his position as Padova’s oldest player. That commitment saw him leave the field on Saturday after twenty minutes with an injury to his cheek, but he managed to hospitalize Vicenza’s young defender Denis Tonucci in the collision.

Marcolini’s more occasional, rotund midfield partner, Milanetto almost joined FC Lugano from Genoa after a fall out with fans following victory in the Derby della Lanterna last season. However, after the Swiss side announced his arrival, the former Juventus youth player joined Padova.

As already mentioned, he scored Padova’s first goal of the season, a sweetly timed volley from 20 yards and got another absolute pearl in the 4-2 win at Empoli. Never a prolific goal scorer, Milanetto sits deeper in midfield linking up the play with Marcolini and Andrea Bovo doing the running, while his chunky frame is an asset when pressing in defence.

Coach Alessandro Dal Canto has so far tried to keep the 35 year-old fresh, using him in six of the eleven games in rotation with Vincenzo Italiano another who had success in the Stadio Bentegodi with Hellas and Chievo.

Next on the list is Simone Barone, from World Cup winner in 2006 to stuck on the Stannah stair lift of football in 2010. After taking a medal with the Azzurri he left Palermo for Torino and made 82 appearances in three seasons. When il Toro was relegated in 2009 he moved to Cagliari for six starts then found himself without a club for 2010/11. He trained with Crociati Noceto in Lega Pro Second Division then with Varese. It’s difficult to quantify the damage done to Italian football’s Benjamin Button, but after a trial period he managed to take up with Livorno in the summer.

He’s played 553 minutes of the 990 so far scoring one goal, though any hope of a return to Serie A seems unlikely after being substituted in seven of ten games.

Livorno coach, Walter Novellino started with a 4-2-3-1 which offered Barone a role alongside Gael Genevier but the switch to 4-1-4-1 has seen the 33 year-old shuffled across the midfield depending on the needs of the game. Over the season he’s likely to lose his competition for a regular place with Andrea Luci and Luca Belingheri, but he can still console himself with thirty-eight minutes of glory in Germany.

Mariano Bogliacino rode the Napoli wave from Serie C1 up to Serie A and enjoyed four seasons in the top flight, the last on loan at Chievo, before being shelled.

The 31 year-old Uruguayan headed south to Bari and has been another one up and down like a fiddler’s elbow, being substituted on or off in all of his eight appearances. Not that that is anything alien to him; in all four Serie A seasons he featured in 103 games but played ninety minutes in only 21, scoring seven goals.

He usually played on the left of a four-man midfield for Napoli and behind the front two for Chievo, and has been deployed in a similar central role since Vincezo Torrente switched to a 4-2-3-1.

He contributes in as much as he can pass well and is solid but a gradual slide into football’s dementia surely awaits.

Last is Marco Pisano, after ten seasons in Serie-A with Brescia, Sampdoria, Palermo, Torino (4 games in Serie B), Bari and Parma the 30 year-old Roman moved to Vicenza. Despite that longevity, the left-back made only ten appearances in the last two seasons and after picking up an injury on matchday six, he is yet to return. Nicola Giani and Alessandro Bastrini have been sharing the position in his absence so Pisano will hope to impress new coach Luigi Cagni when he’s fully fit.

Perhaps  a player’s decline is much like old age, while some mark their later years with that enduring class, others buy a mobility scooter and a permed toupée.

“Thank you sir, may I have another?”

A brief nod of appreciation to another doddering thirty something, Pescara’s Marco Sansovini, for scoring the first tripletta in Serie B this season. The 31 year-old profited from three close range finishes against Ascoli that takes him to seven for the season, while The Dolphins moved up to third with their fourth win in five.

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