Perugia's star setter prepares to serve.

Simone Giannelli was bound for greatness even at a young age. He was only 14 when he saw former USA setter and Beijing 2008 Olympic gold medallist Lloy Ball play, and that experience inspired him to craft his own brand of wizardry.

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“I have never had idols, but one model was definitely Lloy Ball, who I got to see play live during the 2011 Champions League Final Four in Bolzano,” said Giannelli on watching the USA standout compete in his hometown.

“But I would not like to point to any particular person. All my teammates have helped me become who I am and it would not be right to exclude someone. I took something important from everyone.”

Giannelli played several sports when he was younger and developed his love for playing volleyball when he saw his sister play for the local club. He started his own journey in the sport and soon moved to the neighbouring city of Trento.

“I started playing when I was about 12. I tried other sports before, like skiing, tennis and football, in which I was a central defender. I fell in love with volleyball after seeing my sister Martina play for the women’s team in my hometown of Bolzano. I immediately liked the sport and joined the youth division of Trentino Volley.

His coach and teammates knew that the young setter was dependable and could deliver when entrusted with the responsibility to direct plays. He led Trentino Volley to gold in his debut year in the Italian League, and soon helped the Italian national team earn silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“Surely the Scudetto I won with Trento in my first year in the Italian League during the 2014/2015 season is one of my biggest accomplishments. At the beginning of the season, I was not a starter. I was very young and inexperienced. But within a few months I gained the trust of my teammates and my coach and I finished the Play-off Final with a victory against Modena and an MVP trophy. That was such a beautiful moment.

“It was also a beautiful experience to be a protagonist on the court at the Rio 2016 Olympics. I was the youngest there, and I was directing the national team. For all of these experiences I absolutely have to thank my teammates who have helped me a lot.”

Giannelli is now just 25 years old, but, as he helps organise plays at Sir Safety Perugia, the club he joined at the beginning of the season, he can already look back at a second Olympics in Tokyo and victory at the 2021 CEV European Championship earlier this year. And those experiences are sure to be of value as his club play for honours this season.

Perugia will again be in action on Thursday, when they take on Giannelli's former club Trentino in the CEV Champions League.

At the weekend, and currently ranked second in the Italian men's league, Perugia will play Tonno Callipo Calabria Vibo Valentia and hope to return to within striking distance of league leaders Cucine Lube Civitanova. With a setter like Giannelli directing plays for Wilfredo Leon, Kamil Rychlicki and Matt Anderson, it is sure to be another spectacular match.