Ahead of the 2011/12 season, Claudio Marchisio was expected to play a super-sub role at Juventus, but the 25-year-old had different ideas, and has become a crucial figure in the Old Lady's revival under Antonio Conte.
When former Juventus midfielder Conte took charge in May, the 1996 UEFA Champions League winner was expected to favour a 4-2-4 system with two attacking wingers. With new signings Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal to incorporate, there did not seem to be room for a central midfielder like Marchisio.
Conte, though, changed to a 4-3-3, a formation in which Turin-born Marchisio has flourished. Adept at making sudden runs into the penalty area, he has been in lethal form, scoring a career-best six goals in 14 Serie A appearances and helping Juventus to a two-point lead at the summit going into Wednesday's encounter with third-placed Udinese Calcio.
Marchisio − who has also scored this term for Italy and in the Coppa Italia − requires one more league goal to equal the record for one season of Marco Tardelli, the ex-Juventus player he is often compared to. "Marchisio is a great player," said the Azzurri legend, 57. "
He is doing great things and I'm sure he will continue to do so for many years. We are quite similar physically and he plays more or less in the position I did wearing my No8 shirt."
Another club great, Pavel Nedvěd, rates him too. "
I'm sure Marchisio will soon be regarded as one of the best midfielders in the world," enthused the former Czech international, whose record of goals in a single Serie A season for the Bianconeri was nine, in 2002/03. "He is already close to the best; he just needs a bit more experience."
High praise indeed, though Marchisio is keen to keep his feet firmly on the ground. "
The more good things I hear about myself, the harder I feel I have to work in training," said Marchisio, who joined Juventus' youth system when he was seven. "We are all eager to bounce back after a difficult season and we are showing it on the pitch. We must be proud of what we are doing. We worked very hard in the summer and now the team is responding well to any kind of pressure. We all want to get Juve back into European competition."
Conte was another midfielder with an eye for goal but never scored more than five in a campaign for Juventus. "Marchisio has the potential to become a real champion," said the former Italian international of his pupil, who is certainly enjoying life under the coach.
"Conte has brought his character to the team," Marchisio explained. "He shows the same fighting spirit as he did on the pitch and is transmitting it to every player in the squad."
©UEFA.com 1998-2015. All rights reserved.