Marco Di Vaio is one of football's wanderers. The Italian striker has turned out for numerous clubs during the course of his career, one that has seen him score 91 Serie A goals to earn a place among the league's top 100 marksmen.
Solidly built, pacy and armed with a fierce shot, Di Vaio has all the qualities expected of a top-level attacker. Like many of his colleagues in the profession, however, his form has often dipped due to a lack of confidence and strong competition for places. Now enjoying a renaissance with Bologna, the much-travelled player has rediscovered his touch in front of goal, after some testing seasons at home and abroad.
He deserves a place in the national team again. To my mind he's playing better than anyone right now.
Di Vaio's early career was marked by disappointment. Born and bred in Rome, he learnt his trade in the youth ranks at Lazio, graduating to the first team in 1993. But over the course of the next two and a half seasons, he failed to impress the coaching staff or the fans, making only eight league appearances before embarking on his travels with loan spells at Serie B outfits Verona and Bari. The first sign of his scoring potential came at Salernitana, where his exploits during the 1997/98 season earned him a permanent move to the club from Campania.
Di Vaio netted 21 goals that season; a haul that helped Salernitana win promotion to Serie A. And while the southerners went straight back down again, their star forward made a name for himself by hitting the back of the net 12 times. His next stop was Parma, where would enjoy three highly profitable seasons, scoring 41 times in all, making his international debut in a 1-0 defeat of Morocco in September 2001, and winning his first trophy: the Coppa Italia in 2002.
The upward curve continued with a 30-million-euro move to Juventus in the summer of 2002, but after making his name in less pressurised surroundings, Di Vaio struggled to adapt to the spotlight, scoring only 15 goals in 55 appearances for the Turin giants.
Following two largely luckless years at the Stadio delle Alpi, he moved to Valencia in a bid to rediscover his form. His first season at the Mestalla was promising enough but the arrival of Patrick Kluivert and David Villa moved him down the pecking order and in January 2006 he was on his travels again, this time to France, where he would score eight goals in 29 outings for Monaco.
A second coming
Back in Italy at the start of the following year, his confidence gradually returned once more. Signed by Genoa in a bid to help them return to Serie A, Di Vaio kept his side of the bargain by scoring nine goals in 22 matches. But at the start of this term he was packing his bags once more, this time for Bologna, a club with a reputation for helping struggling players rediscover their touch. Warming to his task after the arrival of former Lazio team-mate Sinisa Mihajlovic on the bench, Di Vaio is back among the goals.
"He deserves a place in the national team again," said a delighted Mihajlovic. "To my mind he's playing better than anyone right now and that's not just because of the goals he's scoring. He's doing a lot of work for the team too."
Di Vaio kicked off the campaign with a goal in a 2-1 opening-day win over AC Milan at the San Siro, before helping Bologna to further triumphs with a brace in a 3-1 defeat of Lazio and a hat-trick in 5-2 win against Torino.
"I've found the perfect place for me and my family after so many years of instability," said Di Vaio, clearly delighted with life at his new stamping ground. "I'm happy at Bologna and I don't want to leave. There's a real spirit of sacrifice throughout the team. That's our main strength, and when we're up against it in games we draw on all the resources we have."
Despite his new lease of life, Di Vaio is refusing to get carried away. Talk of a return to the Azzurri brings a smile to his face. "That would be a dream come true but I know that for that to happen I need to keep performing well for Bologna." After scoring the 16th goal of an increasingly impressive season in a 1-1 draw with Napoli on Saturday evening, the veteran could soon be back in the famous blue jersey.