Silvestri, Mr Consistent

Having conceded just 35 goals all season, Hellas have a defensive record that the best teams in Europe would be proud of

Richard Hough

The column of the week from Richard Hough for all the Verona-lovers speaking english.

Marco Silvestri is Mr Consistent. The only Hellas player to have played in all thirty Serie A games so far this season, last season he played in 35 out of 38 Serie A fixtures.

Having conceded just 35 goals all season, Hellas have a defensive record that the best teams in Europe would be proud of. Conceding an average of just 1.16 goals a game, only Inter, Juventus and Napoli have a better defensive record. Of course, at the heart of Verona’s formidable defence is ‘Il Gatto’ – Marco Silvestri.

While Juric has regularly rotates his back three, Silvestri is only ever rested for Coppa Italia matches, where reserve keeper Ivor Pandur has been given a rare opportunity to shine.

At 30-years-old, it’s been a long and eventful journey for Marco to achieve his current status as one of the best keepers in Italy.

So, who is Verona’s No.1 and what’s behind his remarkable run of form for Hellas these last couple of seasons?

Born in Castelnovo ne' Monti in the Reggiano Apennine mountains of Reggio Emilia, he started of life as an attacker, but since he didn’t particularly like to run, he soon switched to nets. He began his professional career at local side Modena, before moving to Chievo to join their youth team at the age of 19. In search of game time, he spent a season on loan at Reggiana and, the following year, a season at Padova, before moving to Cagliari in January 2014. He managed just three appearances for Cagliari that season, which included getting sent off in a 3-0 defeat against Napoli and losing 3-0 to Juventus in the last game of the season. Not a season he will look back on with much satisfaction!

That summer, the 24-year-old moved to English Championship side Leeds United, then owned by former Cagliari owner Massimo Cellino, who paid Chievo €1 million in a four-year deal to bring the Italian to Yorkshire.

His first appearance for the English side was a 16–0 victory in a pre-season friendly against Italian side FC Gherdeina. Silvestri made his league debut against Millwall on the opening game of the 2014/15 season, and he kept a clean sheet in his home debut at Elland Road against Middlesbrough the following week.

After such a promising start to his time in England, Silvestri continued to impress, making a string of impressive saves and being awarded a number of man of the match awards throughout the season. He ended the campaign with 44 appearances, more than any United player that season and was among the top five shortlisted for the Player of the Year award. Despite his best efforts, Leeds finished that season in a disappointing fifteenth place.  Behind the scenes, these were turbulent times for Leeds, with financial irregularities and high turnover at player, staff, coach and boardroom level.

The following season, Silvestri was once again at the centre of things, making 45 Championship appearances, but again the season ended in a disappointing thirteenth place finish.

With Gary Monk appointed as new head coach and the arrival of experienced former England international Robert Green, Silvestri was handed the number 12 shirt for the 2016/17 season. He didn’t make a single appearance in the Championship for Leeds that season but managed a number of heroic appearances in the cup, including three penalty saves against Norwich, a campaign that culminated in a 2-0 quarter-final defeat against Liverpool at Anfield. An unforgettable experience for the Italian, despite conceding a goal to teenager Ben Woodburn, who eclipsed Michael Owen as Liverpool's youngest ever goal scorer.

After a disappointing season on the bench for Leeds, in July 2017 Silvestri signed for Hellas for an undisclosed fee.

In his first season back in Italy, Silvestri played second fiddle to Brazilian keeper Nícolas, as Hellas were relegated at the end of a dismal season spent entirely at the foot of Serie A. Silvestri managed just two league and two cup appearances in what was another disappointing season.

With the arrival of Fabio Grosso in the summer of 2018, Silvestri was given his chance in Serie B, where he proved to be Verona’s most consistent player, making 41 appearances in all competitions. After a thrilling play off campaign, Hellas won promotion back to Serie A and, with the arrival of Ivan Juric, Silvestri’s form went from strength to strength, culminating in his first international call up in October last year. Silvestri was the protagonist in one of this season’s most memorable incidents, as Verona drew 2-2 with Milan at the San Siro. Zlatan Ibrahimović was preparing to take a spot kick when Silvestri reminded that he had missed his last one. The mind games seemed to work, as the Swede blasted the penalty kick over the bar.

Under the watchful of eye of Hellas goalkeeping coach Massimo Cattaldi, Silvestri has achieved a remarkable degree of consistency, committing very few, if any, errors, thanks to an incredible focus on the game in front of him. This season he’s already kept seven clean sheets, but Silvestri recognises that it’s not all down to him. Hellas’s defensive solidity is a hallmark of the team’s identity under Ivan Juric, with attack-minded players like Zaccagni working hard to lend a hand at the back.

In recognition of his contribution last season, Silvestri was awarded a two-year contract, keeping him in Verona until 30 June 2022. Hopefully he’ll be Verona’s Number 1 for many more years to come.

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