14 August 2020

Benito Carbone - footballer and coach

Gifted forward sparkled in English Premier League

Benito Carbone became a hero to Sheffield Wednesday fans
Benito Carbone became a hero
to Sheffield Wednesday fans
The footballer and coach Benito Carbone, whose partnership with fellow Italian Paolo di Canio in the colours of Sheffield Wednesday was the highlight of a six-year stay in England’s Premier League, was born on this day in 1971 in Bagnara Calabra, a seaside village in Calabria.

Carbone signed for Sheffield Wednesday from Inter-Milan in 1996 as Italian players arrived in England in large numbers for the first time. The influx included other star names, such as Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola, Fabrizio Ravanelli, Roberto Di Matteo and Stefano Eranio.

Wednesday paid £3 million for Carbone, spending a further £4.2 million on Di Canio the following year. Between them, they scored 43 goals for the Yorkshire club, Carbone netting 26.   They both enjoyed enormous popularity with supporters. Carbone was voted the club’s player of the year in the 1998-99 season.

While in England, Carbone played also for Aston Villa and Bradford City, spending time on loan with both Derby County and Middlesbrough, scoring goals for each of those clubs.

Carbone's goals helped Aston Villa  reach the FA Cup final in 2000
Carbone's goals helped Aston Villa 
reach the FA Cup final in 2000
He spent only 10 months at Aston Villa yet made a lasting impression by scoring five times in the club’s run in the FA Cup, in which they reached the final. He scored a hat-trick in a thrilling fourth-round win over Leeds but had to be content with a runners-up medal after Villa were beaten by Roberto Di Matteo’s goal in the final against Chelsea.

Carbone began his professional football career with Torino, one of whose scouts spotted him playing in a youth tournament for AS Scilla, an amateur club from a small town just along the coast from where he grew up.

After making his senior debut in January 1989, aged 17, he gained experience on loan with Reggina, Casertana and Ascoli before returning to play a full season for Torino, scoring three goals.

In 1994 he was bought by Roma but within a few days had been sold on to Napoli as a part of a complicated transfer deal that saw the Uruguay star Daniel Fonseca move to Rome. From Napoli, where he remained for just one season, he joined Inter.

Carbone saw it as a dream move, playing for the club his father supported, but life under Inter’s English coach, Roy Hodgson, did not go as he had liked. He often played on the left of midfield or even at left back, and his plea to be used as a striker, which he felt was his best position, fell on deaf ears.

Carbone is trying to establish a  successful career in coaching
Carbone is trying to establish a 
successful career in coaching
After deciding he would leave, he hesitated before agreeing on the move to Sheffield, a city of which he knew nothing, wondering if he was making a mistake. In the event, his time in England proved to be the most successful part of his career, so much so that he wished he could have stayed longer.

However, he had little choice over his future after Bradford City ran into financial difficulties in 2002, having spent more than they could afford in winning an unlikely promotion to the Premier League in 1998-99. Carbone, who had been signed on a £40,000-a-week contract, was offloaded to Como, foregoing a staggering £3.2 million owed to him in salary under the terms of his contract, which he agreed to do rather than see the club go out of business.

Carbone continued his career with spells at Parma, Catanzaro, Vicenza - Sydney FC in Australia - and Pavia, before moving into coaching.

So far, he has been head coach at Pavia, Varese, Saint-Christophe Vallée d'Aoste and Ternana in lower league football in Italy, and assistant head coach of Crotone in Serie A, returning to England briefly to work with the youth team at Leeds United, having been hired by controversial former chairman Massimo Cellino.

In July 2020, Carbone agreed to become part of the coaching staff of the Azerbaijan national team, working under veteran Italian head coach Gianni De Biasi. He has maintained an ambition to return to England as a coach.

The Chiesa della Madonna del Carmini sits
above the village of  Bagnara Calabra
Travel tip:

Bagnara Calabra, sometimes known simply as Bagnara, where Benito Carbone was born, is a village and resort in Calabria, on the Tyrrhenian Sea about 25km (16 miles) northeast of the city of Reggio Calabria. The area was twice badly damaged by earthquakes, in 1783 and 1908, but the 18th century Chiesa della Madonna del Carmine, which occupies an elevated position overlooking the resort, remains.  To the north of the village, the 16th century Aragonese Tower or Capo Rocchi Tower stands guard over the fishing district of Marinella. 

The fishing village of Chianalea is one of the attractions of the Scilla resort
The fishing village of Chianalea is one of the
attractions of the Scilla resort
Travel tip:

The resort town of Scilla, where Carbone played for the local amateur team, grew up around a picturesque fishing village sheltered by cliffs and a rocky spur, atop which sits the Castello Ruffo, originally a sixth-century fortification but which has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times.  Beneath is the sandy beach of Marina Grande, now lined with hotels. The main part of the expanded town sits above the cliffs on a plateau. On the other side of the promontory is the less developed village of Chianalea, where houses cling to the water’s edge along a single, cobbled thoroughfare.

Also on this day:

1480: The beheading by soldiers of the Ottoman Empire of 800 male inhabitants of Otranto in Puglia

1742: The birth of Pope Pius VII

1984: The birth of footballer Giorgio Chiellini

1988: The death of car maker Enzo Ferrari


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