Turin: Torino goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu returns to the limelight in Saturday's Turin derby against Juventus as he looks to prove he can relaunch his career after two difficult years between Paris Saint-Germain, Sevilla and Osasuna.
"Torino have given me this great opportunity to return and to be the Salvatore that I really am, the one I recognise with a smile on my face," Sirigu told Sky Sport.
Sirigu lost that smile during two complicated years, starting in the summer of 2015 when Germany's Kevin Trapp arrived at Paris Saint-Germain and found favour with then-coach Laurent Blanc.
Persuaded he could match the younger German, Sirigu first hung in before eventually deciding to up sticks and leave on loan.
His first six months in Spain with Sevilla proved disastrous and the Sardinian played just two matches.
His experience with Pamplona side Osasuna was more positive, but the context of playing in a small club fighting vainly to stay up was far from what he had known during his five years in Paris.
Gone was the excitement of Champions League football, big-name games and international fixtures as he fell down the Azzurri pecking order.
Sirigu will rediscover the bright lights of a prestige game of which he had been starved for two years in Saturday's Derby della Mole between Turin's rival clubs.
But if Sirigu had found himself in the limelight again, it's not just because of the importance of this weekend's game.
It is also because of his remarkable start to the season which sees his side sit fifth and among the surprise challengers for the Serie A title.
'Unbeatable and decisive'
Behind a defence that conceded 66 goals last season, Sirigu has earned rave reviews as a replacement for English international Joe Hart, who has left a memory of a charming boy but average goalkeeper in northern Italy.
"(Coach Sinisa) Mihajlovic has not lost out in the switch," resumed Gazzetta dello Sport on Friday.
After an excellent performance in a 1-0 win over Benevento, Sirigu was hailed by Turin daily Tuttosport as being "as decisive in one evening as Hart in one season," with Gazzetta praising him as "unbeatable and decisive".
Torino have had a harder time since then with two goals conceded at Sampdoria (2-2) and against Udinese (3-2) without the blame being pinned on Sirigu.
But the real test is expected against champions Juventus, leading Serie A after a perfect start to the season, when he comes up against his opposite number Gianluigi Buffon, whom Sirigu played second fiddle to in the national side from 2010 to 2016.
The emergence of Gianluigi Donnarumma, 18, has pushed the Sardinian further from the national side but his return to top form gives him reason to hope for a place on the World Cup squad next year if Italy qualify.
And Sirigu — capped 17 times — who could also be up against Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin for a spot, has solid belief in his ability, as at 30 years he is still in his prime.
"After having spent more than six years in the national side, it's only normal that I should have the ambition to play my cards, but with as much serenity as possible. I don't like those who make big statements about the national side," he told Sky Sport.
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Updated Date: Sep 22, 2017 19:11:54 IST