“I didn’t want to shoot.” If there is something that Chelsea’s new defender seems not to be lacking, that is honesty. Davide Zappacosta from Sora, Central Italy, introduced himself to his new British supporters last night with a stunning long-range cross-shot that put the ball past opponent goalie Ibrahim Sehic for Chelsea’s temporary 2-0 against Qarabag.
But Zappacosta was humble enough to admit that, after an unstoppable coast-to-coast past two opponents on the right flank, his intention was to cross the ball rather than attempting directly to shoot at the goal. After all, how could have it been different for a player who distinguished himself for his crossing abilities – exactly those that pushed Chelsea’s Italian coach Antonio Conte to bring him to Stamford bridge?
The Blues, who went on to dominate the match and close it 6-0 in their Champions League comeback after one year of absence from the main European stage, had signed the Italian defender at the very last minute of the transfer market window, much to the puzzlement of the club fan base. Zappacosta who?
Even in a summer characterized by record transfer deals such as those of Neymar Jr. and Ousmane Dembélé, €28 million seemed too much for a player about whom little was known outside of the Belpaese. Very few had indeed heard about this 25-year-old right back, whose past experiences were in average clubs like Atalanta and Torino, and who has collected only 5 caps with the Italian Nazionale so far.
But for those who have seen him playing in the Italian league, his crossing skills should not come as a surprise – as he had the chance to show even in the recent international match between Italy and Israel, where he offered one of the very few convincing performances among the Azzurri, and was elected man of the match by his own supporters.
In Seria A, Zappacosta regularly ranked among the top defenders in terms of percentage of conversions from his crosses, whose accuracy was reported as being second only to Juventus’ Alex Sandro. Moreover, he is known as a dedicate and serious professional – an even more valuable trait in a transfer market summer characterized by a suspicious epidemic that prevented from training many players who were not happy with their current squad – Nicola Kalinic, Leonardo Spinazzola, M’baye Niange to name a few.
It will take “ZappaCoast” more than a wonderful yet fortunate goal against modest Azeri side Qarabag to legitimate his presence among Antonio Conte’s boys. But he definitely started off on the right foot, and his fantastic scoring coincided with the 100th goal marked by Italian player in the Champions league.
Call it destiny, if you want. Call him ZappaCoast.