Given the recent history of players moving from Serie A to the Premier League, Swansea City supporters are right to be somewhat sceptical of their newest addition. Indeed, if the likes of Juan Cuadrado, Stevan Jovetic and, yes, even Mario Balotelli (twice) all failed to make any lasting impact despite arriving with stellar reputations, why should the much less heralded Alberto Paloschi be any different?
The simple answer is this; because he is different.
While that aforementioned trio always appeared destined for stardom, Paloschi’s career has been a study in effort, determination and serves as proof that, eventually, ability earns recognition. His talent was first identified by Milan back in 2002, joining the club as a 12-year-old and steadily progressing through the youth ranks.
Five years later his hat-trick sealed a national Under-17s title for the Rossoneri, and he was catapulted into the first team, scoring in both legs of a 2008 Coppa Italia clash with Catania. The young striker was then handed his league debut against Siena, again getting on the scoresheet as he netted with his first touch after being introduced as a second-half substitute.
“Not everyone is able to do what Paloschi did today, and scoring on your debut 18 seconds after coming on is incredible,” said then-Coach Carlo Ancelotti. “I'm very happy for him, I think he's a predestined star with a great goal-scoring ability. He's a very determined and serious lad with the future on his side.”
His growth would continue in the club’s U-20s alongside some truly gifted team-mates, but as Milan continued to persevere with an aging side rather than believing in their youth sector, a hugely talented generation was allowed to thrive elsewhere. Seeing a photo of the squad at the Viareggio Tournament from 2008 will always leave fans of the club with regrets, the likes of Matteo Darmian, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Paloschi never truly given a chance in the famous red and black stripes.
All three would move on over the next twelve months, the latter joining Parma and netting a dozen goals to help the relegated side return to the top flight at the first time of asking. He did so under the watchful eye of Francesco Guidoliin, clearly making a good impression on the coach who has obviously played a major role in bringing Paloschi to Swansea recently.
Serie A would prove much tougher for the striker, filling in a variety of roles as he bounced around from Parma to Genoa and eventually Chievo, at times returning to the wing position he had played earlier in his career. Scoring just 19 goals over 82 appearances, the 2013/14 campaign would see everything click into place for Paloschi, netting a career high fifteen times in all competitions as he finally became a regular part of the starting XI.
He has been the club’s leading scorer ever since, averaging a goal every three games for a side perpetually battling relegation, Chievo finishing 16th and 14th in the past two seasons and currently sitting in 11th place. The 26-year-old has done so on minimal service, with only Georginio Wijnaldum (40) of Newcastle and Milan’s Carlos Bacca (40) taking fewer shots than Paloschi (42) among all Premier League or Serie A players to score at least eight goals this term.
It may come as no surprise to learn he grew up idolising Filippo Inzaghi – even convincing his parents to name his younger brother after the former Italy international – and he is now hitting the target with similar accuracy. But Paloschi is anything but a one-dimensional poacher as Chievo boasted Serie A’s fourth-meanest defence last year, that effort beginning up front as he diligently pressed opponents and worked hard to protect those behind him.
Indeed, without his efforts the side are extremely easy to open up, suffering their heaviest defeat of the current campaign this past weekend in their first match after his move. As a player he is never going to skip past defenders with a display of skill of lightening pace, but works as hard as any midfielder while still getting into the penalty area where he truly thrives.
He rarely scores from distance, netting only once from outside the box over the past three seasons, yet at close range he is surprisingly versatile. While 19 of his last 30 goals have come via his preferred right boot, he has also notched six with his left and – despite standing just 1.83 m (6 ft) tall – five headers as he excels at finding space between defenders.
It may take a few matches to get used to the demanding nature of the Premier League, but Chievo play a much more robust style than most Serie A clubs so he certainly has an advantage and is fully aware of the need to prove he deserves an opportunity. “The big clubs want players who are ready because they always have to win,” he once told La Gazzetta dello Sport, “but some of us need go on a bit of a journey before showing our best.”
That journey has now taken him to South Wales, a vastly different environment than many of his peers, but Alberto Paloschi gives the impression he wouldn’t have it any other way.