Showing posts with label Carlo Ancelotti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Carlo Ancelotti. Show all posts

5 July 2021

Alberto Gilardino - World Cup winner

Prolific goalscorer now on coaching ladder

Alberto Gilardino helped Italy win the World Cup in 2006
Alberto Gilardino helped Italy win
the World Cup in 2006
The footballer Alberto Gilardino, who was an important member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad and is one of the all-time top 10 goalscorers in Serie A, was born on this day in 1982 in the province of Biella in Piedmont.

A striker, Gilardino, who enjoyed his peak years as a player with Parma, AC Milan and Fiorentina, totalled 188 goals in Serie A matches, putting him ninth on the all-time list.  He had scored 100 Serie A goals by the age of 26, one of the youngest to achieve that milestone.

As an Italy international, he played under coaches Marcello Lippi, Roberto Donadoni and Cesare Prandelli, scoring 19 goals in 57 appearances, having made his mark previously in the country’s Under-21 team, for whom he was all-time top scorer with 19 goals in 30 games and was captain of the side that won the 2004 European Under-21 championships.

Under Lippi, he was a key figure at the 2006 World Cup, starting all three group games and the first knock-out round alongside Luca Toni, scoring Italy’s goal against the United States in the group stages. He lost his place to Roma’s Francesco Totti in the later knock-out rounds but came on as a substitute in the historic semi-final win over hosts Germany, hitting a post and providing the assist for Alessandro del Piero’s goal in extra time.

Gilardino was part of the AC Milan side coached by Carlo Ancelotti (above)
Gilardino was part of the AC Milan side
coached by Carlo Ancelotti (above)
In club football, although he scored more goals during his spells with Parma and Fiorentina, it was his three seasons with AC Milan that brought him the most tangible success.

Signed for €25 million in July 2005 after scoring 51 goals in 97 Serie A games for Parma, he was part of the team coached by Carlo Ancelotti that won the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup in 2007.

He retired as a player in 2018 and is currently coaching in Serie D with Siena, following the traditional pathway for coaches in Italy, who traditionally hone their skills in the lower divisions before taking on the top jobs.

Born in the town of Cossato, about 10km (six miles) from Biella and 80km (50 miles) northeast of Turin, Gilardino played for local youth teams before he was spotted by Piacenza, who signed him and gave him his Serie A debut at the age of just 17 in January 2000.

Although Piacenza were relegated, Gilardino made sufficient impact to earn a move to another Serie A club, Hellas Verona. 

Gilardino scored 48 Serie A goals in his time with Fiorentina
Gilardino scored 48 Serie A goals
in his time with Fiorentina
He suffered a setback in April 2001 in the shape of a serious road accident, swerving his car off the road into a canal while driving his sisters, Silvia and Cosetta, to their home in Treviso. Despite sustaining an injury to his back, he managed to open the doors of the vehicle before it sank and was able to drag his sisters to safety.

But he returned to action the following season and it was not long before his move to Parma established him as a top-class striker, scoring 51 goals in not much more than two seasons and winning his first cap for the senior national team, for whom he made his debut in September 2004.

The big-money move to Milan followed, although despite winning major medals he never quite won the full trust of manager Carlo Ancelotti, who left him out of his starting line-up for the 2007 Champions League final in spite of his decisive goal in the semi-final against Manchester United.

Gilardino, who became famous for celebrating his goals by dropping to his knees and simulating the motion of playing a violin, left Milan in May 2008 for Fiorentina, where he scored 48 goals in 118 games. From Florence, his career took him to Genoa, Bologna, Guangzhou Evergrande in China, Palermo, Empoli, Pescara and Spezia before he turned to coaching at the age of 37. 

Siena is his third club as a coach. He has presided over only eight defeats in 20 matches with the Tuscan team, who recently confirmed him as their head coach for the 2021-22 season.

In 2009, he married his girlfriend, Alice Bregoli, at La Cervara Abbey in Santa Margherita Ligure, in the province of Genoa. They have three children. 

UPDATE: After leaving Siena in October 2021, he joined Genoa as under-19 coach in July 2022 before being appointed head coach of the senior team in December 2022 and winning promotion to Serie A.

The Castello di Castellengo is in the province of Biella
The Castello di Castellengo is
in the province of Biella 
Travel tip:

Gilardino hails from the town of Cossato, a town in Piedmont in the province of Biella, an area notable for its medieval castles, such as the Castello di Castellengo, at the centre of a beautiful wine-producing estate. Biella itself is a well-established town of almost 45,000 inhabitants in the foothills of the Alps, about 85km (53 miles) northeast of Turin and slightly more than 100m (62 miles) west of Milan. Its attractions include a Roman baptistery from the early 1000s and the church and convent of San Sebastian. Wool and textiles have been associated with the town since the 13th century and brands such as Cerruti 1881, Ermenegildo Zegna, Vitale Barberis Canonico and Fila still have a presence.

Siena's Piazza del Campo is one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Europe
Siena's Piazza del Campo is one of the
most beautiful medieval squares in Europe
Travel tip:

Siena is perhaps best known as the venue for the historic horse race, the Palio di Siena. The race takes place in the Piazza del Campo, a shell-shaped open area which is regarded as one of Europe’s finest medieval squares. It was established in the 13th century as an open marketplace on a sloping site between the three communities that eventually merged to form the city of Siena.  The city's cathedral, with a pulpit designed by Nicola Pisani, is considered a masterpiece of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture.

Also on this day:

1466: The birth of military leader Giovanni Sforza

1966: The birth of footballer Gianfranco Zola

1974: The birth of motorcycle champion Roberto Locatelli

1982: Paolo Rossi scores a World Cup hat-trick for Italy against Brazil


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9 November 2017

Alessandro Del Piero – World Cup winner

Former striker is all-time record goalscorer for Juventus


Alessandro del Piero played for 19 seasons at Juventus, scoring 290 goals
Alessandro Del Piero played for 19 seasons
at Juventus, scoring 290 goals
The retired footballer Alessandro Del Piero, who won the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and holds the club records for most goals (290) and most appearances (705) for Juventus, was born on this day in 1974 in Conegliano in the Veneto.

Regarded as one of Italy’s greatest players, his overall goals tally of 346 in Italian football in all competitions has been bettered only once in history, by Silvio Piola, who was a member of Italy’s winning team in the 1938 World Cup and who scored 390 goals in his career.  Del Piero also finished his career having scored at least one goal in every competition in which he took part.

Del Piero was a member of six Serie A title-winning Juventus teams between 1995 and 2012 and would have had eight winner’s medals had the club not been stripped of the 2005 and 2006 titles due to the so-called Calciopoli corruption scandal.

He also won a Champions League medal in 1996 after Marcello Lippi’s team beat Ajax on penalties to lift the trophy in Rome.

Del Piero played in three World Cups but was never able to reproduce his club form more than fleetingly in any of them.  He started only one match in the 2006 triumph of the Azzurri in Germany.

Del Piero leaving the stadium after his  World Cup semi-final goal against Germany
Del Piero leaving the stadium after his
World Cup semi-final goal against Germany
Nonetheless, he came off the bench in extra time to score the important second goal in the epic semi-final victory against the hosts.  In the final, against France, again a substitute, he scored from the penalty spot as Italy put together a perfect shoot-out to win 5-3 on penalties.

The son of an electrician, Gino, and his wife, Bruna, Del Piero dreamed of being a footballer but at one time considered a career as a lorry driver, because he thought it might provide his best chance of seeing other countries.

The family lived in Saccon, a hamlet outside Conegliano, and he played for his local youth team in San Vendemiano. He initially played in goal, which pleased his mother as she imagined there was less chance he would be injured, before he was persuaded by his brother, Stefano, that he would be wasted as a goalkeeper as he was as skilful as any of the team’s outfield players, if not better.

Stefano, who played professionally himself for Sampdoria before injury curtailed his career, went on to become his brother’s agent.

Del Piero’s first senior club was Padova, whose youth set-up he joined at the age of 13, making his senior debut aged 16 and his Serie B debut aged 17 in March 1992.  He scored his first senior goal in November of the same year.

Juventus signed him in 1993 for the sum of five billion lire and he would remain with the Turin side for 19 seasons under 11  managers, including Giovanni Trapattoni, who gave him his debut, Lippi, Carlo Ancelotti, Fabio Capello, Didier Deschamps, Claudio Ranieri and Antonio Conte.

Del Piero played for Sydney FC in Australia after ending his time at Juventus in 2012
Del Piero played for Sydney FC in Australia after
ending his time at Juventus in 2012
It was clear from the start that he was going to be a goalscoring sensation.  He scored his first goal for the club on his second appearance as a substitute and marked his first start for the senior team with a hat-trick.

When Lippi succeeded Trapattoni, Del Piero began to play regularly after Roberto Baggio suffered a serious injury, taking his place alongside Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli and scoring eight goals as Juventus won the Serie A title for the first time in nine years.

There were similarities between his style of play and that of Baggio.  Both were technically very accomplished and both had the imagination to create goalscoring opportunities for themselves and others.  Gianni Agnelli, the club’s patriarchal former president, nicknamed him Pinturicchio after a Renaissance artist on the basis that his nickname for Baggio was Rafaello – Raphael – and Pinturicchio had been Raphael’s pupil.

In 19 seasons, inevitably, there were ups and downs, managers who appreciated his qualities and others who were less enthusiastic, but he inevitably retained the affection of the fans, not least when, as captain, he chose to remain with the club after their enforced relegation following the Calciopoli scandal, when many other stars left. He insisted that he owed the Agnelli family a debt of loyalty and would lead them back from Serie B to Serie A, which he did at the first attempt despite starting the season with a nine-point deduction.

It was Antonio Conte, his former team-mate, who would call time on Del Piero’s Juventus career when he announced at the start of the 2011-12 season that he would be using the player, by then almost 37, only sparingly.  Later in the season the club announced he would be released at the end of the campaign.

Del Piero stayed loyal to Juventus even in difficult times
Del Piero stayed loyal to Juventus even
in difficult times
Nonetheless, he scored some important goals, including one, against Lazio in April 2012, that would enable them to go top of the table on the way to regaining the title.  Ironically, he had come on as a half-time substitute for Mirko Vucinic, the Montenegrin striker Conte had signed as his replacement.

He made his final appearance in a Serie A match on May 13 against Atalanta, in the last match of the season and with the title already won.  He scored – his 208th league goal for the club – and when he was substituted he received an ovation from fans and both sets of players that went on for so long the match had to be halted as he completed a lap of honour.  There were similar scenes when he was taken off towards the end of the Coppa Italia final a few days later, his last match in the famous black and white shirt.

He played on for a couple of seasons in Australia and India on lucrative contracts before hanging up his boots for good in 2015. Since then he has pursued his interest in music – he is a friend of the musician Noel Gallagher, of Oasis fame – and done considerable work with charities.  He has made many appearances on television and is currently a regular pundit on Sky Sport Italia.

Married since 2005 to Sonia Amoruso, he has three children, sons Tobias and Sasha and a daughter, Dorotea.

One of Conegliano's ancient gates
One of Conegliano's ancient gates
Travel tip:

Conegliano is a town of almost 35,000 people in the Veneto, about 30km (19 miles) north of Treviso.  The remains of a 10th century castle, once owned by the Bishop of Vittorio Veneto, stands on a hill that dominates the town.  Conegliano is at the centre of a wine-producing region and is famous in particular for Prosecco, the popular sparkling wine made from the glera grape.

Travel tip:

Padua, known as Padova in Italian, where Del Piero began his career, is a city in the Veneto known among other things for the frescoes by Giotto in the  Scrovegni Chapel and the huge 13th-century Basilica di Sant’Antonio, with its seven Byzantine-style cupolas and four cloisters. The basilica contains many notable artworks and the saint’s tomb. The town itself is particularly appealing for its arcaded streets and stylish cafes.


5 July 2017

Gianfranco Zola – footballer

Brilliant forward voted Chelsea’s all-time greatest player


Gianfranco Zola scored 58 goals for Chelsea in the Premier League
Gianfranco Zola scored 58 goals for Chelsea
in the Premier League
Gianfranco Zola, a sublimely talented footballer whose peak years were spent with Napoli, Parma and Chelsea, was born on this day in 1966 in the Sardinian town of Oliena.

Capped 35 times by the Italian national team, Zola scored more than 200 goals in his club career, the majority of them playing at the highest level, including 90 in Italy’s top flight – Serie A – and 58 in the English Premier League.

He specialised in the spectacular, most of his goals resulting from his brilliant execution of free kicks or his dazzling ball control.

Zola went on to be a manager after his playing career ended, although he has so far been unable to come anywhere near matching his achievements as a player.

He was probably at his absolute peak during the seven years he spent playing in England with Chelsea, whose fans named him as the club’s greatest player of all time in a poll conducted in 2003, shortly before he left to return to Sardinia.

However, it was probably the four years he spent with Napoli, his first Serie A club, that were his making as a player, after being spotted playing club football in Sardinia for Nuorese and Torres.

Zola was signed in 1989 and although his appearances at first were limited, he developed a close bond with the club’s Argentinian icon, Diego Maradona, often spending hours alongside him after normal training had finished, trying to emulate his skills, especially in taking free kicks.

He would later comment that he “learned everything from Diego.”

Zola was hugely popular with Chelsea's fans
Zola was hugely popular with Chelsea's fans
Although he was essentially still a fringe player at that stage, Zola scored two goals as Napoli won Serie A in 1989-90, giving him his only league winner’s medal.

When Maradona left under a cloud, having been banned from playing for drug offences, Zola took his mantle, largely on the maestro’s recommendation, to which manager Claudio Ranieri responded by giving Zola the No 10 shirt worn by Maradona.

Napoli were not the force they had been without Maradona, yet Zola scored 12 goals in the 1991-92 season and another 12 in the 1992-93 campaign, in which he also made 12 assists, giving him the accolade alongside Fiorentina’s Francesco Baiano of providing the most assists over the Serie A season.

He scored 32 goals in 105 appearances for Napoli, whom he left in 1993 only because the club, in a difficult financial situation, began to sell off their best players to pay debts.

Transferred to Parma for 13 billion lire, Zola established himself as one of the best creative players in Italy alongside Roberto Baggio and Alessandro del Piero.  He scored 18 goals in his first season and 19 in his second campaign as the giallobl├╣ just missed out on the Serie A title in a hard-fought battle with Juventus.

Favoured by manager Nevio Scala, he was less popular with Scala’s successor, Carlo Ancelotti, who could not accommodate Zola’s talents in his 4-4-2 system, leaving the player too often a frustrated figure on the bench, despite his record of 49 goals in 102 appearances.

News that Zola was unsettled began to circulate and in November 1996, Chelsea’s then-manager, Ruud Gullit, pulled off what would come to be regarded as one of the biggest transfer coups in Premier League history, signing Zola for £4.5 million.

He lit up the Premier League, helping Chelsea win the FA Cup twice, the League Cup, the Charity Shield, the UEFA Cup-Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.  He helped them qualify for the UEFA Champions League twice as they finished third in the Premier League in 1999 and fourth in 2003, with Zola their leading goalscorer on each occasion.

Zola, pictured on the touchline as West Ham manager, has not found success as a coach
Zola, pictured on the touchline as West Ham
manager, has not found success as a coach
His goals were often either big-match winners, such as in the 1996-97 FA Cup semi-final against Wimbledon or the 1997-98 Cup-Winners’ Cup final winner, when he scored within seconds of coming off the subs’ bench, or else works of art, none more celebrated than the mid-air backheel he executed to score from a corner in an FA Cup tie against Norwich in 2001-02.

Zola scored 16 times in what would be his final season at Stamford Bridge, having decided he would finish his career back in Sardinia with the island’s top club, Cagliari.  A week after he gave his word to Cagliari that he would be their player in 2003-04, Roman Abramovich completed his takeover of Chelsea.

The Russian billionaire was desperate to keep Zola at Stamford Bridge but the Italian told him he would not renege on his promise.  Rumour has it that Abramovich even considered buying the entire Cagliari club in order to transfer Zola back to Chelsea.

In the event, Zola kept his promise, helping Cagliari gain promotion to Serie A in his first season, before retiring at the end of the 2004-05 season, scoring twice against Juventus in his final match.

Capped 35 times by Italy, scoring 10 goals and playing in the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, Zola then moved into coaching, at first as assistant to his friend and former Chelsea teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi in the Italy Under-21 set-up, then in club football.

However, his management career has so far been dismal compared with his playing career.  He has managed West Ham, Watford and Birmingham City in England, Cagliari in Italy and Al-Arabi in Qatar, but has been either sacked or obliged to resign from all five posts because of poor results.

Married to Franca, Zola has three children. His son, Andrea, has played for West Ham reserves and for Essex non-League club Grays Athletic.

A church and market in Oliena
A church and market in Oliena
Travel tip:

Oliena, a mountainous town notable for its multi-coloured rooftops, sits in the shadow of Monte Corrasi, towards the north of the island of Sardina, about 100km (62 miles) south of Olbia and 200km (124 miles) north of Cagliari. Probably founded in Roman times, it is famous now for beautiful silk embroidery and its red wine, Nepente di Oliena.

The waterfront at Cagliari
The waterfront at Cagliari
Travel tip:

Cagliari is Sardinia’s capital, an industrial centre and one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean. Yet it is also a city of considerable beauty and history, most poetically described by the novelist DH Lawrence when he visited in the 1920s. He set his eyes on the confusion of domes, palaces and ornamental facades which, he noted, seemed to be piled on top of one another as he approached from the sea. He compared it to Jerusalem, describing it as 'strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’





19 May 2017

Andrea Pirlo - footballer

Midfielder who won multiple honours with AC Milan and Juventus


Andrea Pirlo made 119 career appearances for the Italian national team
Andrea Pirlo made 119 career appearances for the
Italian national team
The footballer Andrea Pirlo, who some commentators bracket with Roberto Baggio as one of the two best Italian footballers of the last 25 years, was born on this day in 1979.

The midfielder, who left Italy to join the Major League Soccer team New York City, has played in six Italian championship-winning teams and is a double winner of the Champions League among a host of honours as a club player.

In international football he has a World Cup winner’s medal as a member of the 2006 Italian national team that lifted the trophy in Germany.  The fulcrum of the Azzurri midfield, he scored one goal and was credited with the assist for three other goals during the tournament.

One of those assists resulted in the crucial opening goal for Italy scored by Fabio Grosso in the classic semi-final against the host nation.  He was also one on Italy’s successful penalty takers during the shoot-out that decided the final against France.

He was named man of the match three times in the tournament, more than any other player.  He matched that achievement six years later at Euro 2012, when Italy were beaten in the final.

In all he won 119 caps for his country, the fourth highest total of all Italian internationals. Fellow players nicknamed him l’architetto – the architect – for his ability to design and construct attacking moves.

Although he began his career as an attacking midfielder or sometimes even a second striker, Pirlo excelled as a deep-lying central midfielder, a playmaker with wonderful vision and the ability to hit accurate passes over any distance.

Pirlo won three Serie A titles with Juventus
Pirlo won three Serie A titles with Juventus
He also acquired renown as a free kick specialist, capable of curling the ball into the net beyond the reach of the goalkeeper. He claims he honed his technique by watching Baggio train at Brescia, the club at which Baggio wound down his career and Pirlo began his.

Pirlo was born in Flero, Italy, in the province of Brescia and began his career with the Flero youth side. He joined Brescia in 1994 and made his debut in Serie A in May the following year at the age of 16, although it took him a further 18 months to win consistent selection for the senior side.

When he did, Brescia won the Serie B title and with it promotion to Serie A in 1998. It won him a move to Internazionale of Milan but could not break into the first team permanently and was loaned to Reggina for the 1999-2000 season and then back to Brescia in 2000-01, where he played alongside Baggio, his childhood idol.

Because Baggio occupied the attacking midfield position for Brescia, manager Carlo Mazzone decided to deploy Pirlo in the deep-lying playmaker role that he would make his own. Years later, Pirlo still described the moment he delivered a long pass that enabled Baggio to score against Juventus as one of the high spots of his career.

After three seasons on Inter’s books, Pirlo was sold to city rivals AC Milan for 33 billion Italian lire – just over 17 million euro – in June 2001.

Pirlo's brilliance as a playmaker emerged under Carlo Ancelotti at AC Milan
Pirlo's brilliance as a playmaker emerged
under Carlo Ancelotti at AC Milan
It was at Milan, in particular under Carlo Ancelotti, where Pirlo at last began to realise his talent and became a world class player.

Recalling Mazzone’s use of him at Brescia, Ancelotti decided to position Pirlo just in front of his defence, which allowed him more time on the ball to pull the strings in terms of setting up attacks, where he could use his, anticipation, imagination and inventiveness to best effect.

He was a key player in a period of consistent success as Italian football became dominated by Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan and MassimoMoratti’s Inter.

Milan won two Champions Leagues (2003 and 2007), two UEFA Super Cups (2003 and 2007), two Serie A titles (2004 and 2011), a FIFA Club World Cup (2007), a Supercoppa Italiana (2004), and a Coppa Italia (2003) during Pirlo’s time.

Baggio himself sang his praises. “Andrea can visualise and anticipate plays before everyone else. His vision, what he can do with the ball, and what he's able to create, make him a true superstar,” he said.

After Ancelotti left to become Chelsea manager in 2009, soon failing with a bid to take Pirlo with him, Pirlo remained with Milan for a further two seasons, winning the scudetto again in 2011, but new coach Massimiliano Allegri used him differently and his final season was restricted to 17 appearances for Serie A, which prompted him to seek a change of direction.

Pirlo left Juventus to join MLS  club New York City
Pirlo left Juventus to join MLS
club New York City
But Milan’s loss turned out to be Juventus’s gain after the so-called Old Lady of Italian football, without a trophy since 2003 after two Serie A titles in 2005 and 2006 were stripped from them over the match-fixing scandal, signed him on a free transfer.

Under coach Antonio Conte he added three more Serie A titles (2012, 2013, 2014), as well as two more Supercoppa Italiana titles (2012 and 2013). When Conte left to become national manager, Pirlo again worked with Allegri but more successfully this time, playing his part in a league and cup double in 2015 before leaving for New York.

His final appearance was in the Champions League final – his fourth – in which Juventus were beaten 3-1 by Barcelona.

One of two children – he has a brother Ivan – Pirlo was married for 13 years to Deborah Roversi, with whom he had two children, Niccol├▓ and daughter Angela.

His father founded a metal trading company in Brescia in 1982 called Elg Steel, in which Pirlo has a stake. A wine connoisseur, he also runs his own vineyard.  In 2013, his autobiography, Penso Quindi Gioco - I Think, Therefore I Play) – became a bestseller.

Travel tip:

Flero, where Andrea Pirlo was born, is a town in Lombardy of just under 9,000 residents, situated a few kilometres south of Brescia in the flat plain of the Po Valley, although close enough to the Italian pre-Alps for snow-capped mountains to be visible on clear winter days.  Lake Garda and Lake Iseo are a short distance away.  Flero itself is a typical northern Italian commuter town, orderly and clean with a couple of churches and a few modern shops.

Travel tip:

The city of Brescia tends not to attract many tourists compared with nearby Bergamo or Verona, partly because of the counter-attraction of the lakes.  Yet it has plenty of history, going back to Roman times, and many points of interest, including two cathedrals – the Duomo Vecchio and its neighbour, the Duomo Nuovo – and the attractive Piazza della Loggia, with a Renaissance palace, the Palazzo della Loggia, which is the town’s municipal centre.  The Torre dell’Orologio clock tower bears similarities to the one in St Mark’s Square in Venice.