After several false starts in his career, Jonathan Biabiany is starting to show his full potential at Parma, but he was so nearly a Sunderland signing.
Watching the 25-year-old traumatise AC Milan and especially opposite number Kevin Constant last weekend, you could almost hear a grunt of frustration from the Stadium of Light.
Biabiany is co-owned by Parma and Sampdoria, two modest-sized clubs who in the past have often had to sell off their assets, but when Sunderland came calling in the summer reportedly with close to £10m in hand, they were given the cold shoulder.
That now looks to be a wise decision. But until this season, Biabiany has always been seen as something of a nearly man.
It was Inter who plucked him from the suburbs of Paris when an Inter scout, who was in France to see someone else, stumbled across the talented youngster by chance playing for amateur side Le Blanc-Mesnil against Red Star Paris.
The scout watched in awe as Le Blanc-Mesnil battled back from 4-0 down to win 6-4, thanks to four Biabiany goals. At the age of 16, he moved to Milan as part of the Inter Primavera squad.
Pace marked Biabiany out. It is said that he can run 100m in 10.5 seconds - almost quick enough to qualify for the Olympics. He was seen as virtually unmarkable as a kid but a raw talent prone to tantrums and rough around the edges. He had never had any formal coaching when the Nerazzurri signed him. Nonetheless, the consensus at Inter was that he would one day be a star.
But that never quite happened. From Inter, Biabiany was loaned to Modena, then Parma and then he returned to Inter where he scored his first goal on an unconventional stage - the 2010 FIFA Club World Cup Final against TP Mazembe but still couldn't force his way into the starting 11.
It was only when he returned to Parma via Sampdoria that Biabiany was able to play regular first-team football and develop into the kind of player capable of terrorising top-flight defences.
Pace has been backed up with the tactical awareness that was so badly lacking earlier in his career and under Roberto Donadoni, Biabiany seems to have a coach he respects and will listen to.
The only man to score against Roma so far this season, Biabiany's value is rising with each week and Juventus are said to be asking after him. Sadly for Sunderland fans, it doesn't look like he will now be gracing the Stadium of Light.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald