Showing posts with label Fabio Grosso. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fabio Grosso. Show all posts

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, Niccolò 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.

28 November 2016

Fabio Grosso - World Cup hero

Unspectacular career illuminated by unforgettable goal

Fabio Grosso at the 2006 World Cup finals
Fabio Grosso at the 2006
World Cup finals
Fabio Grosso, the unlikely hero of Italy's victory in the 2006 World Cup in Germany, was born on this day in 1977 in Rome.

Selected for Marcello Lippi's squad for the Finals as cover for first-choice left-back Gianluca Zambrotta, Grosso eventually secured a place in Lippi's team and went on to score one of the most important goals in Italy's World Cup history as they beat the hosts, Germany, to reach the final.

He then secured his place in Azzurri folklore by scoring the winning penalty in the final against France as Italy lifted the trophy for the fourth time, equalling Brazil's record.

Yet Grosso arrived at the finals as a player who, if not an unknown, seldom attracted attention and had enjoyed a career that was respectable but certainly not eye-catching.

Five years before 2006,  he was playing in Serie C for Chieti, in the town in Abruzzo where he grew up, and only two and a half years before the tournament he left Serie A side Perugia to play for Palermo in Serie B.

Nonetheless, Palermo did win promotion to Serie A soon after Grosso arrived and at the same time he quietly established himself as Lippi's first choice at left back in the 2006 World Cup qualifying competition.

Yet his solid performances seldom making headlines.  Commentators have speculated that some Italian fans might not have even recognised him before 2006.

Even after the finals, when he earned a €5 million move to Internazionale, his career was notable for its fits and starts.

Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach
Marcello Lippi, Italy's coach
He won championships with Inter under Roberto Mancini and then in France with Olympique Lyon but at both clubs he quickly fell out of favour.  Inter sold him after one season, Lyon after two.

At international level, he retained Lippi's loyalty in the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup but was not selected in the final squad for South Africa.

After Lyon, he joined Juventus, where he enjoyed a respectable first season but figured in fewer matches in his second campaign and was rarely selected after Antonio Conte took charge in the summer of 2011.  After making just two appearances in the 2011-12 campaign, he announced his retirement.

Yet thanks to the 2006 World Cup, his career will never be forgotten.  Picked for the opening group match after Zambrotta had been injured in training, he then benefited from right-back Cristian Zaccardo's poor form, which persuaded Lippi to switch Zambrotta from his normal position and play Grosso at left-back.

His first important contribution came in the round-of-16 match against Australia, when he won a disputed penalty in stoppage time that enabled Italy to scrape into the quarter-finals.

Relieve Fabio Grosso's goal against Germany and Italy's second moments later

The semi-final goal in Dortmund that made him a star came with a penalty shoot-out just two minutes away after a match that had been goalless but full of dramatic excitement, with Germany desperate to reach the Final in their own country.

It stemmed from a corner on the right that found its way to playmaker Andrea Pirlo on the edge of the penalty area.  Pirlo kept the ball at his feet before he spotted Grosso in a yard of space inside the box to the right, threading the ball to him between two defenders.

Grosso admitted to half closing his eyes as he swung his left foot, aiming at where he hoped the far corner of the goal might be.  His guesswork and delivery could not have been better, the ball curling inside the post just out of the reach of goalkeeper Jens Lehmann's dive.

Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo
Grosso ran away, repeatedly shouting 'Non ci credo' - 'I don't believe it' - in a celebration reminiscent of Marco Tardelli after his goal in the 1982 final in Spain, before teammates piled on top of him.  Moments later, Alessandro Del Piero scored Italy's second goal on a break from defence as Germany threw all their players forward in search of an equaliser.

The quality of Grosso's shot took some fans by surprise but he had been a goalscoring winger in his early career, scoring 47 times in 108 games for Renato Curi Angolana in regional football in Abruzzo.  Only when he had joined Perugia was he converted to a full back.

It impressed Lippi enough to name him as the man to take the often crucial fifth penalty, and after David Trezeguet's miss for France gave Grosso the chance to win the match and the trophy for Italy, he kept his cool and duly scored, to be the man of the moment for the second time.

Married with two children, Grosso returned to Juventus in 2014 to join the coaching staff.  He is currently in charge of the Primavera (Under-20s) team, having turned down the chance to coach Crotone in Serie A earlier this year.

Travel tip:

Chieti is among the most historic Italian cities, supposedly founded in 1181BC by the Homeric Greek hero Achilles. Among its main sights are a Gothic Cathedral, rebuilt after earthquake damage in the 18th century on the sight of a church that dates back to the 11th century, and the Villa Comunale, a neo-classical palace of the 19th century that is home to the National Archaeological Museum of Abruzzo.

The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia's Piazza IV Novembre
The Fontana Maggiore in Perugia's Piazza IV Novembre
Travel tip:

Perugia, an ancient city that sits on a high hilltop midway between Rome and Florence, has a history that goes back to the Etruscan times, when it was one of the most powerful cities of the period.  It is also a university town with a long history, the University of Perugia having been founded in 1308.  The presence of the University for Foreigners and a number of smaller colleges gives Perugia a student population of more than 40,000.  The centre of the city, Piazza IV Novembre, has an interesting medieval fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, which was sculpted by Nicolo and Giovanni Pisano.

More reading:

1990 World Cup: Italy's semi-final heartbreak on home soil

1982 World Cup: Paolo Rossi's hat-trick in classic victory over Brazil

1970 World Cup: Gianni Rivera - the midfield maestro who became a politician

Also on this day:

1907: The birth of novelist Alberto Moravia