Alessandro Diamanti's route to the top has been nothing if not unconventional. The stocky attacking midfielder grafted for nearly eight years in Italy's lower divisions, most notably with his first club, Prato, before finally earning his chance in Serie A.

 

Predominantly left-footed, Diamanti is at his best when playing in the hole behind two strikers. He can, however, also provide a dangerous presence on either flank, and has superb ability from set-pieces.

 

Diamanti was 17 when he made his professional debut on 14 May 2000, helping Prato to a goalless draw with Novara in Serie C2, the fourth tier of Italian football. His first Serie A outing did not follow until 25 August 2007, when he appeared for Livorno in their 5-1 defeat by Juventus.

 

In two seasons with Livorno he managed 24 goals, ten of which he scored from direct free-kicks. He then spent a season in England with West Ham, scoring eight times for manager and compatriot Gianfranco Zola before returning to Italy. There he had a one-season spell with Brescia before joining Bologna, whom he has captained since 27 January 2013.

 

Diamanti made his international debut under current coach Cesare Prandelli and later played at UEFA EURO 2012, scoring Italy’s winning spot-kick in their penalty-shootout victory over England in the quarter-finals. He has since become a regular in Italy's squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ preliminaries.