'Siri-who?' would have been the reaction of most PSG fans when Salvatore Sirigu penned a four-year deal. It was an act which went almost unnoticed with Mohamed Sissoko unveiled on the same day and the Parc des Princes abuzz with rumours of Javier Pastore's imminent arrival. The fact the Italian goalkeeper now has his name chanted by those same supporters on a weekly basis suggests no one is asking questions now.
Even more impressive than his remarkably good French, which has not only helped him settle but also won over fans and media, is the way Sirigu has risen from relative unknown to international-class custodian. Initially brought in as back-up to Nicolas Douchez, who arrived from Stade Rennais FC the same summer, injury afforded Sirigu the chance to start the first game of the 2011/12 campaign, an opportunity he seized with both glove-clad hands.
Ever-present under first Antoine Kombouaré and then Carlo Ancelotti, Sirigu's sure-handed performances helped PSG finish second last season and confined Douchez to the role of substitute. His displays also earned him a place in the Italy squad for UEFA EURO 2012. Tellingly, when injury meant Sirigu had to sit out the opening league game of the current campaign, Douchez's interim between the posts lasted only as long as the Italian's lay-off.
It is easy to see why the man formerly nicknamed Walterino – in honour of former Italy great Walter Zenga – has Ancelotti on his side. Unspectacular but spectacularly effective, the flashiest things about Sirigu is the fuchsia-coloured kit PSG goalkeepers wear this season.
PSG boast the joint-best defensive record in Ligue 1 and the UEFA Champions League group stage this term, helped in no small part by three clean sheets during their Group A campaign. Yes, Thiago Silva's arrival has no doubt helped reinforce the PSG rearguard, but Sirigu remains a formidable last bastion.
Though Zlatan Ibrahimović's attacking attributes stole the show in the weekend's 4-0 victory against ES Troyes Aube Champagne, Sirigu showed his own strengths. A clean catch and quick throw allowed PSG to counterattack, leading to their third goal, while the 25-year-old's only real save of the game came when he tipped an overhead kick over the bar with seven minutes left.
With his team so utterly dominant, it would have been easy for Sirigu to switch off. His concentration did not waver, though, a sure-fire sign of a special talent.
The opinions expressed here are the writer's own and not those of UEFA.
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