Italy’s Armenian Recruit Shows Promise in World Cup

Matteo Darmian

MANAUS, Brazil (Football Italia)—As Matteo Darmian spoke to the Press following his World Cup finals debut, he was as surprised as many at his inclusion in Cesare Prandelli’s Italy squad.

“If someone had told me a few months ago that I would be here, honestly I would have laughed,” the 24-year-old confessed.

What the Torino man refers to is a three month period that would be represented on a graph as a consistently ascending line. Darmian’s World Cup selection followed an excellent season for Giampiero Ventura’s Granata that for the most part flew under the radar – he played 37 games in a variety of positions including either sides of midfield, center-back and as either full-back.

Darmian has now turned into a crucial component of a club side that finished seventh in Serie A last season and is now, most recently, a starter for Italy – playing every minute of the Azzurri’s 2-1 win over England on Saturday night.

However, despite giving the impression he has simply popped out of the ground, Matteo Darmian will enter his third season as a Serie A regular after the World Cup. Appearing first as a 16-year-old substitute for Milan in 2006 before a collection of loan moves – first to Palermo and later to Torino in 2011 – cemented his status and first attracted the attentions of the Italy Coach.

Born in the Northern Italian town of Legnano to parents of Armenian descent, Darmian excelled at youth level for Milan, captaining the Diavolo’s primavera side at 17.

However, in June 2012 Milan sold their stake in Darmian’s contract to Palermo, ending an 11-year relationship with the player. The decision has proven to be an oversight – Darmian evolving into a consistent figure in Turin while Milan have struggled for quality at either full-back position in recent years.

Quick and industrious, Darmian was a constant threat on the right flank against England with overlapping runs and measured, intelligent movements. Displaying accurate crossing and incisive, calm passing, the former Palermo man combined well with Antonio Candreva, including one occasion that led to the Azzurri’s winning goal in Manaus.

Darmian’s effectiveness led to many lauding the performance, including Inter and Italy icon Sandro Mazzola.

“I didn’t expect Matteo Darmian to be so decisive at these levels but he really impressed me,” the former midfielder remarked. “England didn’t realize he was there and it allowed us to punish them.”

Darmian’s Italy involvement is a credit to Cesare Prandelli, who has once again trusted his instinct to value talent over experience. The choice of the Torino prospect instead of the more tournament tested Ignazio Abate and Christian Maggio has proven to be a worthwhile risk so far, Darmian representing another weapon that provides much-valued tactical flexibility.

It is only one game for the Torino talent who is very much at the early stages of a prospective Azzurro career, but the first indications are promising. With little expectation attached to the chances of finding a long-term solution at right-back out of either Abate or Maggio, Darmian has a real opportunity to make the position his own. Although if he did, it probably wouldn’t be much of a surprise anymore.


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  1. Norin Radd said:

    Now if only all of these “Armenian decent” (whatever that means) players came together to play for their ethnic fatherland of Armenia for once instead of being under other flags in obscurity, then maybe our Armenian team would finally be represented better on the World Cup stage.

    Yes we understand, like typically Armenians even footballers seems to love to basque on odar teams where “the money is”, but at least when it comes to the World Cup have the decency to reach into your roots a little and play for your ethnic home country just like how the Brazilians, Spaniards, and Italians do. When the World Cup comes around all Pro footballers go back to play for their home countries except us Armenians of course, we are odarapasht until the end.

    Great player, sad and pathetic situation. We still have a long way to go as an ethnic people.

  2. Clueless About Futbol said:

    Dear Norin Radd: I, too, wish the all professional soccer players of Armenian descent played for the Armenian National Futbol Team. In Matteo Darmian’s case, however, the young full back joined revered AC Milan’s farm system back in 2000, through which he honed his skills. Eventually, he was invited to be a member of Italy’s Under 17 (i.e. age), Under 18, Under 19, and Under 20 National Futbol Teams. In March 2014, Matteo was called up to Italy’s Senior National Futbol Team, coached by the legendary Cesare Prandelli. Based on what little I know, if any soccer player in the world already belongs to a given national team (be they the Under 17 team or the Senior National Team), then it is extremely difficult diplomatically for another country’s national futbol team to court let alone recruit them. In the futbol world, “stealing” a member of another country’s national team is tantamount to scandal and derision. The leadership of the Armenian National Futbol Team has done its best — especially as of late — to invite and land soccer players of Armenian origin to play for the Armenian National Futbol Team (i.e. Movsisyan, Ozbiliz, Guevgozian, and several others). The reason that the aforementioned players were able to play is mainly due to the fact that they were not active members of another country’s national futbol squad. One can only wish all the best to Matteo Darmian. If some time in the future, however, Italy’s Senior National Team does not believe Matteo is “good enough” to stay on the national team, that would be the right moment for Armenia’s National Futbol Team to court him.