Small in stature but big in talent, Sebastian Giovinco is the rising star of Italian football. Tipped by many as the heir to Alessandro Del Piero's throne, the 22-year-old is learning his trade with Juventus. Yet, while the diminutive attacking midfielder has the football world at his feet and would be assured a starting place in the vast majority of line-ups, such is Juve's embarrassment of riches that the youngster is being bedded in gradually. FIFA.com invites you to discover one of Serie A's stars of tomorrow.
Making a point
Born in Turin to a Calabrian mother and Sicilian father, Sebastian learned everything he knows in Juventus' youth teams, making steady progress with I Bianconeri and earning a call to the national youth set-up in 2003.
Despite his subsequent elevation to the first team, Giovinco almost looks out of place on the pitch, dwarfed as he is by Serie A's towering, athletic defenders. Yet as soon as the ball comes his way he springs into life, throwing his imposing opponents off balance thanks to a low centre of gravity and extraordinary technique, making the game look ridiculously easy in the process.
What makes the pocket-sized midfielder even more of a threat to defences is an innate ability to read the game and dead-ball skills that appear to have been inherited from his team-mate and role model Del Piero. An established favourite with Juventus fans, Giovinco has been dubbed 'The Atomic Ant' in recognition of his size and explosiveness on the ball.
Whenever he scores, he celebrates by putting his thumb on top of his head and leaving his little finger pointing to the sky. As he explained in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, there is a reason behind the curious gesture. "I'm not very big and many people told me over the years that I would never reach the top because of my size. That's why I do that celebration every time I score a nice goal. It's my way of saying that I'm getting bigger."
Staking a claim
Having won practically everything there is to win at youth level, the crown prince of Italian football is staking an increasingly compelling claim for regular first-team action. After making his debut under Didier Deschamps in a Serie B match against Bologna in May 2007, Giovinco was loaned out to Serie A outfit Empoli the following season, where he rapidly established himself as the heartbeat of the team, making 37 league appearances in all. And when he returned to Turin, the problem of finding a place for the young prodigy became even more acute.
Unfortunately for the rising star, thanks to the renaissance of Del Piero, the fine form of Brazilian striker Amauri and the return of David Trezeguet, Juve coach Claudio Ranieri already has plenty of options up front.
"I can promise you that Sebastian will be playing more from now on. He deserves it," commented Ranieri recently, perhaps fearing that his little playmaker would be tempted by the overtures being made by other clubs with big budgets. What the rest of Italy wanted to know, however, was what position did Ranieri have in mind for him? While Giovinco is capable of playing on the left or right and even as a striker, his agility and vision make him the ideal candidate for the playmaking role.
"Playing on the wings is not ideal for me because you always have to get back and defend," comments the youngster. "The important thing, though, is to be ready when Ranieri gives me the call, even though it's not easy to play every so often knowing that it's going to be a while again before I get another game.
"I also believe that Alessandro (Del Piero) and I can play together," he adds with a sense of conviction. "We both speak the same language out on the pitch. Even so, I need to focus on the present. That's more important than waiting to see if I'm the heir apparent to Del Piero."
While still in his early 20s, Giovinco is desperate for some regular football, preferably with Juventus, and not least because the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ is coming up fast.
"I really don't know if I'll be going and to be honest, I'm not very confident about it. I think Mr Lippi already has a list of 23 players in his mind and they'll be the ones who'll be going to the Confederations Cup in June." If the jinking Giovinco is to catch Lippi's eye before then, he will need to impress in Juve's remaining championship and UEFA Champions League matches.