Matteo Darmian (ITA, 24), 37 appearances, vote 8
No outfield player played more minutes in Serie A this season than Matteo Darmian. Testament to his form, fitness and importance to the side. In the early part of the campaign, the 24-year old was overshadowed by his fellow wing-back, the more attack-minded Danilo D’Ambrosio. While Darmian started the season on the right, D’Ambrosio was switched to an unfamiliar left hand side. The latter prospered, caught the attention of other clubs, refused to sign a new contract and joined Inter when he was on the cusp of a national team call-up. Irony of sorts, D’Ambrosio (see Ogbonna) has yet to fair well at the ‘bigger’ club and is still to be called up for the Azzurri. Due to Toro’s perennial shortage of quality or fit left backs, Darmian was switched to the left for the second half of the season. And to complete the narrative, it was Darmian who finished the campaign in the national side. In all honesty, left-wing back is probably the weakest of the three positions he can play in. On the right side he has a more natural delivery and thrust, in central defence (where he will settle eventually) he looks composed and assured. Given that, his performances at left back, especially defensively, were always consistent and improving. As a full back, the 24-year old may be better suited to a four-man defence, as his inability to deliver in the final third is his main weakness. That said, he deserves the elevated rating.
Verdict: Signed a contract extension (until 2017) during the season but the late season national call-up has raised his stock. Milan are interested in bringing their former youth product home. Chances are Toro will try and not sell too many of the crown jewels and Darmian is not agitating for a move. To stay next season and possibly return to the right hand side.
Danilo D’Ambrosio (ITA, 25), 14 appearances (2 goals), vote 6,5
Based on the 14 performances this season, and two crucial goals against Bologna and Milan, probably deserves a higher rating. However, the rather unsavoury nature of his departure was a tad disappointing. A little like Ogbonna, it was not leaving that was the necessarily the problem, it was the lack of gratitude. D’Ambrosio’s contract was winding down and its not clear whether the club acted too late or the player was keen to move on. It was a sad end to D’Ambrosio’s four year spell in Turin which saw some highs and lows since his move from Juve Stabia in January 2010. On the back of his early season showings, he was on the brink of the national team and seemed to be developing into the complete modern wing-back. Remains to be clear whether Inter and their consistent instability was the right move.
Salvatore Masiello (ITA, 32) 8 appearances, vote 6
Toro’s (most) regular left-back during the 2012-13 season, and one of the remaining ex-Bari clan Ventura bought with him to the club. Signed a one year contract extension last summer and most of the pre-season was spent with the calcioscommesse scandal hanging over him (no charges were pressed). Started the season as back up to Giovanni Pasquale. Made his first appearance of the season in a bizarre substitute cameo in the first derby but his only run in the side came after Christmas when he started five games in a row. Maybe we were too accustomed to Pasquale’s hapless displays but Masiello looked to be playing his best football for the club before an injury sustained in the warm-up for the second derby match ruled him out for the season.
Verdict: Was relatively lucky to be retained last season, unlikely the club will offer Masiello a new contract.
Giovanni Pasquale (ITA, 32), 13 appearances, vote 5,5
After the summer-long pursuit of St Etienne’s Faouzi Ghoulam came to nothing (he eventually moved to Napoli and looks a good prospect), Toro opted for a more ‘second hand’ option in Venaria-born Giovanni Pasquale, a consistent performer during his long spell in Udinese. It looked like a fairly astute, short-term move, Pasquale only arriving after Andrea Dossena (another bullet dodged) failed a medical. Things started poorly for Pasquale, his 11-minute substitute appearance against Milan saw him concede a needless 94th penalty (which cost Toro two crucial points). His first two starts against Sampdoria and Inter were barely more promising. Pasquale’s longest spell in the side came before Christmas, after which he was dropped for Masiello and then sustained an injury following the home defeat against Sampdoria which left Toro without a natural left back for the rest of the season.
Verdict: Maybe paid for not spending pre-season with the club. Frequent injuries did not help but Pasquale was one of this season’s big disappointments. Did nothing to fill the dreaded left back void. Will not be retained at the end of his loan.
Marko Vesovic (MNE, 22), 3 appearances, vote 6
Young Montenegrin international signed from Red Star in January. Following the success of Maksimovic, big things were expected of a another young talent recruited from the Baltic. We’ve only seen 179 minutes worth of Vesovic (starts against Inter and Genoa) and two relatively timid performances. Despite Toro’s struggles at full-back, Ventura seemed reluctant to give him an opportunity. Chances are he needs a full pre-season under his belt.
Verdict: Signed as back-up for Darmian, will seek to impress Ventura during pre-season and establish himself next season. Deserves a vote of confidence, only doubt on the horizon is his status as a non-European player which still could seem him sacrificed (possibly on loan) during the summer.
Plan for 2014-15: Right back looks relatively settled. Darmian should stay, Vesovic is an interesting back-up. Santos defender Bruno Peres is also set to join meaning Darmian could become the permanent left-back. The left hand side remains the club’s Achilles heel and needs to be addressed this summer with a quality signing.