With Phil Bardsley's Sunderland career drawing to a close, after inadequate performances on the pitch, the infamous casino incident and then appealing the fine that was the result of said incident, one of the club's priorities this off-season has been to fill the right-back slot.
Recent reports suggested Sunderland's top target in that position was Lazio's Luis Pedro Cavanda but while it's thought that Sunderland still hold an interest in signing the Belgian, it's emerged that Sunderland's main target is Gino Peruzzi of Velez Sarsfield.
Sunderland were first linked with Peruzzi last week, when reports out of Argentina suggested he was close to leaving the club, with Sunderland thought to be his destination. The transfer looks to have picked up pace since then, with reports suggesting Sunderland had agreed a $5m fee with Velez, the Velez vice-chairman, Julio Baldomar, explained that the negotiations were at an advanced stage and Peruzzi himself has come out and spoken of not only his preference for English football but how he sought out the advice of his manager at Velez, and former Newcastle midfielder, Christian Bassedeas on the potential move to Sunderland.
Gino Peruzzi Lucchetti, who only turned 21 earlier this month, is one of the rising stars of Argentinian football. Born in the town of Corral de Bustos, he is a cousin of former Italian international goalkeeper Angelo Peruzzi. He started playing youth football for his local side Club Atletico Social Corralense, at the age of 6. It was there that he was spotted by Velez and subsequently signed for the Buenos Aires based side when he was 14
A right-back, although he can also play on the wing, Peruzzi made his debut at the age of 18 in a 1-1 draw against Colon in November 2011. He remained in and around the first team, making a handful of starts and regular substitute appearances, until he was trusted to start the 2012 Copa Libertadores Quarter-Finals, against Brazilian side Santos, in the absence of first team regular Fernando Ortiz.
It was during this two-legged affair against Santos that an inexperienced Peruzzi made his name. The Brazilian side were in form at the time, having thrashed Bolivian side Bolivar 8-0 in the round of 16, a week prior to the first leg of the Quarter-Final and their superstar Neymar was in sensational form himself, having scored 9 goals in his previous 4 games. Peruzzi was undaunted however, marking Neymar out of the game from right back, still getting forward whenever he could and helping his side to a vital 1-0 win.
Just to prove that wasn't a one-off, he repeated the trick in the second leg at Santos despite Velez having their goalkeeper sent off before half-time. He did such an effective job on Neymar that the home crowd started to get frustrated with Neymar for not producing his normal heroics. Unfortunately, Peruzzi's performance wasn't enough as Santos won the game 1-0 and went through in a penalty shoot-out.
A regular from that tie onwards, Peruzzi's performances were eventually awarded with a call up to the senior Argentina side and, naturally, he made his debut against Neymar and Brazil in September 2012 and put in another good performance only to see Brazil edge out Argentina 2-1 with a last minute penalty. He has since gone on to earn another 3 caps, is expected to be the long term first choice right back for his country and hopes to be included in the squad for next year's World Cup in Brazil.
Although at the beginning of the his career he was quite clumsy, that didn't last long and he improved drastically and started putting in performances that belied his age and experience.
Standing 5'10", Peruzzi is a competitive, quick and mobile full back who can attack as well as he can defend. An excellent man marker, as he shown against Neymar, he sticks doggedly to his task but with far more control than you would expect from such a young player. He won't put his team under pressure by flying into unnecessary tackles or by being needlessly aggressive.
Quick to get forward to support his team-mates, with a good first touch and comfortable on the ball, he will look to overlap the winger with a purpose, something that should make for a good partnership with Adam Johnson. He will also join in counter-attacks and his pace, coupled with direct running, can cause all sorts of problems for the opposition, not just wide right either, if an opportunity presents itself elsewhere, he will happily take advantage.
Manchester City, PSV Eindhoven and particularly Inter Milan were keen on him, with Javier Zanetti saying that he seen a lot of himself at a young age in Peruzzi and gave Inter a glowing recommendation. There were even reports that Inter had reached an agreement with Velez over his transfer but that was later denied and as Valentino Angeloni was instrumental in scouting Peruzzi for Inter, it appears as if his recent appointment as Sunderland's Chief Scout has been the driving force behind our interest.
Although he is clearly very highly rated, he is not yet the finished article. Prone to the occasional lapse of concentration, when not man marking he can be caught out of position and still needs to work on his distribution, as his passing can be sloppy at times.
All of which he can work on though and considering the rapid improvements he has shown since his senior debut, you'd expect them to be ironed out as he gains experience.
To sum up;
- Quick and athletic
- Excellent man marker
- Full international already
- Genuine world class potential
- Not the finished article
- Will be hard to keep him should he fulfil his potential
Out of all the signings lined up so far, it's the potential purchase of Gino Peruzzi that could lay down a marker for the type of player De Fanti and Angeloni want to bring to the club. Not only does he have all the physical attributes that Paolo Di Canio will be looking for in his players, he also has the potential to be one of the best in the world in his position. For the rumoured £3.3m fee, Peruzzi would be a massive coup and could genuinely be one of the biggest bargains in Sunderland's recent history.