It was something seen across millions of football pitches all over the world. A youngster – having tried his heart out for the whole 90 minutes – finally scores a goal at the end of the game and immediately looks over to see if his Dad had seen him find the back of the net. The universal language of the game speaks to people in that way, our human behaviour always dictating that we seek the approval and recognition of our parents.
Perhaps that was why, when Fiorentina striker Giovanni Simeone finally got his goal at the end of a 6-1 victory over Chievo Verona on Sunday, the 23-year-old immediately looked for his father in the stands, and the image was shared over and over on social media. That the Viola number nine’s father is the current Atletico Madrid boss Diego Simeone was not important here, it was a genuine moment between father and son that had global appreciation.
Giovanni is one of a number of sons of ex-star players in Serie A, his team-mate Federico the offspring of Enrico Chiesa, Justin Kluivert of AS Roma the son of Patrick, Federico Di Francesco the son of Giallorossi boss Eusebio and even current Azzurri Ct Roberto Mancini has watched his son Gianluca play in Atalanta’s first team this season.
Any son of a famous player undoubtedly wants to make their successful father proud, and some of them will never reach the heights of the generation before. Some will be affected by the weight of expectation on them and some may even become complacent or develop an attitude of entitlement.
Yet Giovanni Simeone works with 100% commitment and desire no matter who is watching him, and the fame of his predecessor only serves to push him even harder to make his own name for himself. He has inevitably been asked often about his position in the Simeone family, and admits that it has on occasion been a hindrance rather than a help.
“Ever since I was a kid it was not an easy situation: everyone talked about me, saying that if I did play football it was only because I was Simeone’s son,” he told the official Serie A website back when he was at Genoa in 2016/17. “But that wasn’t the case. I have always been a normal guy who wanted to play football, learn and get into the first team. You cannot compare us: I am Giovanni, he is my father.”
Having the right mentality is a huge step in the right direction for a player that has to deal with comparisons to Diego before a ball has even been kicked, and Simeone Jr. is wise beyond his years in this respect. He has the pride of a lion and wears his heart on his sleeve at all times, as he busts a gut in every single game to fire the Viola into the lead.
This saw the striker – who also takes advice from his father’s former Argentina teammate Gabriel Batistuta – find the net 14 times last term, drawing attention from the media who even linked him with a move to join his father at Atletico. However, those who have followed his career closely could see that this was unlikely, Giovanni’s father clearly happy for his son to continue learning under Stefano Pioli, a Coach excellent in his ability to help young players to shine.
Work ethic is clearly so important to the 23-year-old, but being humble enough to accept advice from the likes of Pioli and Batistuta – both of whom have pulled on the famous purple shirts in front of the passionate Curva Fiesole – has allowed him to relax and ditch some of the frustration that sometimes accompanies a desire to try his absolute best.
“Hunger is something which should come from your heart, and you need it to excel in any walk of life,” Giovanni said in a recent interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The starting point is in your mind. In my case, also my feet. I was not born a champion, but thanks to my mentality, I’ve succeeded where players who were potentially better than me have failed.”
Already off the mark for the 2018/19 campaign with a goal and an assist, Simeone is on course to eclipse last year’s total of 14. It will be heart-wrenching when the inevitable time comes for Fiorentina supporters to let go of their star striker to a bigger club, but the truth is that they always knew that the striker was destined to move up to a level that their club could no longer provide.
It would be easy to say that such predestination came from his birthright, however Giovanni Simeone has created his own story by working hard to shrug off the assumption that his status was achieved purely due to his surname. That, above all, will have been in his father’s mind as he celebrated his son’s well-deserved goal from the stands last Sunday evening as his son truly made him proud in a Fiorentina shirt.
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