Showing posts with label Fiorentina. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiorentina. Show all posts

1 April 2021

Giancarlo Antognoni - footballer

Midfield star recovered from horrific injury to win World Cup

Giancarlo Antognoni made more than 400 appearances for Fiorentina
Giancarlo Antognoni made more
than 400 appearances for Fiorentina
The footballer Giancarlo Antognoni, who won 73 international caps for his country and was a member of the Italy team that won the 1982 World Cup in Spain, was born on this day in 1954 in Marsciano, a medieval town in Umbria, some 25km (16 miles) south of the regional capital, Perugia.

Antognoni, who spent most of his club career with Fiorentina and still works for the club today, was regarded as one of the most talented midfield players of his generation, but had the misfortune to miss Italy’s triumph against West Germany in the 1982 final, having suffered a broken foot in the semi-final against Poland.

Nonetheless, he made a major contribution to the performances that carried the azzurri through to the final, including the victories over holders Argentina and tournament favourites Brazil in the second phase. As the team's main playmaker, he set up numerous goalscoring opportunities for his teammates. Throughout the 1982 tournament, only Brazil's Zico and West Germany's Pierre Littbarski made more passes that directly led to goals. 

Antognoni himself had a goal incorrectly ruled out for offside against Brazil, although Italy still came out on top thanks to Paolo Rossi’s stunning hat-trick in a famous 3–2 victory.  Antognoni’s pass set up one of Rossi’s goals. 

Yet nine months earlier, some feared Antogoni would not play again, let alone in the following summer’s World Cup, after he suffered an horrific and life-threatening injury playing for Fiorentina against Genoa in Serie A.

In trying to score a goal, Antognoni collided with Genoa goalkeeper Silvano Martina, taking the full force of Martina’s knee against his head. He was knocked out, swallowing his tongue in the process and suffering a cardiac arrest. 

A stricken Antognoni is attended by Genoa team doctor Pierluigi Gatto and others after his accident
A stricken Antognoni is attended by Genoa team
doctor Pierluigi Gatto and others after his accident
It was only the swift actions of Pierluigi Gatto - the Genoa team doctor - that saved his life, the medic instantly recognising what had happened, freeing Antognoni’s tongue and performing CPR on the pitch to restart his heart, which had stopped for at least 30 seconds. Antognoni remained in a coma for two days and it was found that he had also suffered a fractured skull in two places.

Fiorentina fans feared their player’s career was over and Martina was the subject of criminal proceedings after a review of the incident deemed that he had been needlessly reckless in his attempt to deny Antognoni a goalscoring opportunity. A court hearing found Martina guilty of common assault but Antognoni refused to put his name to an official complaint, which meant that Martina escaped punishment.

Amazingly, Antognoni recovered so well from both the fractured skull and his cardiac arrest that he was playing again by the following March and faced Martina again in the second match of his comeback. In an act of outstanding sportsmanship, Antognoni sought out the Genoa ‘keeper before the kick-off and the two shook hands.

Antognoni’s earliest memories of playing football were on dirt pitches in Prepo, a village on the outskirts of Perugia. His father owned a bar in the city that was the headquarters of the local branch of the AC Milan supporters club and Antognoni grew up idolising the Milan star Gianni Rivera.

Antognoni's skills helped Italy win the World Cup in Spain in 1982
Antognoni's skills helped Italy win the
World Cup in Spain in 1982
The first major club to take an interest in him was Torino, although after watching him in a friendly they decided he was not for them. He remained in Piedmont, however, beginning his career with Asti in Serie D at the age of 16. His performances soon attracted attention, however, and when another former AC Milan legend, the Swede Nils Liedholm, asked him to sign for Fiorentina, the young Antognoni jumped at the chance.

He made his debut in Italy's Serie A in October 1972 and went on to make 412 appearances for the viola, scoring 61 goals. He won the Coppa Italia in 1975 and narrowly missed out on the Serie A title in 1982 season, losing out to rivals Juventus by a single point. He holds the record for the most appearances in Serie A for Fiorentina, with 341 games between 1972 and 1987.

Antognoni’s international career, which began in 1974, gained momentum under World Cup-winning coach Enzo Bearzot, who took him to the 1978 World Cup in Argentina and picked him again for the 1980 European championships, the azzurri finishing fourth in both tournaments. By the 1982 World Cup, he was Italy’s first-choice No 10. He is said to have worn the No 10 shirt for Italy more times than any other player, more than Alessandro Del Piero, Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti or even his idol, Rivera.

After his international career ended in 1983, Antognoni remained with Fiorentina until 1987, after which he had two seasons playing in Switzerland for Lausanne Sports before hanging up his boots in 1989 at the age of 35.

Within a year, he was back with Fiorentina, initially as a scout but later as general manager. He dramatically resigned in 2001 in protest at the sacking of the club’s Turkish first-team coach, Fatih Terim. After a spell working for the Italian national federation in youth football development, he returned to the viola in 2017 and since 2018 has had the title of club manager.

The Torri Bolli is one of three medieval towers in Antognoni's home town of Marsciano
The Torri Bolli is one of three medieval towers
in Antognoni's home town of Marsciano
Travel tip:

The town of Marsciano, where Antognoni was born, has its origins in Etruscan and Roman times. In around 1000 it was a fief of the Lombard family of Bulgarelli.  It is notable for its three medieval towers: the Torre Bolli (1217), the Torre Boccali (1228) and the Torre di Porta Vecchia (1271), which have been renovated. In the heart of the old town - Marsciano vecchia - is the parish church dedicated to San Giovanni Battista. Nowadays, it is among the most important agricultural-industrial centres of Umbria and the largest Umbrian producer of tiles and bricks.

The Stadio Artemio Franchi is an atmospheric venue when packed with Fiorentina supporters
The Stadio Artemio Franchi is an atmospheric
venue when packed with Fiorentina supporters
Travel tip:

Antognoni’s club, Fiorentina, play at the Stadio Artemio Franchi, one of Italy’s most famous stadiums and one of the earliest projects undertaken by the architect Pier Luigi Nervi, who would go on to design landmark buildings all over the world. The stadium is built entirely of reinforced concrete - the medium that became Nervi’s hallmark - with a 70m (230 ft) tower that bears the stadium's flagstaff. The tower is called the Tower of Marathon. The record crowd for a football match at the stadium in 58,271 but the stadium has also hosted more than 42,000 people for pop concerts by David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen.

Also on this day:

April Fool’s Day, Italian style

1946: The birth of AC Milan and Italy football coach Arrigo Sacchi

1953: The birth of AC Milan football coach Alberto Zaccheroni

(Marsciano picture by Umbria ws via Wikimedia Commons)


16 December 2018

Francesco Graziani - World Cup winner

Forward injured seven minutes into 1982 final

Francesco Graziani in action for  the Italy national team
Francesco Graziani in action for
the Italy national team
The footballer Francesco Graziani, who played in all of Italy’s matches in the 1982 World Cup in Spain but had the misfortune to be reduced to the status of a spectator when injury struck just seven minutes into the final, was born on this day in 1952 in Subiaco, in Lazio.

Graziani, a striker with Fiorentina who had made his name with Torino, scored a vital goal in Italy’s final match of the opening group phase against Cameroon, securing the draw that was enough to take the azzurri through to the second stage of the competition.

He played in Italy’s epic victories over Argentina and Brazil in the second group phase and in the thumping semi-final win over Poland but was replaced by Alessandro Altobelli after damaging a shoulder in the opening moments of the final against West Germany.

Altobelli went on to score Italy’s third goal as they overcame the Germans 3-1 to lift the trophy for a third time.

With 23 goals in 64 appearances for the national team, Graziani - nicknamed ‘Ciccio’ - achieved a strike rate in international football similar to his goals-per-game ratio in his career at domestic level, which brought him 142 goals in 413 league appearances.

His peak seasons came in the eight years he spent with Torino, during which he scored 97 times in 221 Serie A matches, winning the scudetto as Serie A champions in 1975-76.

The Torino team that won the Serie A championship in 1975-76. Graziani is fourth from the left on the back row
The Torino team that won the Serie A championship in
1975-76. Graziani is fourth from the left on the back row
A strong, physical player, Graziani began his footballing career in Bettini Quadraro, an amateur team in Rome, before moving to Arezzo and then to Torino in 1973.

Graziani scored 122 goals in 289 games in all competitions for Torino, including eight goals in 23 matches in Europe. In addition to the Serie A title, he was a member of the team that reached the final of the Coppa Italia in 1980.

He was the top-scorer in Serie A with a tally of 21 goals in the 1976-77 season, part of a powerful forward line alongside Paolo Pulici and Claudio Sala.

Graziani left Torino in 1981 when he and teammate Eraldo Pecci were transferred to Fiorentina, where they missed winning the title by a single point in the 1981–82 season.

In 1983, he was signed by Roma, with whom he won the Coppa Italia twice, in 1984 and 1986.

Graziani is brought down by Juventus defender  Gaetano Scirea during a Turin derby in 1976-77
Graziani is brought down by Juventus defender
 Gaetano Scirea during a Turin derby in 1976-77
Known for his composure in front of goal, Graziani was capable of playing as a main striker, in a creative midfield role, or even on the wing. He worked hard to hone his technique and eventually his determination, ability in the air and a natural eye for goal enabled him to become the complete centre-forward.

Nonetheless, despite his excellent scoring record, Graziani twice missed penalties in shoot-outs, first in the one that decided the 1980 Coppa Italia final, when Torino lost out to Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, and then again in the 1984 European Cup final - in the same stadium - when Roma, his next club after Fiorentina, were beaten by Liverpool.

After two seasons with Udinese and a brief appearance in the Australian National Soccer League, Graziani called time on his his playing career in 1988. His Serie A record was 130 goals from 353 games.

Graziani made his debut for the Italy national team in April 1975, in a 0–0 home draw in Rome against Poland, and scored his first goal for Italy in April of the following year in a 3–1 home win against Portugal.

Francesco Graziani has been a coach and pundit since giving up playing
Francesco Graziani has been a coach
and pundit since giving up playing
As well as being a key member of the 1982 World Cup team, he also went to the 1978 finals in Argentina as understudy to Paolo Rossi and to the 1980 European Championship finals on home soil, where he made four appearances, scoring once, as Italy finished in fourth place.

His career as a coach has so far produced mixed results. As coach of Fiorentina he reached the 1990 UEFA Cup Final. Spells at Reggina and Avellino were unsuccessful but then led Catania to promotion from Serie C1 to Serie B in the 2001–02 season.

From 2004 to 2006, he coached Cervia, an amateur team of Emilia-Romagna from the Eccellenza league who were the subject of an Italian reality show, Campioni – Il Sogno. He led the team to an immediate promotion to Serie D.

More recently, Graziani has worked as a football pundit for the Mediaset TV channels.

The Rocca Abbazia castle that towers above the town of Subiaco remains largely intact
The Rocca Abbazia castle that towers above the town of
Subiaco remains largely intact
Travel tip:

Graziani’s home town, Subiaco, which is situated about 70km (43 miles) east of Rome and about 40km (25 miles) from Tivoli, is built close to a hill  topped by the Rocca Abbazia castle, and close to Monte Liviato – one of Lazio’s premier ski resorts. Originally built to provide accommodation for workmen on Nero’s grand villa, of which barely anything remains, Subiaco became well known for the fact that, in the fifth century, Saint Benedict lived as a hermit in a mountain cave nearby for three years, before leaving to found the monastery at Montecassino. Among a few things to see are the Ponte di San Francesco, a medieval segmental arch bridge over the Aniene constructed in 1358.

The Municipio - local authority building - in Cervia, the town on the Adriatic coast where Graziani coached
The Municipio - local authority building - in Cervia, the
town on the Adriatic coast where Graziani coached
Travel tip:

Cervia, whose football club Graziani coached to promotion in 2005, is a resort town in Emilia-Romagna, on Italy's Adriatic coast.  It was once an important medieval city with three fortified entrances, seven churches and a castle supposedly built by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.  Among things to see are an early 18th century cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta and the Museum of Salt, which tells the story of the town’s prosperous past as major centre for the mining of salt.

Search for hotels in Cervia on Tripadvisor

More reading:

How Paolo Rossi's hat-trick sank Brazil at the 1982 World Cup

Enzo Bearzot, the pipe-smoking maestro who plotted Italy's 1982 victory

Marco Tardelli: That goal, and that celebration

Also on this day:

1944: The birth of businessman Sandro Versace

1945: The death of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli

1954: The birth of pop star Ivana Spagna


26 May 2018

Luca Toni - World Cup winner

Striker one of stars of 2006 triumph in Germany

Luca Toni with the World Cup in 2006. The hand gesture is the one he habitually made after scoring a goal
Luca Toni with the World Cup in 2006. The hand gesture
is the one he habitually made after scoring a goal
The footballer Luca Toni, who played an important role in Italy’s achievement in winning the soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006, was born on this day in 1977 in the small town of Pavullo nel Frignano in Emilia-Romagna.

Toni scored twice in Italy’s 3-0 victory over Ukraine in the quarter-finals before starting as the Azzurri’s main striker in both the semi-final triumph over the hosts and the final against France, in which they eventually prevailed on penalties. Toni hit the bar with one header and saw another disallowed for offside in the final.

The goals were among 16 he scored in 47 appearances for the national team but it was his remarkable club career that makes him stand out in the history of Italian football.

A muscular 6ft 4ins in height and hardly the most mobile of forwards, he was never seen as a great player, more an old-fashioned centre forward of the kind rarely seen in today’s game.

Yet between his debut for his local club, Modena, in 1994 and his retirement in 2016 following his final season with Hellas Verona, Toni found the net 322 times in club football, which makes him the fourth most prolific goalscorer among all Italian players. Most times, he celebrated by shaking his hand near his right ear, which he once explained began as meaning 'listen up - I just scored a goal!'

Toni in the colours of Fiorentina, for whom he scored 31 goals in the 2005-06 season
Toni in the colours of Fiorentina, for whom
he scored 31 goals in the 2005-06 season 
He scored more career goals indeed than Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Gianluca Vialli, all of whom would probably figure in most fans’ idea of an Italian ‘hall of fame’. More too than the prolific Juventus and AC Milan star Filippo Inzaghi.

Of his contemporaries, only Alessandro del Piero (346) scored more, while historically he doffs his cap only to Silvio Piola (364) and the Internazionale legend Giuseppe Meazza (338).

In a nomadic career that saw him wear the colours of 13 different Italian clubs - plus one in Germany and one in Dubai - Toni was twice the capocannoniere - top scorer - in Serie A, hitting 31 goals for Fiorentina in 2005-06, which was the biggest individual tally in Italy’s top division for 47 years, and then sharing the honour with Inter’s Mauro Icardi some nine years later, in the 2014-15 season, when he scored 22 for Hellas Verona.

Toni did not make his Serie A debut until he was 23, by which time he had already played for five clubs in six seasons in the lower divisions.  He made his first start in the top flight for Vicenza and subsequently played alongside Baggio and Pep Guardiola at Brescia.

It was with Palermo in Serie B that Toni made his first real impact as a goalscorer. He scored 30 times as the Sicilian club won promotion in 2004 to end an absence of more than 30 years from Serie A and a further 20 the following season as the Rosanero qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history.

Toni was the No 9 for the Azzurri in the 2006 World Cup final
Toni was the No 9 for the Azzurri
in the 2006 World Cup final
Those goals brought his first call-up for the Azzurri and a big-money move to Fiorentina, where his goals in 2005-06 propelled Fiorentina to fourth place and qualification for the Champions League, although the place was rescinded after Fiorentina were caught up in the calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

Toni showed great loyalty to the fallen club, offering to stay with them even after they were ordered to start the following season in Serie B, a sentence commuted on appeal to a 15-points deduction in Serie A.  When he left at the end of the 2007 season it was only because an approach from Bayern Munich in Germany allowed him to keep his pledge of not joining a rival Italian club.

His first season in the Bundesliga was a huge success, his 24 goals helping Bayern win the title. He also scored both goals as Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 to add the German Cup and complete the double. Despite an ankle injury keeping him out for a long spell, he still managed 14 goals in his second season.

After falling out with manager Louis Van Gaal midway through the 2009-10 season, Toni was on the move again, spending brief spells with Roma, Genoa, Juventus, Al Nasr in Dubai and Fiorentina again. It looked like his career was drawing to a close but then newly-promoted Verona took a gamble by offering him a one-year contract to play on beyond his 37th birthday.

It paid off handsomely as Toni enjoyed a renaissance, rediscovering his old deadliness in the penalty area to score 20 goals in the 2013-14 season and 22 in the 2014-15 campaign, by the end of which he was 38, when his 22 goals made him the oldest capocannoniere in the history of Serie A.

Toni (left) and his teammate Miroslav Klose  in the Bayern Munich team in 2007-08
Toni (left) and his teammate Miroslav Klose
in the Bayern Munich team in 2007-08
His retirement at the end of the 2015-16 season came with a fairytale ending in a 2-1 home win over already-crowned Serie A champions Juventus, in which he scored Verona’s first goal with a penalty taken in the so-called Panenka style, chipped delicately into the centre of the goal after the goalkeeper commits himself to diving left or right.

After retirement, Toni took courses with a view to remaining at Verona as director of football but left in 2017 and has more recently worked as a pundit.

Married to the model Maria Cecchetto, with whom he has two children, he was back on a football pitch earlier this month in a star-studded testimonial for the great Azzurri midfielder Andrea Pirlo, getting on the scoresheet as usual as the match ended 7-7.

The Castle of Montecuccolo at Pavullo nel Frignano
The Castle of Montecuccolo at Pavullo nel Frignano
Travel tip:

Pavullo nel Frignano, where Luca Toni was born, is a town of around 17,000 inhabitants in the Modenese Apennines. It is home to the medieval Castle of Montecuccolo, birthplace of the 17th century condottiero - mercenary - Raimondo Montecuccoli. Pavullo sadly suffered extensive damage during the Second World War because of its proximity to the German defences on Gothic Line.

The Arena di Verona hosted a football match in the early days of the local football team, Hellas Verona
The Arena di Verona hosted a football match in the early
days of the local football team, Hellas Verona
Travel tip:

Toni’s final team, Hellas Verona, acquired its name after it was founded in 1903 by a group of students from the prestigious local lyceum, where a classics professor put forward the name Hellas, which is the Greek equivalent of the Latin word patria, meaning homeland. The city was largely indifferent towards football at first but the Veronese began to take more of an interest after the club staged a game against their local rivals Bentegodi in the city's Roman amphitheatre, now famous as the Arena di Verona, attracting national media attention.

Also on this day:

1805: Napoleon Bonaparte crowned King of Italy

1955: Formula One motor racing champion Alberto Ascari tragically dies in a crash at Monza


27 April 2018

Vittorio Cecchi Gori - entrepreneur

Ex-president of Fiorentina who produced two of Italy’s greatest films

Former Fiorentina owner and film producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Former Fiorentina owner and film
producer Vittorio Cecchi Gori
Vittorio Cecchi Gori, whose chequered career in business saw him produce more than 300 films and own Fiorentina’s football club but also saw him jailed for fraudulent bankruptcy, was born on this day in 1942 in Florence.

The son of Mario Cecchi Gori, whose production company he inherited, he provided the financial muscle behind two of Italy’s greatest films of recent years, Il Postino (1994), which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, and Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful (1997), which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film.

He was also involved with the 1992 Oscar winner Mediterraneo, directed by Gabriele Salvatores, which also won in the Best Foreign Language film category.

Vittorio’s legacy from his father also included Fiorentina football club, of which he was president from 1993 to 2002.

Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
Cecchi Gori with his late father Mario
With Cecchi Gori’s backing, while his involvement with the movie business was generating such huge profits, Fiorentina enjoyed great times.  He invested heavily in new players and persuaded the club’s icon, the Argentine forward Gabriel Batistuta, to stay after the viola were relegated in 1993.

With Claudio Ranieri as coach, they won the Coppa Italia in 1996, their first trophy in 20 years, following it up by winning the Super Cup later the same year and another Coppa Italia in 2001. In the 1999-2000 season they had played in the Champions League for the first time.

Yet the impetuous entrepreneur was to run into serious financial difficulties in subsequent years and went from revered to reviled in Florence after his own business collapse became Fiorentina’s collapse also.

His problems began in 1995, when he mounted an ambitious challenge against Italy’s television duopoly, held by the public broadcaster RAI and Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest.

Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori with the Fiorentina star Gabriel Batistuta
Cecchi Gori bought up some small TV companies used their infrastructure to create a new channel, La7, and formulating an ambitious plan to acquire the rights to televise Serie A, the top division of the Italian Football League. He failed to secure them, however, ratings hit an all-time low and the new channel was sold for a huge loss.

An expensive divorce did not help, plunging him into huge personal debt, and in 2001 it was revealed that Fiorentina had debts equating to $50 million.  Their fortunes on the field were in decline also and things came to a head at the end of the 2001-02 season, when they were relegated from Serie A and promptly entered judicially-controlled administration, a form of bankruptcy.  Because of this, they were refused a place in Serie B for the following season and had to start again in Serie C, the third division, after effectively winding up the historic club and starting a new one.

At the same time, Cecchi Gori’s business empire was collapsing.   Prized assets such as his luxurious apartment in the Palazzo Borghese in Rome, the Multisala Adriano, his Rome cinema complex, and his film library were sold to raise funds, but to no avail.

Police investigations into his affairs dogged him for years.  In 2006 he was found guilty of illegally redirecting millions of dollars from Fiorentina into other businesses and in 2013 received a six-year jail term in connection with the bankruptcy of his production company, Safin Cinematografica.

Until his business problems, Cecchi Gori served as a member of the Italian Senate between 1994 and 2001, having been elected as a member of the centre-right Partito Popolare Italiano.

Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Florence's Stadio Artemio Franchi
Travel tip:

In a city best known for its magnificent Renaissance architecture, the Stadio Artemio Franchi, the home stadium of Fiorentina, is notable as a classic of early 20th century design. Opened in 1931, it was designed by the renowned architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi and constructed entirely of reinforced concrete with a 70m (230 ft) tower that bears the stadium's flagstaff. Originally called Stadio Giovanni Berta, after a local Fascist, it was changed to Stadio Comunale before taking the name of Franchi, then Italian Football Federation president, in 1991.

The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo Borghese overlooks the Tiber
The narrow rear facade of the Palazzo
Borghese overlooks the Tiber
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Borghese, where Cecchi Gori had an apartment valued at almost €10 million, is a palace in Rome that was originally the home of the powerful Borghese family, who settled in Rome in the 16th century and also owned the Villa Borghese and surrounding gardens. The palace was nicknamed il Cembalo - the harpsichord - due to its unusual trapezoid shape, with its narrowest rear facade facing the Tiber river. The front facade - the keyboard of the harpsichord - opening on to the Fontanella di Borghese. The first floor has housed the Spanish Embassy since 1947.


19 August 2017

Cesare Prandelli – football coach

Led Italy to the final of Euro 2012

Cesare Prandelli
Cesare Prandelli
The former head coach of the Italian national football team, Cesare Prandelli, was born on this day in 1957 in Orzinuovi, near Brescia.

Under Prandelli’s guidance, the Azzurri finished runners-up in the European Championships final of 2012 and qualified for the finals of the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

Despite winning a two-year extension to his contract, he quit after Italy’s elimination at the group stage in Brazil, which he considered was the honourable course of action after a very  disappointing tournament in which the Azzurri beat England in their opening match but then lost to Costa Rica and Uruguay.

As a player, Prandelli had been a member of a highly successful Juventus team in the early 1980s, winning Serie A three times and the European Cup in 1985 – albeit on a night overshadowed by tragedy at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. 

After beginning his coaching career as youth team coach with Atalanta in Bergamo, his last club as a player, he twice achieved promotion from Serie B, with Hellas Verona in 1999 and Venezia in 2001.

But it was his achievements in Serie A with Fiorentina that impressed the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).

Prandelli guided Italy to the semi-finals of the Euro 2012 tournament
Prandelli guided Italy to the semi-finals
of the Euro 2012 tournament
Appointed in the summer of 2005, he had immediate success, transforming the team from relegation strugglers to finish in fourth place, winning qualification for the Champions League, although the prize was then snatched away from them after the investigation into the Calciopoli bribes scandal found the Tuscan club to be heavily involved.

Prandelli himself was not party to any wrongdoing but had to deal with the consequences as Fiorentina began the following season with a 15-point penalty. Remarkably, despite the handicap, they qualified for the UEFA Cup by finishing sixth. Had they started level with the rest of the field they would have been third. Prandelli was named Serie A’s Coach of the Year.

In each of the following two seasons, the viola did qualify for the Champions League, achieving a last 16 place for the first time in their history in the 2009-10 season, on the back of which he was approached by the FIGC in May 2010 and appointed as Marcello Lippi’s successor in charge of the national team.

Prandelli was head coach of the Azzurri for 56 matches, winning 25 of them and losing 14. The high spots came in Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine, when Italy qualified unbeaten from their group before beating England in a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-finals and knocking out Germany in the semis, when Prandelli’s protégé, Mario Balotelli, scored both goals.

They lost the final 4-0 to Spain but Prandelli’s team won popular approval and on their return to Italy were invited to meet the president, Giorgio Napolitano, at a reception at the Palazzo Quirinale.

Prandelli (centre) introduces striker Mario Balotelli to the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano
Prandelli (centre) introduces striker Mario Balotelli to
the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano
Since resigning from the Italy job, Prandelli has had unhappy spells in Turkey with Galatasaray, where he was sacked after just 147 days in charge, and in Spain with Valencia, where he resigned after 10 matches.  He is currently working in Dubai with the Emirates Arabian Gulf League club Al-Nasr.

Off the field, Prandelli suffered the tragedy of losing his wife Manuela to cancer in 2007, after 25 years of marriage.  They had met in Orzinuovi as teenagers.  They had a daughter, Carolina, and a son, Nicolò, who worked for the Italian national team as a fitness coach in the build-up to Euro 2012.

The Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in Orzinuovi
The Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II in Orzinuovi
Travel tip:

Orzinuovi, a town of 12,500 people situated about 32km (20 miles) south-east of Brescia, is typical of many municipalities in Lombardy in that it is clean, orderly and understatedly elegant. The attractive Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is a long, wide thoroughfare at the heart of the town lined with porticos on each side.

The Stadio Artemio Franchi, with the Torre del Maratona
away to the left, in Florence
Travel tip:

Fiorentina’s home ground, the Stadio Artemio Franchi, is one of Italy’s most historic football venues, constructed entirely from reinforced concrete to a design by the celebrated architect Pier Luigi Nervi, who included a 70-metre (230ft) tower – La Torre del Maratona – that is a landmark on the Florence skyline. The stadium hosted matches at the 1934 and the 1990 World Cups. It is likely to be the club’s home for only a short while longer, however, with plans approved for a now 40,000-seater stadium as part of the redevelopment of north-west Florence, to be completed in time for the 2021-22 season.

14 May 2017

Aurelio Milani - footballer

Centre forward helped Inter win first European Cup

Aurelio Milano scored Inter's second goal in the 1964 European Cup final in Vienna
Aurelio Milano scored Inter's second goal in the
1964 European Cup final in Vienna
Aurelio Milani, who helped Internazionale become the second Italian football club to win the European Cup, was born on this day in 1934 in Desio, about 25km (15 miles) north of Lombardy’s regional capital.

Inter beat Real Madrid 3-1 in the final Vienna in 1964 to emulate the achievement of city rivals AC Milan, who had become the first European champions from Italy the previous year.

Milani, a centre forward, scored the all-important second goal in the 61st minute after his fellow attacker Sandro Mazzola had given Inter the lead in the first half, receiving a pass from Mazzola before beating Real goalkeeper Vicente Train with a shot from outside the penalty area.

Madrid, whose forward line was still led by the mighty Alfredo di Stefano with Ferenc Puskas playing at inside-left, pulled a goal back but Mazzola added a third for Inter.

But this was the so-called Grande Inter side managed by the Argentinian master-tactician Helenio Herrera, who coached them to three Serie A titles in four years and retained the European Cup by defeating Eusebio’s Benfica 12 months later, when the final was played in their home stadium at San Siro in Milan.

Sadly, Milani could not be on the field on that occasion. Playing against Dinamo Bucharest in San Siro in November, he scored the final goal in a resounding 6-0 win for Inter only to suffer a displaced vertebra in a collision with another player, the injury serious enough effectively to end his career at the age of 31.

Milani (right) with goalkeeper Giuliano Sarti, who would join him at Inter, and coach Nandor Hidegkuti, at Fiorentina
Milani (right) with goalkeeper Giuliano
Sarti, who would join him at Inter, and
coach Nandor Hidegkuti, at Fiorentina
Although he was best remembered for his time with Inter, Milani had also played in Serie A for Sampdoria, Padova and Fiorentina, where he played in a European Cup-Winners’ Cup final and finished the 1962-63 season as the joint leading scorer in Serie A with 22 goals.

Milani had begun his career with his local club, Aurora Desio, in their youth side before being scouted by the Bergamo team, Atalanta, who loaned him to another Lombardy club Fanfulla, based in the city of Lodi. In 1955 he was sold to Simmenthal Monza, for whom he scored 37 times over two Serie B seasons. Those figures earned him his first move outside Lombardy, to Triestina in Friuli, where he scored 17 goals in 30 Serie B appearances in his first and only season.

By now he was regularly attracting scouts from Serie A and signed for Sampdoria, where he proved he could be an equally effective striker at the top level, with 13 goals in his debut season.  Injury blighted his second season but his talents were not forgotten and after one year with Padova, where he scored another 18 goals, he earned his move to Fiorentina in the summer of 1961.

Interestingly, his first two goals in the famous purple shirt of the viola were also the first two goals conceded in the career of the legendary Italy goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who was making his professional debut for opponents Udinese, aged 19.

After his injury in 1964 he attempted a comeback in the lower divisions with the Piedmont club Verbania but after eight appearances he decided to call it a day.

Milani, who had made his international debut a few months before the injury, which denied the chance to add to his debut cap in a friendly against Switzerland, died at his home in Borgo Ticino, near Lake Maggiore, in 2014 at the age of 80.

The Villa Tittoni Traversi, the former royal palace at Desio
The Villa Tittoni Traversi, the former royal palace at Desio
Travel tip:

Desio, a town of 42,000 inhabitants that built its prosperity around the wool and silk industries, is historically significant for having been the site of a battle in 1277 between the Visconti and della Torre families for control of Milan. The birthplace of Pope Pius XI.  There is an impressive basilica, dedicated to the Saints Siro and Materno, in the centre of the town in Piazza Conciliazione.  Also worthy of a visit is the Villa Tittoni Traversi, a former royal palace that has been home to King Ferdinand IV of Naples and King Umberto I of Italy.

Travel tip:

Situated 32km (20 miles) south of Lake Maggiore, Borgo Ticino is a small town of fewer than 5,000 people. Nearby attractions include the pretty lakeside towns of Arona and Angera and the Volandia Museum of Flight in Somma Lombardo, close to Milan Malpensa airport, which houses 45 aircraft.

More reading:

Why Giuseppe Meazza was Italian football's first superstar

Dino Zoff - the record-breaking career of football's oldest World Cup winner

The unparalleled success of former Inter coach Giovanni Trapattoni

Also on this day:

1916: The birth of architect and designer Marco Zanuso