Scorer of the first Juventus goal in Serie B, Matteo Paro played a crucial if unconventional role in the club's return to prominence. Adamo Digby fills in the gaps.
In the vast pantheon of former Juventus greats a name like Matteo Paro would often be overlooked by anyone with even a strong knowledge of the history of Italian football's Old Lady, but to true aficionados of history - and indeed that of Italian football in general - his name will be linked as intrinsically to the club as those of the World Cup and Balon d'Or winners that have graced the side during its long and storied history.
At first glance his career seems quite unremarkable, a journeyman path typically trodden by so many players who graduate from the youth systems of Serie A's top clubs. He made his first team debut at the end of the 2003/03 season, coming on as a late substitute in a meaningless game with the title already secured. From there he was sold in co-ownership to Chievo as part of the deal to bring Nicola Legrottaglie to Juve.
The Veronese club had sold on most of the talent that saw the 'Flying Donkeys' surprise so many and they would end the season narrowly escaping relegation. Paro moved on to Crotone after just four months and would become a regular for them under Giampiero Gasperini, the man in charge of the midfielder's youth team while the pair were at Juventus. The coach continued to snap up his former players both at Crotone and later at Genoa to great effect, a trend started by the success of Paro and his intelligent play earned him a move to top flight club AC Siena.
Buying Chievo's half-share of the then 22-year-old and entrusting him with a starting job, Siena would see their faith repaid in full as they easily avoided relegation, a feat that cannot be underestimated for one of the peninsula's perennial yo-yo clubs. Juventus of course were marching to consecutive titles under Fabio Capello, playing with the ruthless efficiency so often synonymous with the current England coach (no, I have no idea where it is now either!)
Then came the Calciopoli bombshell and all its well-documented consequences, which for Paro meant Juve buying back the entirety of his contract and Didier Deschamps placing his faith in the midfielder, who's invention and defensive ability would see la vecchia Signora breeze to the top of the table despite a nine point deduction. Replacing the lost duo of Emerson and Patrick Vieira should have been a difficult task but, thanks to the efforts of the Asti native, it was anything but.
However it is the opening match of that campaign for which Paro will be most fondly remembered. A strange and surreal day that saw players like Gigi Buffon and David Trezeguet swap Berlin's World Cup Final for that historic first weekend in Serie B and Rimini's tiny Stadio Romeo Neri. With an hour on the clock a Pavel Nedved shot was blocked and, as the ball bounced loose outside the area, in came Paro, crashing a shot past the helpless goalkeeper and securing his place in Bianconeri lore.
The sheer joy and relief on the faces of his teammates was plain to see and the recovery had begun in earnest. His other major contribution to the club would not see the man himself looking quite so pleased however, as an injury ruled him out for a short spell in the spring. 'One man's misery is another's fortune' as the old adage would have it and that was definitely the case here as the player to take his place would be Turin-born Claudio Marchisio.
Three years younger than the man he would supplant, Marchisio has gone on to become a regular for club and country, and the confidence he took from playing in those Cadetti matches has been invaluable along the way. Paro would never really take back his place from the inspired Marchisio and despite his previous good form he would be overlooked by then Sporting Director Alessio Secco who instead filled the squad with expensive imports who all flopped.
Paro was again sold in co-ownership, this time to Genoa, another side that gained promotion to Serie A alongside Juventus that summer. There he would be reunited with coach Gasperini, playing regularly and the port club would secure the other half of his registration the very next year as he finally severed all ties with the club he had spent almost a decade. Almost immediately he was ruled out with a knee injury which caused him to miss the entire 2008/09 season.
From there his once promising career would nose-dive severely, a torn cruciate ligament sidelining him during what could have been a reconstructing spell at Bari last season, given their successful survival campaign. Paro could have seen his stock rise once again. He instead made a cameo appearance at fullback for the Galletti last January before joining Piacenza on a six month loan.
Finally fit, he is on loan again, this time at Vicenza in Serie B where he is playing regular football once more. It is a sad demise for a player who has, to varying degrees, helped move Legrottaglie to Turin, co-founded something of a home for ex-Juventini in Genoa, facilitated the emergence of Marchisio and of course scored THAT historic goal. An accidental hero perhaps, but Matteo Paro is a player that should never be forgotten.
Follow Adamo on Twitter @Adz77 for insight into the Italian game, past and present.