Italian international midfielder Emanuele Giaccherini experienced an up-and-down first campaign at the Stadium of Light, but seems determined to finally make his mark at the club this time around.
Speculation was rife of Fiorentina's apparent interest in the player several weeks ago, but the 29-year-old shunned all talk of a switch back to his homeland in favour of remaining on Wearside. That will be music to Gus Poyet's ears, with Giaccherini providing him with another high-quality option. However, with the confirmed signings of Jack Rodwell, Will Buckley and Jordi Gomez in mind, plus the ongoing pursuit of countryman Fabio Borini, where exactly will the stylish playmaker slot in?
Though he'd probably prefer to feature in the middle of the park in an advanced role, as opposed to wide on the left, it could be that his versatility opens up an avenue back into the team once he recovers from a groin strain. In terms of raw skill and the vision to execute a pass, Giaccherini has it all. It seems to me that he simply needs a fair run of matches in order to show what he's fully capable of.
Suffering an injury in the pre-season friendly with Spaniards Real Betis at Heritage Park won't help his chances of cementing a regular place in Poyet's starting line-up, with the problem set to keep him out of training until the middle of next week at the earliest.
He'll feel massively disappointed at missing such an opportunity to put down an early marker at the very beginning of the season. Now, he must play catch-up and hope to get the nod when Sunderland host Manchester United on August 24. However, getting past the new squad additions won't be easy should they engineer a fine result tomorrow at The Hawthorns.
There were fleeting glimpses of the former Juventus star's class during that difficult first year, with classy strikes against Arsenal and Cardiff City instantly springing to mind. He also turned the game on its head at the Etihad when coming on as a substitute against Manchester City in April, which was the fixture that changed the whole complexion of the club's desperate battle against relegation. Two brilliant assists after stepping off the bench were converted into vital goals by the rejuvenated Connor Wickham in an eventual 2-2 draw and the rest is history!
I'm not sure if it's because he appears so unassuming, little and fragile or what exactly, but I personally feel a great warmth towards the Italian and truly hope that he fulfils his potential here. Those few spells of genius which he displayed at certain points of that nail-biting 2013/14 rollercoaster ride suggests he can blossom if given the chance.
It could be argued that 16 league starts wouldn't have been nearly enough for Giaccherini to gather any kind of momentum in order to produce his very best form. Gus did say early in his reign that he'd perhaps be forced to leave out his 'best player' for the overall good of the group and I got the distinct impression he was referring to the two-time Serie A winner.
After all, this is a man who starred at the 2013 Confederations Cup for his country and would've been an automatic choice for the World Cup had he stayed in Turin. Instead, he took the road less travelled in an effort to make a name for himself on these shores and, furthermore, decided to stick around this summer to fight for his place despite numerous setbacks. That fact must be commended at the very least.
Now, after agonisingly missing out on that 23-man Azzurri selection for Brazil 2014, could this turn into a second season to savour with Sunderland for the talented Tuscan? It's within his own grasp to make it happen.