With Italy a goal down in Croatia during the European qualifying campaign back in June 2015, the Azzurri got a penalty. Antonio Candreva stepped up and provided the crowd in Split with a delicate yet impudent moment. He chipped in a Panenka penalty that levelled the tie and grabbed a point for his team.
It was one of the best goals in qualifying but Antonio Conte will be hoping that the Lazio midfielder will be able to provide moments of magic throughout the tournament, despite the L’Aquile star man coming off the back of a tough season.
Dip in form
When Candreva stroked home that penalty last June, his Lazio team were coming off the back of a superb season where they had finished third thanks to strong displays from the likes of Felipe Anderson and Miroslav Klose. Candreva was also having one of his most effective, if not the best he has had, as he produced 10 goals and nine assists in a successful campaign. This season, the team from the Eternal City has not managed to replicate their fine form and an eighth placed finish was testament to that. Despite this, the 29-year old has still chipped in with 10 goals and three assists and whilst many of these being penalties, he has been statistically consistent in a season of struggle.
The season boiled over after the Derby Della Capitale when the Ultras arrived at training questioning the team’s belief and attitude. New coach, Simone Inzaghi, was soon in charge but it was Candreva and some of the more experienced players who diffused the situation with the winger even stating that “You’re right, we have had a ridiculous season.” Despite the troubles Lazio’s key man has been strong on and off the pitch and whilst his performances may have dipped somewhat in comparison to the season before, he has still been one of the better players.
Antonio Conte will be glad to have him along for the European Championship as he can offer stability and quality to the Azzurri midfield. Daniele De Rossi may well be absent as will Marco Verratti and Claudio Marchisio through injury and they will be looking to Lazio’s midfielder to fill the void. With an expansive range of passing, a blistering shot, superb dead ball delivery and his calmness from the spot he offers much.
Whilst adept as a winger he can also play as a Trequartista and if needed he could even drop deeper into the role vacated by the New York based Andrea Pirlo. These attributes mean that he does not necessarily have to rely on his pace and it is this that also could offer the Azzurri experience and longevity until 2018 and maybe beyond.
It is not only the national team coach and those in the Stadio Olimpico who can see his talents. Linked with a move away last summer Candreva stayed to see what would happen in the Champions League, a decision he may have regretted as they did not it make it into the group stages. With so much attention on him, the Euro 2016 tournament may now allow him to put himself in the shop window, especially as he will soon be 30 years of age.
There are many suitors with Internazionale being the main one. “I don’t know if the Nerazzurri like him, you should ask them directly,” Federico Pastorello (his agent) told Calciomercato. Other names have been bandied about including Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Chelsea and he will certainly be courted heavily after the tournament.
The simple fact of the matter is that Candreva will not only be an asset for the national team but he will also be productive addition to any team he moves to after the campaign. He is a player who is not scared of taking a risk with a pass, he knows how to move into and how to play into space and as the Panenka penalty showed, he has a trick or two up his sleeve.