20 June 2020

Armando Picchi - footballer

Star defender captained ‘La Grande Inter’


Armando Picchi is rated as one of Italy's greatest defenders
Armando Picchi is rated as one
of Italy's greatest defenders
The footballer Armando Picchi, who was captain of the Inter-Milan of the 1960s known as La Grande Inter and one of Italian football’s most accomplished players in the libero position, was born on this day in 1935 in the Tuscan port of Livorno.

Under his captaincy, the Inter side managed by the Argentina-born coach Helenio Herrera won the European Cup twice as well as three Serie A titles and two Intercontinental Cups between 1963 and 1966.

After retiring as a player at 34, Picchi embarked on a coaching career of his own, but after his progress with Varese and hometown club AS Calcio Livorno earned him the chance to take the helm at Juventus his life was cut tragically short in 1971, when he developed an aggressive form of cancer and died just three months after being diagnosed.

Picchi grew up 30km (19 miles) south of Livorno in the coastal resort of Vada.

He had the good fortune to have a brother, Leo, who was already a professional footballer when he was growing up. Leo, 14 years’ his senior, nurtured Armando’s early development and recommended him to Livorno, then playing in Serie C.

Armando made his debut in 1954 at right back and made the position his own. In 1959, he moved up a grade by joining SPAL (Societa Polisportiva Ars et Labor), the club based in Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna. He spent just a single season with SPAL, helping them achieve a record high of fifth in Serie A, before Herrera saw him as a good fit for the Inter side he was building following his arrival from Barcelona.

Picchi pictured with the legendary Inter coach Helenio Herrera
Picchi pictured with the legendary
Inter coach Helenio Herrera
Herrera played Picchi in his established role on the right of defence and although Inter finished third and then second in Serie A in his first two seasons in charge, the coach began to come under pressure from the club’s demanding owner, Angelo Moratti.

Reasoning that he needed to do something to appease Moratti, Herrara settled on a change of his playing system, a decision that was pivotal in the career of Picchi.  The new system was based on a back four, but because he wanted to give the brilliant left back Giacinto Facchetti licence to follow his attacking instincts, Herrera needed someone with vision and anticipation as well as intelligence and mobility to provide cover. Picchi fitted the bill.

Thus he became Herrera’s libero, his free man or sweeper, playing behind the back four, there to anticipate through balls and pounce on any opponent that breached the defensive line.

When Herrera’s captain, Bruno Bolchi, left for Verona, he gave Picchi the armband and after Inter had enjoyed their glorious run of successes he acknowledged that Picchi’s leadership, as well as his immaculate performances in the libero role, had been integral.

Picchi’s excellence won him a place in the Italian national team, although he won fewer caps than many observers felt he deserved.  Controversially, Italy coach Edmondo Fabbri chose not to take him to the 1966 World Cup in England and though he regained favour under Fabbri’s successor, Ferruccio Valcareggi his chance to play in the 1968 European championships was ended by a pelvic injury in a qualifying match. His Azzurri career was limited to just 12 caps.

The Stadio Armando Picchi in Livorno, named after the Tuscan city's most famous player
The Stadio Armando Picchi in Livorno, named
after the city's most famous footballer
After Herrera left Inter in 1967, Picchi soon followed, moving to Varese, first as a player before being appointed player-coach. When he decided to retire from playing in 1969, Livorno invited him to become their manager. His reputation as a coach quickly grew, however, and an offer to take over at Juventus, already 13 times Italy’s national champions, was too good to turn down.

Picchi’s early results were encouraging but by February of 1971 he was unwell. Tests revealed a tumour on his spine, which quickly spread. His brother, Leo, who had become a doctor after his retirement from football, blamed poor management of the pelvic injury he had suffered in 1968 for the cancer.

After Picchi’s funeral in May of that year, Livorno established the Armando Picchi Tournament in his honour. Some years later, in 1990, the decision was taken by the city of Livorno to change the name of the municipal stadium to the Armando Picchi Stadium.

Vada is known for its long stretch of white, sandy beach, popular with holidaymakers
Vada is known for its long stretch of white,
sandy beach, popular with holidaymakers
Travel tip:

Vada, where Picchi grew up, was once the port for the then-powerful inland city of Volterra, 45km (28 miles) away. Nowadays, it is best known for its beaches, a wide expanse of white sand stretching for 5km (3 miles), bordered by pine trees and crystal clear sea.  A little off the coast of Vada is an historic lighthouse, built in 1868, which warns ships of the presence of a ridge of sand under the surface. The lighthouse, restored in 2008, now runs solely on solar power. It is visible up to 12 nautical miles (14 miles; 22km) away.

The harbour area at Livorno, which is the second largest city in Tuscany
The harbour area at Livorno, which is the
second largest city in Tuscany
Travel tip:

Livorno is the second largest city in Tuscany after Florence, with a population of almost 160,000. Although it is a large commercial port with much related industry, it has many attractions, including an elegant sea front – the Terrazza Mascagni - an historic centre – the Venetian quarter – with canals, and a tradition of serving excellent seafood.

Also on this day:






No comments:

Post a comment