During their superlative-laden assessment of Nikola Krstovic’s stirring start to life in Serie A, Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport made sure to pay tribute to the work of Lecce’s sporting director Pantaleo Corvino in their iconic pink pages. 

Corvino, they write, is ‘probably the best talent-hunter in Italy’.  

The 73-year-old director has long been renowned for his ability to spot diamonds in the rough and, in the aforementioned Nikola Krstovic, Corvino appears to have unearthed another gleaming gem. 

A £3.2 million summer signing from DAC Dunajska Streda in Slovakia, Krstovic has now scored in every one of his three Serie A outings for Lecce. The most recent an early penalty in Sunday’s 1-1 draw at Monza. 

AC Monza v US Lecce - Serie A TIM
Photo by Alessio Morgese/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Krstovic idolises compatriot Mirko Vucinic, a player also brought to Lecce by Corvino all the way back in the year 2000. And while the former has a long way to go before he can be considered the latter’s equal in terms of longevity or even raw ability, the early signs suggest that the second Montenegro marksman to arrive at Lecce on Corvino’s watch possesses both the talent and the mentality to pick up where Vucinic left off when joining Roma after a prolific 2005/06 season. 

Rangers could have had Nikola Krstovic

The Giallorossi’s gain, meanwhile, is shaping up to be Rangers’ loss. 

Much has been made of the sluggish start endured at Ibrox by most of Mick Beale’s nine summer signings – Jack Butland perhaps the only true exception – and even a crashing Danilo header against St Johnstone may not be enough to offset the nagging feeling that Krstovic is already hurtling towards ‘one that got away’ territory. 

“It was a long negotiation,” Corvino says of the deal to bring Krstovic to Italy, Rangers having shown an interest earlier in the window on the back of 23 goals in his final season in Slovakia. (Tuttomeratoweb).

“Identifying a player that can be good for Lecce is not easy. Once I targeted Krstovic, I called Vucinic and he told me he’s strong, to sign him.

“In the end, we paid 3.8 million euros for him.”  

AC Milan and Inter keen already

According to Gazzetta dello Sport, scouts working on behalf of both AC Milan and Inter Milan were present in the stands to watch Krstovic open the scoring against Monza.

It took Vucinic six years, over 100 games and 34 Serie A goals to secure his big break at Roma. Continue as he has started, however, and Lecce may find themselves fighting to keep Krstovic far earlier than even Corvino expected.

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