Showing posts with label Enzo Bearzot. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Enzo Bearzot. Show all posts

29 November 2022

Luigi ‘Gigi’ Peronace - football agent

Calabrian facilitated string of transfers to Italy

Luigi 'Gigi' Peronace is seen by some as football's original players' agent
Luigi 'Gigi' Peronace is seen by some
as football's original players' agent
The football agent Luigi ‘Gigi’ Peronace, who brokered the transfer deals that saw leading British stars from John Charles to Liam Brady play in Italy’s Serie A, was born in the Calabrian seaside town of Soverato on this day in 1925.

Agents are commonplace in football today but they were an almost unknown phenomenon when Peronace set up in business in the 1950s and he is widely accepted as the first of his kind, certainly in terms of building a ‘stable’ of clients.

The charismatic Peronace’s ability to charm all parties in transfer deals - buyer, seller and player - led to him becoming an influential figure in football in both Italy and the United Kingdom over a 25-year period.

Charles, the Welsh giant whose talents persuaded Juventus to almost double the British transfer fee record when they paid Leeds United £65,000 for his services in 1957, remains Peronace’s most famous deal, although he was instrumental in introducing other big-name British players to the Italian game, including the prolific Chelsea and England striker Jimmy Greaves and Scotland’s Denis Law.

Peronace’s first taste of football was as a player in the 1940s with the Calabrian team Reggina, for whom he kept goal despite being quite a small man. Evidence of his skills as a Mr Fixit were emerging even then, as a teenager, when he arranged football matches between English and Australian soldiers and local Calabrian teams.

After the end of the Second World War, Peronace moved to Turin to study engineering. Already with good English, he took a job with Juventus, who needed an interpreter to help their new Scottish coach, William Chalmers. When Chalmers was dismissed after one season, the Turin club hired an Englishman, Jesse Carver, to look after the team.

John Charles, who joined Juventus
from Leeds United in 1957
Carver likewise did not stay long, despite winning the Serie A title in his first season in charge. He soon returned to England to manage West Bromwich Albion. But he was back in Italy a year later and invited Peronace to work with him again at Lazio. It was Carver who first told Peronace about John Charles, a tall, powerfully built man who had been converted from a centre-half by Leeds United to one of the most prolific centre-forwards in England.

Intrigued, as soon as his time at Lazio had ended Peronace travelled to England to see Charles in person, contacted the Juventus president Umberto Agnelli and persuaded the Turin club that they should spend whatever it took to sign him.

It took Peronace two years to convince Leeds to sell and Charles to move, but in August 1957, the deal was done. It made headlines, of course, not just for the size of transfer fee but for what the player himself was offered. Juventus gave him an apartment for his family, a Fiat car and a £10,000 signing-on fee - this at a time when the signing-on fee for players moving between English clubs could be as little as £10.

The Charles deal was not Peronace’s first. While wooing Charles and Leeds, he had arranged for South African-born Eddie Firmani, who had Italian heritage, to join Sampdoria from Charlton Athletic. But it was the Charles transfer that gave him credibility.

The Welshman would go on to score 108 goals in 155 matches for Juventus, helping them win the scudetto - the colloquial name for the Serie A trophy - three times and the domestic cup competition, the Coppa Italia, twice.

Peronace helped Charles settle in Turin but in 1961 he returned to England, moved into a plush apartment in Knightsbridge and from there pulled off more headline-making deals. He helped Aston Villa’s Gerry Hitchens move to Inter-Milan, persuaded AC Milan to sign Jimmy Greaves, and Torino to take both Denis Law and the English-born, Scottish-raised striker Joe Baker.

Peronace's close friend, the  pipe-smoking Enzo Bearzot
Peronace's close friend, the 
pipe-smoking Enzo Bearzot
While Hitchins, like Charles, enjoyed significant success, the last-named trio failed to settle in Italy, although it was to the advantage of Peronace, who negotiated their transfers again, helping Greaves return to London with Tottenham, Law team up with Matt Busby at Manchester United and Baker make a fresh start with Arsenal.

Always immaculately dressed in the most expensive Italian clothes, Peronace’s natural charm enabled him to befriend the most powerful figures in both English and Italian football, which opened doors in both countries. This was especially useful to him after the abolition of English maximum wage lessened the attraction to players of moving abroad.

A close friend of Sir Denis Follows, the secretary of the English Football Association, he used his contacts to help establish the Anglo-Italian Cup competition.

In Italy, he became a close friend of Enzo Bearzot and worked with him for the Italian Football Federation at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

Peronace would doubtless have been alongside Bearzot when Italy’s pipe-smoking coach guided the azzurri to their World Cup triumph in Spain 1982 had fate not tragically intervened 18 months earlier.

As the national team prepared to leave for a tournament in Montevideo, Uruguay in December 1980, Peronace was at a hotel in Rome when he suffered a fatal heart attack, dying in Bearzot’s arms at the age of just 55, leaving a wife and five children.  Liam Brady's move to Juventus from Arsenal earlier that year was the last high-profile deal in which he was involved.

The coast around Soverato is famed for an abundance of white, sandy beaches
The coast around Soverato is famed for an
abundance of white, sandy beaches
Travel tip:

Soverato, where Gigi Peronace was born, is situated on the Ionian coast of Calabria, about 37km (23 miles) south of the city of Catanzaro. If the map of Italy is seen as a leg, Soverato is at the point on the underside of the foot at the beginning of the big toe. With a population of fewer than 10,000 and an area of less than eight square kilometres, it is a small town yet thanks to its location on the Gulf of Squillace, notable for its white, sandy beaches, has become the wealthiest town per capita in Calabria with a bright modern promenade, apartment buildings and hotels and a botanical garden established on a reclaimed waste site in 1980. There is little of historical note save for a Pietà sculpted by Antonello Gagini from a block of Carrara marble in 1521, which was recovered from the nearby convent of Santa Maria della Pietà after an earthquake in 1783 and is now kept in the town’s church of Maria Santissima Addolorata. 

John Charles scoring a goal at a packed Stadio Comunale, which was Juventus's home ground
John Charles scoring a goal at a packed Stadio
Comunale, which was Juventus's home ground
Travel tip:

Juventus today play at the modern Allianz Stadium, their 41,500-capacity home in the Vallette borough of Turin, about 6km (3.7 miles) northwest from the city centre. When John Charles signed for them in 1957, Juventus shared the Stadio Comunale with city rivals Torino.  Situated around four kilometres south of the centre in the Santa Rita district, it was known as the Stadio Municipale Benito Mussolini after it was opened in 1933, being renamed Stadio Comunale after World War II, and further renamed the Stadio Olimpico after being chosen to host the opening and closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympics in 2006.  Torino left the stadium with Juventus in 1990 to play at the Stadio delle Alpi, forerunner of the Allianz, but returned to the Olimpico in 2006.

Also on this day:

1463: The birth of antiquities collector Cardinal Andrea della Valle

1466: The birth of banker Agostino Chigi

1797: The birth of opera composer Gaetano Donizetti

1850: The birth of soldier and cardinal Agostino Richelmy


25 May 2019

Gaetano Scirea - footballer

Multiple champion who died tragically young

Gaetano Scirea made 78 appearances for the Italian national team
Gaetano Scirea made 78 appearances
for the Italian national team
The World Cup-winning footballer Gaetano Scirea, one of the most accomplished players in the history of the game, was born on this day in 1953 in the town of Cernusco sul Naviglio in Lombardy.

Scirea, who became an outstanding performer in the so-called libero role, was a key member of the Italy team that won the 1982 World Cup in Spain and enjoyed huge success also in club football.

In a career spent mostly with Juventus, he won every medal that was available to a club player in Italy, some several times over.

During his time there, the Turin club won the scudetto - the popular name for the Serie A championship - seven times and the Coppa Italia twice.

He also won the UEFA Cup, the European Cup-Winners’ Cup, the European Cup (forerunner of the Champions League), the UEFA Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.

Scirea retired in 1988 but continued to work for Juventus. Tragically, while visiting Poland in 1989 to make a scouting report on an upcoming opponent in a UEFA Cup match, the car he was travelling in collided head-on with a truck in heavy rain and he was killed, along with two fellow passengers.  Their deaths were caused by the explosion of several cans containing petrol, which drivers in Poland habitually carried because of frequent fuel shortages.

Gaetano Scirea spent most of his playing career with Juventus
Gaetano Scirea spent most of his
playing career with Juventus
He was just 36 years old. Thousands of supporters and many major figures from the Italian football world gathered for his funeral, after which his body was buried at the cemetery in Morsasco, in Piedmont, between Alessandria and Genoa, the home village of his widow, Mariella.

From a family of Sicilian origin, Scirea’s home town was on the northern outskirts of Milan, yet it was in Bergamo, 40km (25 miles) away, that he began his career with Atalanta, making his debut in Serie A at the age of 18.

He remained with Atalanta for two seasons, before Juventus moved to take him to Turin at the age of 21. He would stay there until the end of his playing career, making 397 appearances in Serie A, scoring 24 goals.

A midfield player with Atalanta, Scirea was turned into a sweeper at Juventus, a position at the time that was seen primarily as defensive. It was when the great coach Giovanni Trapattoni arrived in Turin that he was given the role in which he was to excel.

Trapattoni felt Scirea had more to offer than simply to defend. While he had Claudio Gentile as his hard man at the back, he gave Scirea the licence to roam into midfield, to make passes, set up attacks. Elegant and composed, and with the ability to anticipate the direction of play, he made the role of libero his own.

Scirea is one of only a handful of footballers to have won every club competition in which he played
Scirea is one of only a handful of footballers to have won
every club competition in which he played
In contrast to the ruthless Gentile, who played at the limits of what was legal, Scirea was renowned for fair play and sportsmanship. He was sent off and only occasionally cautioned. He was a natural leader, captaining both Juventus and the Italian national side.

His leadership qualities were never needed more than at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels in May 1985, when the European Cup final between Juventus and Liverpool became a scene of tragedy as an outbreak of crowd violence culminated in the collapse of a wall within the stadium, which was in a poor state of repair. Some 39 spectators died, mainly Italians. The match went ahead, but only after Scirea and his fellow captain, Liverpool’s Phil Neal, had addressed the supporters directly to ask for calm.

Juventus’s 1-0 win was a hollow victory in the circumstances, yet remains on Scirea’s record, which makes him one of only nine players in the history of the European football that won all three major UEFA football competitions.

Scirea made his debut for the Italy national team in December 1975 and quickly became an irreplaceable component of the team managed by Enzo Bearzot, playing in three World Cups and one European Championship (in 1980, when Italy finished fourth as tournament hosts).

Pipe smoking coach Enzo Bearzot  made Scirea a fixture in his team
Pipe smoking coach Enzo Bearzot
made Scirea a fixture in his team
Alongside clubmates Gentile, goalkeeper Dino Zoff and Antonio Cabrini, plus Inter Milan’s Giuseppe Bergomi and Fulvio Collovati, he was part of the defensive backbone of the strongest Azzurri side of the post-war period.

Scirea was one of Italy’s best players at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina, where the Azzurri finished in fourth place. At the 1982 World Cup, after a quiet start in the first round group stage, Italy beat Argentina and then Brazil in the second round, later overcoming Poland 2–0 in the semi-final before the 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final saw Scirea and his teammates earn a place in World Cup history.

He bowed out after the 1986 World Cup, in which an Italian team in the throes of rebuilding lost to France in the second round. This was to be Scirea's last match for Italy, having won 78 caps.

Scirea’s death had a huge impact on his club and country. Among the steps taken to honour his name was the creation of an award given to players deemed to have had an exemplary career, while part of the Juventus Stadium is called the Curva Scirea. Bearzot, his former international manager, proposed that his No 6 shirt be retired by both the Azzurri and Juventus.

After his death, his widow, Mariella, had a career in politics, serving two terms in the Chamber of Deputies as an elected member, first under a Forza Italia ticket, then as a member of the Democratic Union for Europe. His son, Riccardo, works for Juventus on their technical staff as head of match analysis.

Cernusco sul Naviglio takes its name from the Naviglio Martesana canal, linking it with Milan
Cernusco sul Naviglio takes its name from the Naviglio
Martesana canal, linking it with Milan
Travel tip:

About 16km (10 miles) from the centre of Milan, Scirea’s home town Cernusco sul Naviglio is an elegant town rich in art and history and known for its majestic villas. It is located on the Naviglio Martesana canal.  Its attractions include the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Addolorata, the Italian Gardens of Via Cavour and the 18th century Villa Alari. One of the features of the Piazza Unità d'Italia, the main square, is a mulberry tree reputed to be 130 years old.

The village of Morsasco sits on a hill between Alessandria in Piedmont and Genoa on the coast
The village of Morsasco sits on a hill between
Alessandria in Piedmont and Genoa on the coast
Travel tip:

The village of Morsasco is best known for its castle, which rises majestically above the neighbouring houses and linked by a small paved lane to the 16th-century parish church dedicated to San Bartolomeo. The castle, mentioned in records from the 13th century, has passed through the hands of the Del Bosco, Malaspina, Lodron, Gonzaga, Centurione Scotto and Pallavicino families.  A lot of the original building’s military characteristics have been removed and it is now a refined noble residence, with grand halls and beautiful rooms as the result of 18th-century expansions.

More reading:

How 'Trap' became the most successful coach in the history of Serie A

The pipe-smoking genius who turned the Azzurri into world champions

Franco Baresi: AC Milan star voted 'player of the century'

Also on this day:

1887: The birth of controversial saint Padre Pio

1922: The birth of Communist politician Enrico Berlinguer

1971: The birth of Olympic marathon champion Stefano Baldini


13 March 2019

Bruno Conti - World Cup winner

Roma star was key figure for Azzurri in 1982 victory

Bruno Conti played almost 400 times for Roma over 18 years
Bruno Conti played almost 400 times
for Roma over 18 years
The former footballer - now coach - Bruno Conti, who played a starring role as Italy won the World Cup in Spain in 1982, was born on this day in 1955 in Nettuno, a seaside resort south of Rome.

A winger with extravagant skills, Conti became an increasingly influential figure as the Azzurri campaign in 1982 gathered momentum after a slow start.

He scored Italy’s goal against Peru in the first group stage, a fine shot into the top right-hand corner from 20 yards (18m), although as a team Italy were not at their best and failed to win any of their opening three matches, scraping into the second group phase only by virtue of having scored more goals than Cameroon, who finished with the same number of points.

But the second phase saw a transformation as Italy defied the odds to beat the holders Argentina and the multi-talented Brazil team of Socrates, Zico and Falcao who had started the tournament as hot favourites.

Although the striker Paolo Rossi ultimately took the headlines with his hat-trick against Brazil, Conti played superbly in both matches, his runs and turns posing problems repeatedly for the opposition defence.

The Italy team which won the 1982 World Cup in Spain, upsetting the odds by knocking out Argentina and Brazil
The Italy team which won the 1982 World Cup in Spain,
upsetting the odds by knocking out Argentina and Brazil
Italy defeated Poland in the semi-final before putting together another superb performance to beat West Germany 3-1 in the final in Madrid, after which Conti was proclaimed as man of the match by the great Brazilian Pele, who thought he had been the best player of the tournament.

In the final, he won a penalty in the first half, which Antonio Cabrini failed to convert, played a part in Marco Tardelli’s goal - the second of the Azzurri three, all in the second half - and created the third for Alessandro Altobelli when his run led a storming counter-attack.

Throughout the tournament, Conti had been given the nickname Mara-Zico by his fans, who said that he had the skills of both Argentina’s Diego Maradona and Brazil’s Zico.

Conti took a while to be accepted because of his small stature
Conti took a while to be accepted
because of his small stature
His more familiar nickname, coined by his supporters at home, was ‘Mayor of Rome’, which was a reflection of his loyalty to AS Roma, the club he joined as a boy and for whom he still works today, as head of the youth development section.

The son of a bricklayer and one of seven children, Bruno excelled at baseball as well as football as a child but grew up as a Roma fan, following the example of his father, Andrea, who declared himself to be “the happiest man in the world” when his boy became a Roma player.

After shining with Roma’s youth teams, he made his senior debut in Serie A at the age of just 18.

His career with the giallorossi was not always plain sailing.  Because of his small stature - he is only 5ft 7ins (1.69m) tall - there were doubts about whether he was physically strong enough. He was selected for the first team only a handful of times in his first two seasons before being sent away to play for Genoa in Serie B, on loan, winning his first medal as the Ligurian team won the Serie B title.

The experience helped him nail a place in the Roma team for the 1976-77 season, although not firmly enough not be sent out on loan to Genoa for a second time.

Bruno Conti is now in charge of AS Roma's youth development programmes
Bruno Conti is now in charge of AS Roma's
youth development programmes
However, when he came back, Roma had recently appointed Nils Liedholm as their manager and Conti became an integral part of the Swede’s team. The winger thrived with the confidence shown in him and his consistently outstanding form not only made him a favourite with the Roma fans, helping them win the Coppa Italia in consecutive seasons, but a player the national coach Enzo Bearzot identified as integral to his plans for the World Cup in Spain.

Returning to domestic football after Italy’s triumph, he helped Roma win the 1982-83 scudetto - their first domestic title for more than 40 years - and reach the final of the European Cup the following year.

By coincidence, the Stadio Olimpico - the stadium Roma share with SS Lazio - had been chosen to host the final that year. Hopes of a giallorossi victory on home soil were dashed, however, when Roma were unable to beat opponents Liverpool in either normal or extra time and the trophy was decided on a penalty shoot-out, won by the English team with Conti, who had been one of Roma’s better players, being one of the unfortunate ones who missed his kick.

In total, Conti made almost 400 appearances in a Roma shirt and 47 for the azzurri, playing also in the 1986 World Cup finals, when Italy were knocked out in the round of 16. When he retired from playing in 1991 he remained with Roma on the coaching staff, including a stint as first-team coach in the 2004-05 season, during which the team reached the Coppa Italia final.

Conti and his wife Laura have two sons Daniele and Andrea, who are both professional footballers. Inducted into the AS Roma Hall of Fame in 2012, he is regarded by fans as one of the club’s all-time greats.

The beach at Nettuno, Conti's home town, with the historic 500-year-old Forte Sangallo in the foreground
The beach at Nettuno, Conti's home town, with the
historic 500-year-old Forte Sangallo in the foreground
Travel tip:

Nettuno is a resort town on the coast of Lazio, about 68km (42 miles) southwest of Rome, almost adjoining the port of Anzio, where Allied forces famously landed in 1944 during the invasion that precipitated the end of the Second World War in Italy. Nettuno itself has a large harbour for private boats, plus a well-preserved historic centre, the Borgo Medievale, with charming streets and small squares, and the Forte Sangallo, a castle built in 1503 by Renaissance architect Antonio da Sangallo the Elder on behalf of the Borgia pope Alexander VI.

Search for a selection of Nettuno hotels

The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted four finals of the European Cup and Champions League
The Stadio Olimpico in Rome has hosted four finals of
the European Cup and Champions League
Travel tip:

Rome's Stadio Olimpico - the Olympic Stadium - was built between 1928 and 1938 as part of the Foro Mussolini (now Foro Italico), a sports complex Mussolini hoped would enable Rome to host the 1944 Olympics had they taken place.  Originally named Stadio dei Cipressi and later Stadio dei Centomila, it was renamed when Rome won the bidding process for the 1960 Games, pipping the Swiss city of Lausanne.  Rebuilt for the 1990 football World Cup, in which it hosted the final, it has also hosted four European Cup and Champions League finals.

26 September 2018

Enzo Bearzot - World Cup-winning coach

Led Italy to 1982 triumph in Spain

The pipe-smoking Enzo Bearzot was in
charge of the azzurri for a record 104 games
Enzo Bearzot, the pipe-smoking coach who plotted Italy’s victory at the 1982 World Cup in Spain and at the same time changed the way the national team traditionally played, was born on September 26, 1927 in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northwest Italy.

Italy had a reputation for ultra-defensive and sometimes cynical football but in 44 years had won only one major competition, the 1968 European championships, a much lower-key affair than the current four-yearly Euros, which Italy hosted.

But Bearzot was an admirer of the so-called ‘total football’ philosophy advanced by the Dutch coach Rinus Michels, with which the Netherlands national team reached two World Cup finals in the 1970s, albeit without winning.

Italy did not impress at the start of their Spain adventure, recording three fairly lacklustre draws in their group matches, and were expected to be eliminated in the second group phase when they were obliged to play Argentina, the holders, and a Brazil side brimming with brilliant players.

Bearzot and the team attracted scathing criticism in the Italian press, to the extent that the players and management refused to speak any more to journalists during the tournament, imposing their so-called silenzio stampa - press silence.

Bearzot, right, playing cards on the plane home from Spain with Dino Zoff, Franco Causio and the Italian president Sandro Pertini
Bearzot, right, playing cards on the plane home from Spain with
Dino Zoff, Franco Causio and the Italian president Sandro Pertini
Instead, they made their critics eat their words by beating both Argentina (2-1) and Brazil (3-2), the latter hailed as one of the greatest World Cup matches of all time after Italy led twice and Brazil equalised twice before Italy took the lead again 16 minutes from the end and goalkeeper Dino Zoff pulled off a miraculous late save to deny Brazil another equaliser, which would have taken them through to the semi-finals on goal difference.

All three goals against Brazil were scored by Italy’s wiry centre-forward, Paolo Rossi, whose selection had brought Bearzot more criticism. Rossi had just returned from a two-year suspension for alleged match-fixing, which was controversial enough. He was also a long way behind the rest of the squad in fitness, yet he had scored three goals in the World Cup finals in Argentina in 1978, from which Italy were eliminated by the Netherlands in their final second-phase match, and Bearzot wanted him on board.

Not content with destroying Brazil’s hopes, Rossi scored both goals in Italy’s 2-0 semi-final victory against Poland, and another in the 3-1 win over West Germany in the final, to take the tournament Golden Boot award as top goalscorer, with six.

Bearzot in his playing days at Torino
Bearzot in his playing days at Torino
Although Italy delighted their fans with the gusto of their attacking, they did not entirely abandon tried and trusted methods. Deployed as an old-fashioned man-marker, Claudio Gentile fulfilled his duties to the letter, kicking a young Diego Maradona out of the match with Argentina and doing a similar job on the Brazilian magician Zico, albeit at the cost of a booking that ruled him out of the semi-final.

The final confirmed Bearzot’s transformation from villain to hero in the eyes of the press and earned him four more years in the job, although the 1986 World Cup in Mexico earned him renewed criticism, this time for showing too much faith in his 1982 players, who had lost some of their edge and went out to France in the round of 16.

Bearzot resigned after that defeat but his 104 matches as national coach - seven more even than the legendary Vittorio Pozzo, who was in the dug-out for 97 games - is unlikely ever to be surpassed.

Born in the village of Aiello del Friuli, about 45km (28 miles) northwest of Trieste and about 25km (16 miles) southeast of Udine, Bearzot was the son of a bank manager who had little interest in football and whose wrath he risked by missing two crucial university exams to play in the first team for his club, Pro Gorizia, ruining his chances of completing his degree.

Marcello Lippi, who won the World Cup in 2006, was mentored by Bearzot
Marcello Lippi, who won the World Cup in
2006, was mentored by Bearzot
Tall and strongly built, Bearzot usually played as what would now be described as a defensive midfielder. In his club career, he helped the Sicilian team Catania win promotion to Serie A and had long spells with both Inter Milan and Torino. He made one appearance for the azzurri - the  national team.

He took up coaching with Torino but his only head coach role before he joined the technical staff of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) was with the Serie C club Prato. This lack of club experience meant that, when he worked his way through the ranks to be under-23 coach and then senior coach in 1975 meant there was scepticism from the start over his credentials for the job, even among his fellow coaches.

Bearzot’s success, however, silenced them all.  After Mexico ‘86, he disappeared from football for the most part, never taking another coaching job. He rejoined the FIGC as president of the technical sector in 2002 and was a mentor to Marcello Lippi, who was to match Bearzot’s achievement  by winning the World Cup himself as coach in 2006.

Bearzot retired for good in 2005. He died in 2010 after a long illness and was buried at the church of Santa Maria al Paradiso in Milan, where goalkeeper Zoff and midfielder Bruno Conti were among the pallbearers, with Rossi part of a congregation that included Antonio Cabrini, Giuseppe Bergomi Alessandro Altobelli and Marco Tardelli among other members of the 1982 World Cup winning team.

The beautiful Piazza della Libertà is one of the features of the Friulian city of Udine
The beautiful Piazza della Libertà is one of the features
of the Friulian city of Udine
Travel tip:

Udine, the nearest city to Bearzot’s home village of Aiello, is an attractive and wealthy provincial city which is the gastronomic capital of Friuli. Udine's most attractive area lies within the medieval centre, which has Venetian, Greek and Roman influences. The main square, Piazza della Libertà, features the town hall, the Loggia del Lionello, built in 1448–1457 in the Venetian-Gothic style, and a clock tower, the Torre dell’Orologio, which is similar to the clock tower in Piazza San Marco - St Mark's Square - in Venice.

The church of Santa Maria at Paradiso in Milan, where Bearzot is buried
The church of Santa Maria at Paradiso
in Milan, where Bearzot is buried
Travel tip:

The church of Santa Maria al Paradiso is in the Ticinese district of Milan, about 1.5km (1 mile) south of the city centre, near the Crocetta metro station. It was begun in 1590 for the Third Order of Saint Francis, after designs by Martino Bassi. The facade, however, was only added in 1897 in a Neo-Baroque style by the architect Ernesto Pirovano. Ticinese is one of the oldest parts of central Milan. It takes its name from Porta Ticinese, a 16th century gate to the city rebuilt in the early 19th century with large ionic order columns. The area also includes the remains of a Roman amphitheatre and the basilicas of San Lorenzo and Sant'Eustorgio, and has a thriving nightlife with a large choice of bars and restaurants.

More reading:

How Paolo Rossi made the difference in a World Cup classic

Marco Tardelli and THAT celebration

How Marcello Lippi led Italy to glory in 2006

Also on this day:

1973: The death of the actress Anna Magnani

1977: The Assisi earthquake


23 September 2017

Paolo Rossi - World Cup hero

Goalscorer who bounced back from two-year ban

(This article was written in 2017; sadly, Paolo Rossi passed away in 2020 at the age of 64)

Paolo Rossi celebrates his goal in the 1982 World Cup final in Spain
Paolo Rossi celebrates his goal in the 1982
World Cup final in Spain
The footballer Paolo Rossi, whose goals steered Italy to World Cup glory in 1982, was born on this day in 1956 in Prato in Tuscany.

At the peak of his career in club football, in which his best years were with Juventus and Vicenza, Rossi scored almost 100 Serie A and Serie B goals in seven seasons.

Yet for many his exploits with the Italian national team define his career. In 48 appearances he scored 20 goals, including six in the 1982 finals in Spain, when he won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer and the Golden Ball as the best player.

In 1982 he also won the Ballon D’Or, the prestigious award given to the player of the season across all the European leagues, following in the footsteps of Omar Sivori and Gianni Rivera to become the third Italian player to win the vote, in which company he has since been joined by Roberto Baggio and Fabio Cannavaro.

His success story is all the more remarkable for the fact that he scaled so many personal peaks after being banned from football for two years in a match-fixing scandal, although he denied the accusations levelled at him.

The 1982 World Cup saved his career and his reputation, although the fairytale would never have happened but for the faith shown in him by the national coach, Enzo Bearzot.

Italy's coach, Enzo Bearzot, stood by Rossi
Italy's coach, Enzo Bearzot, stood by Rossi
Bearzot’s selection of Rossi for the squad he took to Spain came barely a month after his suspension was lifted and sparked an outcry in Italy. Apart from those who thought he was unworthy of wearing the Azzurri shirt, others argued he would be too lacking in fitness to make an effective contribution.

Yet Bearzot not only believed in Rossi’s innocence, he also recalled the three goals the striker had scored in the 1978 World Cup finals in Argentina and was convinced he could make an impact again.

His faith was borne out totally.  Rossi looked off the pace at the start of the tournament but found his feet memorably in the second phase, scoring all three of Italy’s goals in a 3-2 win against a superior Brazil team that still ranks as one of the greatest matches in World Cup history.

He went on to score both Italy’s goals as they defeated Poland in the semi-finals and opened the scoring in Italy’s 3-1 victory over West Germany in the final.

As a boy, Rossi played his first football with an amateur team in the Santa Lucia area of Prato. At the age of 12, he was spotted by a scout from Juventus, who had also been interested in his brother, Rossano, but had sent him home after a year.

His mother, who had always been worried about Rossano having to fend for himself in Turin, was reluctant to suffer a similarly anxious time with Paolo, especially since Rossano’s dreams ultimately came to nothing.

Paolo Rossi in action for Juventus
Paolo Rossi in action for Juventus
But Juventus were persuasive, offering substantial inducements for him to sign, and ultimately in 1972 a deal was agreed.

It took a long time for his career to take off, however. He suffered a series of serious knee injuries and apart from a handful of Coppa Italia games he did not make any real progress towards a regular place in the first team at Juventus.

A spell on loan with Como did not change his fortunes and he might have been told to seek an alternative career had Lanerossi Vicenza, the Serie B club, not stepped in with another loan deal.

Rossi had, until then, been seen as a winger, slight in build but with the speed to beat defenders. Vicenza’s coach, Giovan Battista Fabbri, had other ideas, reckoning that Rossi’s pace could be deployed in the middle, despite his lack of physical stature. 

It proved a masterstroke.  Rossi scored 21 goals to help Vicenza win promotion to Serie A and followed it with 24 in the top flight as Vicenza finished second, a remarkable performance.  Rossi became the first player to be top scorer in Serie B and Serie A in consecutive seasons.

In the event, Vicenza’s flame went out as quickly as it had ignited. They paid 2.612 million lire to make Rossi their own player, making him the world’s most expensive footballer, which he rewarded with another 15 goals, despite missing many games through injury. Yet Vicenza were relegated.

Rossi (right) with Giovan Battista Fabbri, the coach of Vicenza, who turned him into a striker
Rossi (right) with Giovan Battista Fabbri, the
coach of Vicenza, who turned him into a striker
Had they stayed up, Rossi might never have been embroiled in the match-fixing allegations.  Instead, in order to continue playing in Serie A and continue his international career, he went on loan to Perugia, who were heavily implicated in what became known as the Totonero scandal after a match against Avellino, in which Rossi scored twice, was found to have been rigged to end in a draw.

Rossi admitted he had been approached by a third party interested in fixing the result but said he had agreed to nothing.  Nonetheless, he was found guilty and banned for three years, reduced on appeal to two.

Disillusioned, he threatened to leave Italy for a new life elsewhere but Juventus bought him back from Vicenza and the bianconeri finally saw the real Rossi.  He helped them win the Serie A title – the ‘Scudetto’ - the UEFA Cup and the European Cup during a period when his very presence in a team seemed to guarantee their winning a trophy.

Since retiring, Rossi has run a real estate company, opened an agritourism complex in Bucine, near Arezzo, taken part in Ballando con le Stelle – the Italian version of Strictly Come Dancing – and worked for several newspapers and television stations as a columnist and pundit.

He has also run for election to the European Parliament and worked on behalf of a number of charities.  Married to journalist Federica Cappelletti, he has three children.

The Castello dell'Imperatore in Prato
The Castello dell'Imperatore in Prato
Travel tip:

Paolo Rossi’s home city of Prato is the second largest in Tuscany after Florence and has a considerable number of historic churches and palaces and two castles, yet is rarely part of anyone’s tourist itinerary.  Attractions include beautiful frescoes by Filippo Lippi inside the Duomo and the external pulpit by Michelozzo and Donatello, the beautiful Palazzo Pretorio and Piazza del Comune where it sits.  The remains of Castello dell’Imperatore are also worth exploring.  Prato’s traditional textile industry, which today employs many of the city’s large Chinese population, once saw it described as ‘the Manchester of Italy.’

Palladio's Villa Capra, known as La Rotonda
Palladio's Villa Capra, known as La Rotonda
Travel tip:

Known as both the city of Palladio and, on account of its historical trade in precious metals, the ‘city of gold’, Vicenza is one of the gems of the Veneto, with a centre rich in beautiful architecture, much of which has been built or influenced by the 16th century architect Andrea Palladio, who also left his mark on the area by building many impressive villas in the countryside around Vicenza, the most famous of which, the symmetrically four-sided Villa Almerico Capra, commonly known as La Rotonda. There are some 23 buildings in the city itself that were designed by Palladio, including perhaps the city’s most popular attraction, the Teatro Olimpico, which was his last work.


5 July 2016

Paolo Rossi's World Cup hat-trick

Spain 1982: Italy defeat Brazil in classic match

Paolo Rossi kisses the World Cup trophy on the plane back to Italy
Paolo Rossi kisses the World Cup
trophy on the plane back to Italy
Italians were celebrating up and down the country on this day in 1982 as striker Paolo Rossi turned from villain to hero with a magnificent hat-trick to knock hot favourites Brazil out of the World Cup finals in Spain.

The Juventus forward had served a two-year suspension for his role in an alleged match-fixing scandal while on loan with Perugia and was controversially selected for the World Cup by Italy coach Enzo Bearzot.

He had returned to action in Serie A late in the 1981-82 season after his ban was lifted less than six weeks before the finals were due to begin. Critics argued that with so little preparation time he could not possibly be match fit.

Boasting stars such as Zico, Falcão, Éder and Sócrates, the 1982 Brazil side was reckoned to be at least the equal of the team of Pelé, Rivellino, Tostão and Jairzinho that won the 1970 World Cup in such flamboyant, thrilling style.

Some say the 1982 vintage was even better. What is true is that they needed only to avoid defeat against Italy in their final match in the second group phase in the Estadio Sarrià in Barcelona to reach the semi-finals.  Italy, by contrast, had been uninspiring, scraping through their first-round group without winning a match.

They kept their hopes alive, however, by beating Argentina 2-1 in the first of their two second-round matches and against Brazil, inspired by Rossi, produced one of the most memorable performances by the Azzurri in a match regarded by some football watchers as the greatest World Cup match of all time.

Italy were ahead after just five minutes when Rossi justified the faith of manager Bearzot by heading in Antonio Cabrini's cross.  From that point on, the game consisted of Brazil pushing forward and Italy defending superbly while looking to sting the South Americans on the counter-attack.

Within seven minutes, however, the scores were level as Sócrates played a one-two with Zico and drove the ball in at goalkeeper Dino Zoff's near post.

Paolo Rossi had been a controversial choice in the Italy squad after his ban for alleged match fixing
Paolo Rossi had been a controversial choice in the
Italy squad after his ban for alleged match fixing 
Brazil looked to have momentum and Italy seemed in danger of collapsing under pressure but then a casual pass by Cerezo towards Junior after 25 minutes presented the opportunity for Italy to regain the lead. Rossi, rediscovering his old poacher's sharpness, latched on to the stray ball and shot past goalkeeper Waldir Peres.

The lead held this time until well into the second half, when Rossi could have made it 3-1 but sent an easy chance wide. Two minutes later, Italian fans were stunned when Falcão, given too much time and space, equalised with a powerful drive.

Brazil could have settled then for keeping the scores level but in their desire to win the game they left themselves vulnerable. An Italian attack won a corner, which was only half cleared.  Marco Tardelli's shot was not strong enough to beat Peres but Rossi, his predatory instincts kicking in again, diverted the ball into the net to complete his hat-trick and take Italy into the last four.

With renewed confidence, Italy went on to defeat Poland 2-0 in the semi-finals with Rossi scoring both goals, and overcame West Germany 3-1 in the final.  Rossi scored the opening goal to take his tally to six, which earned him the Golden Boot as the tournament's leading marksman.

Rossi, who was born in Prato in Tuscany and played for Juventus, Vicenza, AC Milan and Hellas Verona in domestic football, retired in 1987. Now 59, he regularly appears on Italian television as a football pundit.

UPDATE: Sadly, Paolo Rossi died in December 2020 at the age of only 64, having been diagnosed with lung cancer.

The Castello dell'Imperatore in Prato
The Castello dell'Imperatore in Prato
Travel tip:

Paolo Rossi's home town of Prato is situated around 25km north-west of Florence.  Its main sights include the 13th century Castello dell'Imperatore and the Church of Santa Maria delle Carceri, which can both be found adjoining the wide Piazza Santa Maria delle Carceri in the centre of the town.

Travel tip:

Paolo Rossi's final club before he retired, Hellas Verona, was founded in 1903 by a group of students, who called the club Hellas, which is the Italian word for Greece, at the suggestion of their classics professor.  In 1906, the team attempted to raise their profile by playing a match inside Verona's famous Roman amphitheatre, the Arena di Verona, nowadays famous for its outdoor productions of opera.

(Photo of Castello dell'Imperatore by Massimilianogallardi CC BY-SA 3.0)

More reading:

Dino Zoff: Italy's 40-year-old World Cup winning captain

Marcello Lippi and Italy's 2006 World Cup triumph


20 March 2016

Azeglio Vicini - 1990 World Cup coach

Semi-final heartbreak ended dream of victory on home soil

Azeglio Vicini was Italy's coach at the 1990 World Cup finals
Azeglio Vicini
Azeglio Vicini, the coach who led Italy to the semi-finals when the nation hosted the 1990 World Cup finals, celebrates his 83rd birthday today.

Born in the city of Cesena in Emilia-Romagna, on this day in 1934, Vicini worked for the Italian Football Federation for an unbroken 23 years in various roles, having joined their technical staff in 1968 after less than one season as a coach at club level.

He was head coach of the Italy Under-23 and Italy Under-21 teams before being succeeding World Cup winner Enzo Bearzot as coach of the senior Italy side in 1986.

Vicini's brief with the senior team was an onerous one.  When Italy won the right to host the 1990 World Cup finals there was an expectation among Italian football's hierarchy that a nation with such a proud history should be capable of winning the tournament on home soil.

Responsibility for producing a team good enough rested squarely on Vicini's shoulders but he was well prepared, having guided his under-21 team to the later stages of the European Championships consistently and brought through the likes of Roberto Mancini, Giuseppe Giannini, Roberto Donadoni, Walter Zenga and Gianluca Vialli, all of whom played in the 1986 European Under-21 Championships final.

Vicini is credited with helping Bearzot devise the defensive strategy behind Italy's triumph at the 1982 World Cup in Spain and his plans for the 1990 finals were built around one of the best defences in the history of the tournament, comprising the AC Milan players Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini, and the Internazionale duo Giuseppe Bergomi and Riccardo Ferri.

He brought through some fine creative talent, too. Roberto Baggio, the brilliant playmaker from Fiorentina, scored one of the goals of the tournament against Czechoslovakia in the group stages, while Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci, an inspired choice with only one international appearance before the finals, famously scored within two minutes of being sent on as a substitute in Italy's opening group match against Austria and went on to win the Golden Boot as the tournament's leading goalscorer.

Roberto Baggio starred at Italia '90
Roberto Baggio, one of Italy's
stars at Italia '90
Yet Italy ultimately failed, going out at the semi-final stage to Argentina after a penalty shoot-out at the Sao Paolo Stadium in Naples.

Italy had reached the last four without conceding a goal and when Schillaci gave them the lead after only 17 minutes in the semi-final it seemed their destiny was to reach the final at least.

But, in classic Italian style, the team's instinct was to defend their lead rather than go all out for a second goal and ultimately Argentina found a way back. When Claudio Caniggia levelled the scores midway through the second half, it mattered little that Italy's 517 minutes without conceding a goal was a record for the finals.

The match went into extra time, during which Argentina's Ricardo Giusti was sent off, but neither side could score again and when it came down to the pressure of taking penalties to determine the winner, the South Americans kept their nerve.

After Baresi, Baggio and Luigi de Agostini had scored, Roberto Donadoni and Aldo Serena both saw their kicks saved.  In between, Diego Maradona - then playing his club football in the same stadium for Napoli - scored what would be the winning penalty.

Vicini's team finished third, beating England in the play-off match after England had similarly been eliminated in the semi-finals on penalties, and Vicini initially remained in the job. He was sacked after failing to qualify for the 1992 European Championship finals, giving way to Arrigo Sacchi.

Subsequently, he spent two seasons in Serie A as manager of Cesena and then Udinese before returning to the Italian Federation as head of the technical sector until his retirement in 2010.

Piazza del Popolo in the centre of Cesena
Photo: Lorenzo Gaudenzi (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

Cesena, where Azeglio Vicini was born, is an historic city in Emilia-Romagna, south of Ravenna and north west of Rimini. It is famous as the site of the ‘Cesena bloodbath’ in 1377 when Pope Gregory’s legate ordered the murder of thousands of citizens for revolting against the papal troops. The city recovered and prospered under the rule of the Malatesta family in the 14th and 15th centuries, who rebuilt the castle, Rocca Malatestiana, and founded a beautiful library, Biblioteca Malatestiana, which has been preserved in its 15th century condition and still holds valuable manuscripts.

Cesena hotels by

The Stadio San Paolo in Naples hosted the 1990
World Cup semi-final between Italy and Argentina 
Photo: Gaetano Capaldo (CC BY 4.0)
Travel tip:

Stadio San Paolo in Naples has become famous for hosting the 1990 World Cup semi-final between Italy and Argentina. Situated in Piazzale Vincenzo Tecchio in the suburb of Fuorigrotta, it is the home of the Serie A club Napoli and is the third largest football stadium in Italy. The stadium takes its name from St Paul, who is said to have landed on Italian soil in the area of Fuorigrotta.