Quagliarella: The Once and Present Great Scorer of Goals

Posted on 18/11/2010


Three players in yellow shirts crowd around the one in blue, perhaps knowing what’s about to happen. The outsider has just received a pass from his teammate about 25 yards away from goal, towards the left hand side. He hasn’t look up yet but senses the swarm of his opponents. One touch for control, a short dribble to create space, and then without even looking at the net, he rifles a shot in. The ball sails up in the air and lands in the top corner of the net, like a magnet attracted to it’s opposite charge. The team in yellow looks on dejectedly, but the one in blue is elated.

Vittorio Pozzo once said that having Giuseppe Meazza on his team was effectively “like starting the game 1-0 up.” If that’s so, having Fabio Quagliarella on a team is like having, well, less of an assurance that a goal will occur, but it’s a damn near guarantee that it will be spectacular should one pop in.
Fabio Quagliarella is 27 years old, but it feels as if he’s been around forever. For years, he’s had one incredibly famous reputation: the scorer of goals so absurd, so ridiculous, that most players would dare not try them. And for good reason. Most players do not have the awareness, the talent, the skill that Fabio has to pull off goal after astounding goal. Volleys on the fly, screamers from way far out, goals from impossible angles- by the time you dream it, Quagliarella has already done it. Everything, that is, except for scoring a normal goal.
A quick type of his name into YouTube, and you can’t help but wonder if the video sharing site was built just so all football lovers could share his wondrous feats. Take this one, in a 2-2 draw against Udinese. Quagliarella receives a pass on the semi-circle attached to the 18 yard box. Without stopping the ball- hell, it’s hard to tell if he even looked up during the play- he strikes the underside of it with his right foot, volleying it into the bottom corner of the goal. Could the goalie have stopped it? Probably- he was standing on the same side of goal anyway. But to stop it would have meant to know that it was coming, which given the announcer’s reaction and the sheer audacity of the volley, was nearly impossible. In other clips, the headlines tell the whole story, as in the case of this video. Quagliarella’s chip for Italy this past World Cup was recent enough where most footy followers probably remember it, but it remains stunning nevertheless. And buried in there, in between all these individual goals, are dozens upon dozens of compilation clips. YouTube should probably pay half of his salary every year given all the view he helps them to gain.
Despite his amazing talent, however, his goalscoring record was never stellar. He rose to fame at Sampdoria in the 2006-2007 season, where he scored just 13 goals in 35 games. Admittedly, not one of the goals was anything short of breath-taking, but teams need consistent scorers to win games consistently, and this is the one area where Quagliarella never really performed. He played for Udinese from 2007-2009, scoring 25 goals in 73 games. He moved to his hometown club, Napoli, in 2009, where big things were expected of him. He was at an age where more consistency would be demanded, and at a club where he should have been able to find a rhythm. Yet he managed just 11 goals in 34 games for Napoli- once again, not a paltry return but not one that would put him in the category of an elite striker, turning his season into somewhat of a let down. The boy went home but didn’t bring the goals with him.
Yet something about Juventus has changed that. Maybe it’s knowing that he’s playing for a top club and needs to score in order to start. Perhaps Quagliarella was just born for the 4-4-2 formation that Juve so often play. Or maybe he’s merely terrified of Gigi Del Neri and that mustache. Whatever the reason, Quagliarella has gone from a scorer of great goals to, if not a great scorer of goals, a more consistent one. He has 6 goals in 11 games, a goalscoring ratio of 55%, the same exact numbers of goals scored and games played that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has, in a three way tie for third in the Capocannoniere chart. His previous ratios- 37% at Sampdoria, 34% at Udinese, 32% at Napoli- suggested that perhaps he was becoming less efficient over time. His spell at Juve thus far, though rather short, suggests that the opposite is occurring. Not only is he scoring more often, but he’s playing like a proper forward. No, the magic isn’t gone- just ask Julio Sergio on Roma, whose palms may still be sore from that stop over the weekend- but he’s now scoring tap-ins and headers, goals that are less astounding but still immensely important. For whatever reason, Fabio is thriving on the club level- something that Prandelli surely must recognize, especially given that he’s scored in a World Cup before.
Quagliarella isn’t digressing at all then- in face, he’s developing into a more complete forward. Whereas before he could seemingly only be relied on for a dozen or so wonder-strikes a season, he’s pitching in at Juve and scoring goals more consistently. The flip side is that the goals may be less spectacular at times, but some are just classic Quags at his best. And besides, who can complain if a forward is scoring more, even if som are less beautiful?
Up until 2009, Quagliarella rarely showed consistency and yet started in nearly every game, no matter what club he played for. Fabio cleary isn’t your typical striker. Clubs would keep him on, even if he was in a bad run of form, even if he hadn’t scored in months, because they knew that every second he stayed on the pitch was another second that Quagliarella could save the team by creating something out of almost literally nothing. He’s earned his reputation as a PlayStation footballer due to his incredible ability to create the wondrous out of half a chance- less than half a chance- a goal where a goal would otherwise never be. Quagliarella is a footballing wizard, a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, performing tricks to entertain all- all except the defenders that is. See, try as they might, it’s nearly impossible for them to stop him during his moments of brilliance. It all happens so quickly, so smoothly, from such strange circumstances, that the defenders are left feeling duped. They knew they were up against a magician and they let him fool them anyway. And yet, if they have access to the internet, if they’ve ever been on Youtube (and who hasn’t?), they knew it was coming.
Perhaps he’s the greatest kind of magician, then, always able to fool his audience no matter how hard they look for the tell, for that sure sign that a goal is coming, time and time and time again.

Source: Italy.Worldcupblog
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