Italy coach Antonio Conte has praised striker Graziano Pelle ahead of tonight’s Group E clash with Sweden, and said his unorthodox path to the top has been “the making of him.”
Southampton striker Pelle is unusual among the Italian ranks in that he went abroad to make his name instead of the opposite path taken by most of his teammates.
The 30-year old hitman left Parma for Feyenoord and then Southampton after failing to nail down a starting place in Italy. His form in Holland and England eventually earning him a place in the national squad.
Pelle scored the injury-time goal goal that secured Italy’s impressive 2-0 win over much-fancied Belgium in the Azzurri's opening game.
Pelle’s experience has clearly impressed Conte, who said that it had turned him into the player he is.
"Graziano Pelle has had a rather interesting path," Conte said.
"Clearly, coming up against different players in different leagues, and working very hard, has helped turn him into an excellent forward with terrific physical attributes,” he added.
"It's a little odd that he had to move abroad to make his name – the opposite is often true – but he took a different route and it's worked out for him.
"I'm happy for him because it shows that taking on challenges helps in life. Moving abroad has been the making of him."
Pelle enjoyed a mixed second season in England and did not score for nearly four months between November to March of last season, although he still managed to net 11 times in 30 games.