"There is little aesthetically pleasing about Bianchi’s game but he is effective and scores goals."
Believe it or not, transfers like the one taking Rolando Bianchi to Manchester City can send Italy into a panic. The Italians still hang on to the notion that the Serie A is the centre of the footballing universe that it was in the eighties and nineties, the place where any player who is a player has to be in order to prove himself.
Slowly, they’re getting used to the idea that English and Spanish clubs now have the financial means to compete with them in attracting the best players. But seeing a young local player move to abroad remains something that they cannot live with, considering it as a sure sign of the diminishing value of Italian football and resulting in endless discussions about what should be done to stop the hemorrhage.
That’s what happened when Massimo Maccarone moved to Middlesbrough. He hadn’t yet played in the top division at the time but was considered one of the country’s most talented players. His sudden transfer came as a shock.
Bianchi will elicit similar feelings. One of the best scorers last season, his goals helped save Reggina even though they started the season with a massive eleven points deficit: without that penalty they would have been challenging to play in the Champions League. He was expected to move to a bigger club, but the smart money was on Napoli or Juventus.
Both, but especially Napoli, were genuinely interested but Reggina’s demands – made in the knowledge that there were cash-rich Premiership sides interested and ready to be milked - forced them into a re-think.
Which is how Rolando Bianchi ended up on his way to Manchester. For his ₤8.8 million, Sven Goran Eriksson is getting a typical Italian poacher in the mould of Paulo Rossi, Toto Schillaci and Pippo Inzaghi: someone who hangs around the penalty area not doing much waiting for that one slip to put the ball in the back of the net. There is little aesthetically pleasing about Bianchi’s game but he is effective and scores goals.
Or, at least, he did last season. Because in five previous Serie A campaigns he had totaled just three goals, five in total if you take in the time he spent in the Serie B. That’s a goal every thirteen games.
Worryingly, such statistics draw out unavoidable parallels with Francesco Tavano – top scorer in his debut Serie A season two years back who flopped after a big-money move to Valencia and is now back with Livorno – and even with Maccarone himself.
City have added reason to fear how this transfer will turn out having just had to endure (for there isn’t a better word) one season of Bernardo Corradi’s ineffective, lumbering attacking play. Contrary to Bianchi, few who had examined his track record expected Corradi to finish among the Premiership’s top scorers but, even so, he made not scoring look like an art form.
The difference this season is that there’s Eriksson in charge. A lifetime spent coaching in Italy will translate itself not only in his ability to communicate with Bianchi in Italian but also in the knowledge of how to deal with him.
It means that Rolando Bianchi has a better chance of being a success at the City. Even so, it’s better not to mention Maccarone too much for the time being.
Paul Grech is squarefootball’s regular correspondent on Italian football.