Player to watch: Giovanni Simeone, Diego’s son making his own name at Genoa

A famous surname can be a burden in sport. but Giovanni Simeone is beginning to look at Genoa like he will blaze his own distinct path from that of his father Diego.
Giovanni Simeone and Genoa are 11th in Serie A with a game in hand on most clubs in the division, on eight points. Simone Arveda / EPA
Giovanni Simeone and Genoa are 11th in Serie A with a game in hand on most clubs in the division, on eight points. Simone Arveda / EPA

A famous surname can be a burden in sport. The history of football is peppered with cases of sons of celebrated fathers who passed through difficult phases living up to the great reputations of their fathers. Diego Simeone, lauded manager of Atletico Madrid and formerly a distinguished midfielder with Atletico, Lazio, Inter Milan and Argentina says he is determined that should not happen to his eldest offspring, Giovanni Simeone, who is making a strong early impression at his new club, Genoa.

Off the mark

Diego Simeone scored 38 goals in his eight years with Italian clubs, though his main job was marshalling midfield. Giovanni, his son, has been an employee in Serie A for just over a month and has now netted his first, for Genoa against Pescara. It was only his third appearance for the club since joining from River Plate last month. He hopes it will cement his place in Genoa’s starting XI at Bologna on Saturday.

Quick feet

Simeone junior, 21, is a striker, a nimble dribbler and, while appreciative of the influence of a father he is close to, he is keen for comparisons to be kept in check. Inevitably he has inherited the nickname “Cholito” – little Cholo – after his father, “Cholo”, whose success coaching Atletico to two Champions League finals and a Primera Liga title has in turn generated the term “Cholismo” for his unique management style. But Giovanni is no great fan of being called “Cholito”. He wants to be his own man.

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Competitive genes

Nonetheless, he is blessed, his coaches have noted, with some of the characteristics that gained Diego over 100 caps for his country, notably the fiercely competitive spirit. “He has his father’s hunger and will to win,” commented Nicolas Burdisso, the experienced Argentinian defender at Genoa.

Skype suppers

Giovanni Simeone was born in Madrid, while his father was playing there for Atletico, but spent most of his youth in Argentina, coming up through River Plate’s youth sections and breaking in to that club’s first team as his father began to enjoy success coaching in Spain. Diego, back in Madrid as a manager, regularly Skypes the rest of the family in Buenos Aires when they have meals together, to stay in close contact. Giovanni would tell him in those conference calls he aspired to cross the Atlantic.

“It was always my dream to play in Europe,” he said last week.

National honours

Capped several time at age group levels, Giovanni represented Argentina at the Rio Olympics, a disappointing tournament for the national Under-23s, but a significant stepping stone to the senior squad. He may have to be patient for his first cap, though, for a country that has Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain to call on, not to mention the likes of Paulo Dybala among the gifted Argentinian forwards in their early 20s.

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Published: September 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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