A year ago, Dick Advocaat admitted the brutal truth about why Emanuele Giaccherini had provided such a slim return on Sunderland’s £6.5million investment.
“My personal view is that Giaccherini is not a player for England,” said Advocaat, a week before sanctioning the midfielder’s season-long loan move to Bologna.
“He is a great talent, a good touch, good passing, but you don’t get the time to do that in England. But for Italy and Spain, he’ll be a great player.”
Advocaat was a manager of few words in his public ramblings, but he succinctly summed up the issue over Giaccherini, who is on the verge of finalising a £1.2m move to Napoli on a three-year deal.
The Italian’s 5ft 6in frame was not an insurmountable obstacle – the likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero continue to prove that – yet he neither had the searing speed or jaw-dropping trickery to compensate for that slight build.
In the power and pace environment of the Premier League, it left him facing an uphill battle.
There were a couple of notable flashes – particularly when he made several significant impacts from the bench during the Great Escape of 2013-14 – but that most basic of reservations over Giaccherini continued to dog him.
For all he had that air of a quality footballer, he simply didn’t look suitable for English football.
However, Giaccherini’s size was no barrier towards him thriving at Euro 2016.
The 31-year-old – recalled to the international fold by his former Juventus manager Antonio Conte – shone with his contribution both on and off-the-ball; proudly beating the badge on his chest after calmly netting in Italy’s group opener against Belgium.
Giaccherini never shied away from the graft in a red and white shirt, but in France, he complemented that work-rate with quality on the ball to help make Italy one of the more convincing sides in a decidedly unconvincing tournament.
It was too little, too late for a rethink over Giaccherini at Sunderland though.
With only 12 months remaining on his Stadium of Light contract, the decision had already been taken to offload Giaccherini and save £40,000-plus a week from the wage bill.
Should Giaccherini have been given another opportunity on Wearside on the back of his performances at the Euro’s?
Sam Allardyce has never had the chance to work with him (albeit he might not be working much longer at Sunderland himself) and the Black Cats have recouped a relative pittance by today’s standards.
If he stays, Allardyce is thought to be in the market for an attacking midfielder who can add guile in the final third, and that is after all why Paolo Di Canio and Roberto De Fanti brought him from Juventus three years ago.
Sacked director of football De Fanti maintains that Giaccherini was the right signing, at the wrong time, and there is a strong case to back up that argument.
A series of injury lay-offs halted his momentum – particularly when Gus Poyet was ready to give him a key role at the start of the 2014-15 campaign – but even more damaging was the constant changes in the dug-out.
No manager seemed to really know what to do with Giaccherini; how to get the best out of him or particularly, where to play him.
The only one who did was caretaker boss Kevin Ball, who rated the Italian highly.
In Ball’s three-game spell prior to the appointment of Poyet, he used Giaccherini as a number 10 and he duly flourished there.
As Sunderland laboured in the relegation dogfight though, Giaccherini also struggled to make a consistent impression.
In less physical, slower tempo surroundings, Giaccherini was able to regain his mojo at Bologna last season and spark a flurry of interest from Serie A clubs.
No doubt, he will continue to make an impression at Napoli after securing a permanent return to his homeland.
But at Sunderland, he was simply the right player at the wrong time.