Emanuele Giaccherini was one of the stars of the show as Italy produced the performance of Euro 2016 so far to beat Belgium 2-0.
Sunderland fans would’ve been surprised to see the midfield dogsbody they loaned to Bologna last term start for the Azzurri in Lyon, but were offered a stark reminder of his talents when he deftly pulled a 50-yard Leonardo Bonucci ball out of the air before curling a shot into the bottom corner of Thibaut Courtois’ net to open the scoring.
Restricted to just eight league appearances at the Stadium of Light in 2014/15, Giaccherini was sent back to his homeland by Dick Advocaat at the start of the 2015/16 edition.
After he struck four goals and created as many in just 16 starts during his maiden Premier League season, the 31-year-old can clearly cut it at England’s highest level and his stellar showing in Italy’s win over Belgium was proof that a year in the lower reaches of Serie A hasn’t had a negative impact on his ability.
Based on this evidence, keeping Giaccherini could prove to be a transfer masterstroke from Sunderland, especially when he’d be working under the tutelage of rejuvenation expert Sam Allardyce.
Sunderland aren’t exactly flush for options out wide either, with Wahbi Khazri and Fabio Borini their undisputed first-choice wingers in their favoured 4-3-3 formation.
Jeremain Lens is an alternative, but the Dutchman was selected to start just six Premier League games following Allardyce’s October takeover as he struggled for form in a difficult first season in England.
The endeavour that won Giaccherini so many plaudits against the Belgians is a characteristic conspicuously absent from Lens’ artillery, giving the Italian an advantage in any bid to win his place back.
He shone in a central midfield berth in the Belgium victory, a testament to his ability to flourish in a number of systems. His performance must’ve further endeared him to Allardyce too, who has been known to dabble in the 3-5-2 modus operandi Antonio Conte deploys.
It all suggests that reintegrating him back into the fold alongside the current options, as opposed to discarding him in accordance with general expectation, is a course of action that could save Sunderland a sizeable sum, which would be invested in other areas of the squad as the Wearsiders look to beat a 3/1-rated relegation in 2016/17.