English spectators already know all about Giampaolo Pazzini, having watched the forward score a spectacular hat-trick as Italy’s Under-21s beat their English counterparts in the first competitive match at the new Wembley Stadium on 24 March 2007.
A former youth player with Atalanta, where he played alongside his friend Riccardo Montolivo, the consistent finisher and all-round talent has really come into his own since joining Sampdoria in January 2009. Together with Antonio Cassano, he now forms one half of a potent and well-balanced strike duo.
Life in the game has not always been so straightforward for Pazzini, however, despite his Italian Young Player of the Year award in 2004/05. That early promise was stifled by a frustrating spell at Fiorentina, where he struggled to fit into the team’s system of play, being asked first to support Luca Toni before being employed as back-up to Alberto Gilardino and Adrian Mutu. Fortunately coaches at international level have always admired his pace and opportunism, and he helped Italy win the European U-19 title in 2003.
The Pescia native’s senior Italy debut came in a 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifier against Montenegro, and he fired his first Azzurri goal with just 15 minutes gone. That assured him of a place in coach Marcello Lippi’s good books and earned him a reputation as the future of Italy’s forward line.