Roberto De Zerbi had a question for Ciccio Caputo. The Sassuolo head coach wanted to know who had taught his star striker how to make those subtle movements inside the penalty box that somehow allow him to engineer so much time and space. The answer shocked De Zerbi. Nobody had taught him. Caputo had learned it all himself.
The story raises a smile from Vincenzo Melidona, part of the coaching team at Italian minnows Virtus Entella back when Caputo was a Serie B striker nearing his 30th birthday.
"I remember us practising corners," Melidona tells Sky Sports. "The trainer gives the schemes to the team and I was telling Ciccio the movement that he needed to make as each player has to move in a pre-determined way. Ciccio refused. He insisted that his movements would be determined by the position of the ball and the defenders."
More often than not, Melidona admits, it worked. Over the past five years, Caputo has averaged 20 league goals a season, making the seamless transition to the top flight late in his career. Now 33, it is a Cinderella story capped by a goal on his debut for Italy last month.
"He is one of the best strikers in Italy because he has movements that other strikers do not have," explains Melidona. "The skills of Ciccio are in the mind. He has incredible mental strength. On the pitch, Ciccio is so intelligent because he recognised each movement of his team-mates and each movement of the ball before all the others.