Is there such a thing in football as a late bloomer blooming too late? Late bloomers – those players who float around mediocrity, or who show early promise of being a top player before a run of poor performances puts everyone off. Then later on in their career, when they are much older, they show the ability that everyone thought they had, or reach a level that not many thought they would hit.
Alessandro Diamanti, who turns 30 in May, is blooming late, at least for the modern game. His influence over Bologna this season far greater than the last – if you like to judge players purely by stats and not by watching their games, then you can take heart from the fact that he has equalled the number of assists from last season and is one goal away from matching his 2011-12 total. He’s playing more key passes, taking more shots, dribbling more often – anything you can possibly imagine, he is probably doing better this season than he was last campaign.
His efforts have now been rewarded with regular Italy call-ups – there was a two-year gap between his first and second caps. He has benefitted from the lack of players that can play as trequartista in Cesare Prandelli’s 4-3-1-2 – the Coach sees only him and Riccardo Montolivo as options for the role – but has had a reasonable effect in games in which he has appeared, mostly as a substitute.
With his place in the Italy squad seemingly secure, at least until Prandelli finds someone else who can play as trequartista, the only step left for him is taking his talents to a better team.
This brings us to the concept of blooming too late. By the time this summer comes round he will be 30 – not so old that his career is about to end, as you would imagine he has at least three years left in him at club level of performing to his current standard. But for Diamanti it is a problem, because he will not be a 30-year-old with bags of top-level experience, or an impressive pedigree.
Bologna is arguably the biggest club he has played for, and the biggest game he has played in was probably the Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany last year. He is not going to influence a dressing room with wisdom, or have a great deal of know-how on the pitch when things go wrong or get tough. Without that added extra that some over 30s can bring, and with any investment hardly representing a purchase for the future, it means the potential suitors at the top of the table are basing a decision to acquire him on whether his current ability as a player can improve their situation right now, and whether it is worth what would essentially be a short-term fix.
At the moment Diamanti is a relatively big fish in a small Bologna pond, orchestrating matters in attack. There is no guarantee that if you put him in a bigger pond with larger fish that he is going to have the same influence. He offers something a little different for Italy when he comes on as a substitute, though this is perhaps because there is a hint of unorthodoxy about him on an international scene where a lot of the top teams are trying to achieve the same style with similar players, rather than because he has the quality to succeed at that level.
He will probably have to accept a role like this if he is to move, with a few starts here and there, unless Napoli or Lazio can find some space for him in their line-ups. If they can’t, then the boat heading further up the League will set sail without him aboard.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.