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FEATURE: Mattia Perin proving injuries won’t define his career

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Injuries have threatened to derail Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin’s career many times, but the 25-year old Italian shot-stopper continues to persevere.

It is never easy dealing with the physical setbacks that stem from serious leg injuries like Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin has sustained over his young playing career. But, as we are all well aware of, football can be equally as taxing on the mind when attempting to suit up, return and trust again in all that got you there in the first place.

The struggle, self doubt and morale-deflating injuries threatened to kick the 25-year old down and leave him another unfulfilled talent after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament for the second time in nearly a year. However, motivation to get back on the pitch has strengthened his resolve to prove his career will be defined by his work between the sticks, and not his injury record.

Perin first joined the Genoa system back in 2008, with his debut coming some three years later in a 3-2 victory against Cesena. For further seasoning and development to refine his abilities, the Rossoblu sent the young post man to Serie B club Padova for the 2011-12 campaign. The following season, Perin was returned to Genoa before serving a seasonal spell at Zdenek Zeman’s newly promoted Pescara who, although finished in the cellar, still offered him the opportunity to grow in a top league entering his 20s.

The Genovese had something special in the long-haired, agile ‘portiere’ that could be a pillar for years to come, and a captain as the last line of defence. Since Perin took full reins of the goalkeeping duties for the Ferraris tenant in the 2013-14 Serie A season, he has been considered one of the possible heirs to Gianluigi Buffon’s legendary throne for the Azzurri – this despite not playing on a grandiose stage comparable to the iconic Juventus number one. But those who frequent Italian ‘calcio‘ recognised early on the talent he possessed, and with regular progression in the top flight, it would translate into landing a job with one of Italy’s elite at some point down line. Injuries, however, threatened to throw a wrench into the Latina native’s plans.

Ahead of the 2016 European Championships in France, Perin was considered a lock to make Antonio Conte’s Azzurri squad as one of two backups to Gianluigi Buffon, but an unfortunate right ACL tear in April that year shut the door on his dream leaving him to work his way back into shape for World Cup qualifying. Shortly after returning to full match fitness in September following the summer tournament, misfortune hit the young backstop again, this time on his left knee in a home defeat to Roma on 8 January 2017.

For any outfield player, it is never easy to return from an ACL injury, let alone two. Physically, you may feel up for it and ready to go after passing through the grueling phases of rehabilitation, but mentally, there is that inner fear of re-aggravation that may hinder you from putting in max effort on the pitch.

As for a keeper, it is especially difficult when you consider the positional demands and the frequent physical encounters throughout a season.

Perin’s explosiveness and agility to reach balls high, low and to each side are two of the very qualities that make him so dependable in net, not to mention his commanding of the box typically sees him move quite a bit throughout 90 minutes. It was within everyone’s right to be concerned about Perin’s future to this point, but to the credit of both him and his medical staff, the Italian took his position in between the pipes on Matchday 1 away vs. Sassuolo as Genoa’s number one, earning a clean-sheet with the armband tightly strapped on.

Since the late August affair, Perin’s proven the continuous shortcomings have not impeded on his ability to guard the post,  once again staking his claim as not only a top keeper in Italy, but perhaps surpassing AC Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma as the true successor of Buffon for the National Team.

Entering Round 25 this weekend, Genoa sat in 12th on 27 points, while conceding only 25 goals all season – a defensive record fifth best in Serie A. Defensively, il Grifone have been unexpectedly steady in the back, but there is no denying Perin roaming the penalty area as the last line of defence has surely been the calming presence manager Davide Ballardini needs to compensate for a lack of goalscoring.

Two catastrophic knee injuries in the span of nine months brought on the Italian football communities deepest and most heartfelt sympathies, and many began doubting if Perin would be able to overcome another obstacle in his career. However, the explosiveness, agility, distribution and more importantly self-belief, are back better than ever before. The potential bestowed upon him at a very young age continues to shine week in and week out out in the top-flight, showing the shaggy-haired guardian in net will not have his career defined by injuries. Rather, his demonstrations as Genoa’s protector of goal.

Senior Editor and Social Media Manager of Italian Football Daily. Milanista from New Jersey, USA. Follow me on Twitter at @Matt_Santangelo.

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