Calcio Debate: Why We Should Celebrate The Rebirth Of Mauro Camoranesi

It appears that rumours concerning the demise of the Juventus and Italy wide man had been greatly exaggerated. Goal.com's Gil Gillespie takes his hat off to the unexpected renaissance of the hard working winger with the unfashionable hairdo...

There were those who had written him off and begged Italy coach Marcello Lippi not to include him in the squad for next year's World Cup in South Africa. But after a man-of-the-match performance for Juventus in the 5-2 hammering of Atalanta in Bergamo at the weekend, no-one will ever speak ill of the naturalised Italian international again.

The little winger from Buenos Aries was simply outstanding again for the bianconeri on a filthy rain-sodden Saturday night. In fact, he was a jinking, dribbling, hard-running, all-action, goalscoring revelation. Barring injury or the unexpected banning of all ponytails by South Africa's fashion police, the unassuming fella who has German as a middle name, will be getting on Lippi's plane.

Until then, he looks set to remain Juve's most in-form outfield player, as well as one of their chief goal threats.

Suddenly it seems incredible that back in the summer there were rumours that he was on his way to Lyon as part of an exchange deal involving Fabio Grosso. And before that there were whispers about him being off-loaded to Marseille.

In truth, the rebirth of this most underrated right-sided attacking midfielder has been coming for quite a while.

Rewind to the middle of June and you might just remember Camoranesi being one of the few Italy players to emerge from the disastrous Confederations Cup with anything other than a damaged reputation. Two months later, he was one of the only outstanding players at the otherwise forgettable Peace Cup in Spain. Then we were re-introduced to his Marcello Salas-like heading ability when he scored the equaliser for an under-par Azzurri in the 2-2 draw against the Republic of Ireland in the World Cup qualifier at Croke Park in Dublin. And finally there have been his superb displays for a stuttering Old Lady against Maccabi Haifa, Sampdoria and, most recently, Atalanta.

It seems strange to say it, but if anyone deserves the credit for Juventus' still somewhat unconvincing return to form, it is Mauro Camoranesi. 

So who is this Argentine who got Massimo Oddo to cut off a chunk of his hair in the celebrations that followed Italy's triumphant penalty shoot-out in the 2006 World Cup before going up to the camera and stating, "This one's for the boys from the neighbourhood"? And what is an Argentine doing playing for Italy anyway?

Well, Mauro German Camoranesi Serra, to give him his full name, was born in Buenos Aries, Argentina and came through the youth ranks of his local team Gimnasia y Esgrima before earning a move to third division club Atletico Aldosivi. However, he made his debut as a  professional player for Mexican club Santos Laguna who he won the league title with in his first season, earning the nickname 'El Cholo' in the process.

Despite becoming a fans favourite, he only stayed in Mexico for one season before moving to Uruguayan giants Montevideo Wanderers and then swiftly returning home to play for Banfield for a year. Mexico again beckoned and it was his spectacular goalscoring exploits with Primera Division side Cruz Azul that caught the attention of Serie A club Verona. In the year 2000, he moved to the peninsula and his Italian odyssey began. Two years later, Juventus paid around €8million for his services and the rest, as they say, is history.

But what a fascinating history Camoranesi has.

Because his Italian grandparents never actually renounced their Italian citizenship, Mauro had duel citizenship that made him eligible to play for Italy or Argentina. Italy, of course, has a long history of using Argentinean oriundi such as Raimondo Orsi, who scored one of the Azzurri's goals in the 1934 World Cup final victory. But not since the early sixties, when Angelo Benedetto Sormani donned the famous blue shirt of the Azzurri instead of the shimmering gold one of Brazil, had anyone found themselves having to choose between nationalities like Camoranesi did in 2003.

And what a storm of controversy his decision provoked.

Argentinean legends including Gabriel Batistuta and Diego Simeone raged in public against his decision to choose Italy over the country of his birth and used words such as 'sacred' in their condemnation of the winger.

"I'm not a traitor. It's only a football matter, nothing else," was Camoranesi's somewhat timid response to the barrage of criticism that came his way.

Despite the doubts he must have had, the tricky midfielder made his debut for the country of his grandparents on February 12, 2003 at the age of 26. He has collected 51 caps and been a mainstay in the Italian national team set-up ever since.

What his recent displays for both club and country have reminded us is that when he is fully fit and functioning, Camoranesi is one hell of a talent. In truth, it's hard to think of too many out-and-out right-sided wide midfielders anywhere in the world who are better than him. The 33-year-old with the face like a Peruvian gold mine worker with a pathological distrust of moisturiser has a Lamborghini-like low centre of gravity, highly technical dribbling skills, deceptive pace off the mark and, if recent events are anything to go by, an increasingly clinical eye for goal. And lets not forget his freshly-honed and unreasonably strong ability in the air that he has made his own in this campaign.

Maybe because of the suspicion that surrounded his choice of international allegiance six years ago, Italian's have never fully taken him to their heart. But ever since he pulled his finger out in the chastening 3-0 defeat at the hands of Brazil in the Confederations Cup, something has stirred in Camoranesi and he has been willing to step up to the plate and lead from the front. Now, for the first time in his career, he has a place under the spotlight and is no longer afraid to act like a star.

Giant centre-backs all over the planet can't say they haven't been warned. For club and for country, Mauro Camoranesi is in the best form of his life and is, quite literally, jumping for joy.  

Gil Gillespie, Goal.com