After scoring, Sebastian Giovinco can usually be seen placing his thumb on top of his head. "I'm not very big and many people told me over the years that I would never reach the top because of my size," he's explained. Even after establishing himself in Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad and featuring regularly in the Juventus team that won the Scudetto last season, Giovinco still faces those who believe he isn't good enough for the top. "I don't agree," he said after scoring his first international goal against Japan in the Confederations Cup. It was "revenge."
This time last year, Parma director Pietro Leonardi declared Giovinco the best player in all of Italy. Undoubtedly the proclamation was always a little optimistic, but not so much that Leonardi's sanity was called into question. After all, Giovinco had just come off a great season at the crociati -- so much so that he was about to be offered a return to the team at which he started at the age of nine. "I'm back in my hometown, to my club," he delighted in Tuttosport. The stage was set for him to prove Leonardi right, and show he really was the best.
A year on, and any such notion has evaporated. It's telling that Leonardi has been forced to deny any prospect of Giovinco returning to mid-table Parma, with the attacker linked with a move away from Turin again after failing to impress in his second shot at stardom. Just as with his first spell at Juventus -- which culminated in them selling half of his playing rights to Parma in 2010 -- Giovinco has failed to live up to expectations. His coach Antonio Conte has had to come out in defence of the tiny attacker, who faced taunts from some of his team's own supporters.
Unlike the Hanna-Barbera animated insect-cum-superhero from whom he acquired the nickname 'Formica Atomica' or 'Atomic Ant,' Giovinco has become more Juve's villain, starting only 23 league games and struggling to break into an attack which was considered to be the most inept department of the Juventus squad. The billing of the 'new Del Piero' is long gone, with Giovinco criticised for not being strong or clinical enough to play for Juve, too often drifting out of games completely. At 26, youth or inexperience was no excuse, and he didn't help himself with gestures like placing his finger against his lips after scoring in a 3-0 win over Siena.
"I can’t answer why, there are those who say I’m not good enough for Juve," he protested to La Stampa. But, there is no doubt -- his second spell at the bianconeri is at serious risk of going the way of the first. With Fernando Llorente and Carlos Tévez arriving to beef up the Juventus attack this summer -- the latter of whom will wear the prestigious number ten once thought to be reserved for Giovinco -- breaking into the starting eleven looks, initially, at least, impossible.
But, after a barren year, it's easy to forget Giovinco's astonishing couple of seasons at Parma, where he excelled both as a central striker and out on the wing. After scoring seven in his first campaign at the Ennio Tardini, the Atomic Ant exploded into life with 15 goals in his second. Playing in his preferred second striker position, he buzzed around the pitch with his incredible pace, skipping past defenders and playing perfectly-weighted cutting passes. He was clearly too good for the crociati, and clearly good enough for Juventus.
Therefore, why he hasn't been able to recreate such form at the bianconeri is puzzling. Whether it's an example of the big-fish–little-pond effect -- with Giovinco only able to show his best when clearly the outstanding player on an average team -- or simply a confidence problem, is anyone's guess. It could even be down to him struggling to adapt to the possession game that Juventus play, after the quick counter-attacking style which enabled him to glide past defenders at Parma.
Whatever the reason may be, Giovinco doesn't deserve to be written off. His spell at Parma shows he's just too talented to return to one of Italy's provincial teams, just as he's too talented to sit in the Juventus squad to solely help fill a Champions League homegrown quota. He adds a creative spark, a blast of pace and a sprinkling of unpredictably which has already been shown to be so dangerous. Sure, he'll struggle for starts in such a competitive attack next season, but he must take the opportunities he's given.
Upon his return to Turin last summer, Giovinco told Tuttosport that he "never stopped loving Juventus." Sadly, after a mediocre season, it has become increasingly clear that such a love isn't being reciprocated. If he can't show his best this season, a final separation would surely be best for all parties concerned. The team -- Juve or otherwise -- that finally does manage to reignite the Atomic Ant, will have a brilliant player on their hands.