Showing posts with label Roberto Donadoni. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Roberto Donadoni. Show all posts

9 September 2021

Roberto Donadoni - footballer and coach

Understated midfielder who helped AC Milan win six Serie A titles

Roberto Donadoni is now a coach after a hugely successful playing career
Roberto Donadoni is now a coach after
a hugely successful playing career
The footballer and coach Roberto Donadoni, who was a key figure in an AC Milan side that dominated Italian football for the best part of a decade, was born on this day in 1963 in Cisano Bergamasco in Lombardy.

A winger or midfielder famed for his ability to create goalscoring opportunities for his team-mates, Donadoni was once described by the brilliant French attacker Michel Platini as ‘the best Italian footballer of the 1990s’.

His collection of 21 winner’s medals includes six for winning the Serie A title with AC Milan and three for the European Cup or Champions League.

He was also part of the Italian national team that reached the final of the World Cup in 1994, losing to Brazil on penalties.

Donadoni was never a prolific goalscorer: in more than 500 league and international matches, he found the net only 34 times. Yet he had exceptional technical ability and great passing skills and if tallies of ‘assists’ in matches had been recorded during his career as they are now, the role he played in Milan’s success in particular would be appreciated still more.

Since ending his career as a player, Donadoni has totted up 450 matches as a coach, taking charge at seven clubs in Italian football and one in China, as well as having a stint as head coach of the national team. Although he led the Azzurri to the quarter-finals of Euro 2008, he has yet to win a trophy as a coach.

Donadoni won six Serie A titles with AC Milan
Donadoni won six Serie A
titles with AC Milan
Born within the province of Bergamo, it was natural for Donadoni to launch his professional career with Atalanta, the club based in Bergamo, the Lombardy region’s fourth largest city. He joined the club’s youth system and made his debut in Serie C at the age of 18, winning the Serie C1 title in his first season.

Two years later, in 1984, he helped Atalanta return to Serie A after an absence of five seasons, as Serie B champions. His youthful talent did not go unnoticed and in 1986 he moved to AC Milan, one of the first signings made following Silvio Berlusconi’s takeover of the club.

It was not long before he was playing in front of defenders such as Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Mauro Tassotti and behind strikers of the calibre of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit and George Weah as the Milan teams coached by Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello swept all before them.

He was part of the team that Sacchi led to the 1987-88 Serie A title, Milan’s first for nine years, which went on to win the European Cup in 1989 and 1990, the first team to retain the trophy since Nottingham Forest a decade earlier.

Under Capello, who succeeded Sacchi when the latter was appointed to coach the national team, Donadoni won four scudetti - the scudetto being the shield-shaped badge worn on the shirts of the reigning champions - in the space of five seasons, as well as another European Cup, by then rebranded as the Champions League, in 1994.

Donadoni has gained respect as a coach, although he has yet to enjoy tangible success
Donadoni has gained respect as a coach, although
he has yet to enjoy tangible success
After his fifth domestic title, Donadoni left the club, initially intending to retire but then accepting on offer to extend his career in the United States with the Metrostars, where his form not only prompted a recall to the Italian national team but a further stint with AC Milan, where he was part of Alberto Zaccheroni's team that won Serie A in 1998-99.

Regarded as the most dedicated and selfless of players, he was once quoted as saying that his greatest satisfaction on the football field came from “making the pass that leads to the goal”.

In his international career, Donadoni made his senior debut for the Azzurri in 1986 and was a key member of the team that finished third in the 1990 World Cup on home soil under Azeglio Vicini, although the tournament was marred for him by missing one of Italy’s penalties in the shoot-out that determined their semi-final against Argentina, which was won by the South American side.

He went one better in the 1994 World Cup in the United States. Reunited with his former Milan coach Sacchi, he helped the Italians reach the final in Pasadena, but was again on the losing side after a penalty shoot-out, with Brazil taking the prize. This time, Donadoni was spared the responsibility of taking one of the kicks.

He retired for good in 2000, having helped Al-Ittihad win the Saudi Premier League title.

Since then he has built a second career as a coach. Following the traditional Italian route of working his way up through the lower divisions, Donadoni took his first coaching job with Lecco - just 15km (nine miles) north of his hometown of Cisano Bergamasco - and has since had another nine coaching contracts with eight clubs, as well as a two-year spell as head coach of the national team. 

He was sacked as Azzurri coach after Italy’s disappointing performance at Euro 2008 and had the misfortune to be in charge at Parma as the once highly-successful club plunged towards bankruptcy for a second time in 2015, when he was applauded for sticking by his players - unsuccessfully, in the end - as they battled to avoid relegation from Serie A, despite going unpaid for a year.

The new church of San Zenone in Cisano Bergamasco
The new church of San Zenone in
Cisano Bergamasco
Travel tip:

The small town of Cisano Bergamasco is in the San Martino valley, which straddles the provinces of Lecco, 15km (nine miles) to the north, and Bergamo, 20km (12 miles) to the southeast. It is also close to the lakeside city of Como, some 40km (25 miles) to the west. Although there has been a settlement in the area since Roman times, and some remains of the medieval Vimercati-Sozzi Castle are preserved within the grounds of a private villa, the Cisano Bergamasco of today is typical of the pleasant, well-maintained municipalities to be found in much of northern Italy.

Lecco sits alongside the beautiful Lago di Lecco, the eastern fork of Lake Como
Lecco sits alongside the beautiful Lago
di Lecco, the eastern fork of Lake Como
Travel tip:

Lecco, where Roberto Donadoni took his first steps in coaching, lies at the end of the south eastern branch of Lago di Como, which is known as Lago di Lecco. The Bergamo Alps rise to the north and east of the lake. The writer Alessandro Manzoni lived in Lecco for part of his life and based his famous novel, I promessi sposi, there. 

Also on this day:

1908: The birth of writer Cesare Pavese

1918: The birth of former Italian president Oscar Luigi Scalfaro

1943: Allied troops land at Salerno, south of Naples

1982: The birth of photographer and film director Francesco Carrozzini


14 August 2018

Giorgio Chiellini - footballer

Juventus star renowned for defensive excellence

Giorgio Chiellini won 97 caps for the Italian national team but missed out on trophies
Giorgio Chiellini won 97 caps for the Italian
national team but missed out on trophies
The footballer Giorgio Chiellini, renowned as one of the world’s best defenders, was born on this day in 1984 in Pisa.

Chiellini has played for much of his career at Juventus, winning an incredible seven consecutive Serie A titles from 2012 to 2018, as well as numerous other trophies.  He was Serie A Defender of the Year in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and in 2017 was named in Juventus’s Greatest XI of All Time.

He also earned 97 caps for the Italy national team before announcing his retirement from international football in 2017, establishing himself as an automatic choice in a back three or four under five different coaches.

All of Chiellini’s successes so far have been in domestic football.  He was considered too young and inexperienced to be part of Marcello Lippi’s 2006 World Cup squad and hung up his boots with the azzurri without winning a trophy.

He has also missed out so far on success in European club competitions. He missed the 2015 Champions League final, which Juventus lost to Barcelona in Berlin, and finished on the losing side in the 2017 Champions League final, when the Italian champions were thumped 4-0 by Read Madrid in Cardiff.

Chiellini has won seven consecutive Serie A titles during a 13-year career with Juventus
Chiellini has won seven consecutive Serie A titles during
a 13-year career with Juventus
But he still has hopes of winning a Champions League medal now that Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored two of Real Madrid’s four goals in that match, has joined Juventus for the 2018-19 season.

Chiellini is regarded as a character of contradictions. As a player, he has broken his nose four times and been sent off five times. When he scores a goal he pounds his chest with closed fists. He is the archetypal Italian defender - rugged, ruthless and uncompromising.

Yet away from football he is softly spoken and a lover of literature, a calm and reflective personality not given to excess or displays of temper.

He was brought up in Livorno, a dockyard city on the coast of Tuscany with a seamy side, yet was always a conscientious student and would have left high school for university had he not been occupied with becoming a footballer. In the event, after becoming an established player, he enrolled at the University of Turin, where he completed a laurea - a bachelor’s degree - in economics and commerce and a master's in business administration.

The son of an orthopaedic surgeon, he would have studied medicine but found the work involved incompatible with being a footballer.

Chiellini in action against Cesc Fabregas of Spain
Chiellini in action against Cesc Fabregas of Spain
Growing up, being an enthusiastic follower of the Los Angeles Lakers, he dreamed of playing basketball, before his talent for football won out.

One of twin boys, he joined his local Livorno team at the age of 13. He played as a central midfielder and a winger before settling into the role of left-back, making his senior debut at the age of 17 in 2000.

Livorno then sold him to Roma but he was immediately loaned back to the Tuscan club, before being sold to Juventus, who loaned him to Fiorentina. He finally made his Juventus debut in the 2005-06 season and was part of a title-winning team, although the prize was later taken from them because of the so-called Calciopoli corruption scandal.

Many players left the club after the scandal, which also led to the team’s demotion to Serie B, but Chiellini remained as part of the squad that won promotion under Didier Deschamps in 2006-07 and became a key element in the rebuilding of bianconeri fortunes under a succession of coaches, culminating in three consecutive Serie A titles under Antonio Conte and four more under current coach Massimiliano Allegri.

Chiellini retired from international football in 2017 but is continuing his domestic career
Chiellini retired from international football
in 2017 but is continuing his domestic career
Chiellini made his debut for the Italian national team in November 2004 against Finland under Lippi, at the age of 20. He scored his first of his eight goals for the azzurri three years later.

Roberto Donadoni made him a regular member of the national team, although his first call-up for a major tournament did not get off to the best start. Preparing for the Euro 2008 finals, he collided with the national captain, Fabio Cannavaro, during a training session, with the result that Cannavaro missed the whole tournament.

He made up for that with some impressive performances, particularly against the eventual winners Spain in the quarter-final, which ended in a 0-0 draw before Italy were eliminated in a penalty shoot-out.

Subsequently, Chiellini was one of the first names on the teamsheet for Lippi in his second spell in charge of the national team, and for Cesare Prandelli, Conte and Gian Piero Ventura, even though his international career did not bring him the trophies he probably deserved.

His two World Cups were disappointing, ending in early elimination for Italy in 2010 and 2014, and though Prandelli’s team reached the final of Euro 2012 they were beaten 4-0 by Spain, with Chiellini substituted due to injury.

He announced his retirement from international football after Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, beaten in a play-off by Sweden.

In July 2014, Chiellini married his long-time girlfriend Carolina Bonistalli at the Sanctuary of Montenero in Livorno. The couple have a daughter, Nina, born in 2015.

Livorno's elegant Terrazza Mascagni promenade
Livorno's elegant Terrazza Mascagni promenade
Travel tip:

Livorno is the second largest city in Tuscany after Florence, with a population of almost 160,000. Although it is a large commercial port with much related industry, and also suffered extensive damage as a prime target for Allied bombing raids in the Second World War, it retains many attractions, including an elegant sea front – the Terrazza Mascagni - an historic centre – the Venetian quarter – with canals, and a tradition of serving excellent seafood.

The Sanctuary of Montenero in the Livorno Hills
The Sanctuary of Montenero in the Livorno Hills
Travel tip:

The Sanctuary of Montenero, where Chiellini was married, can be found in the village of the same name, part of the area south of the city known as the Livorno Hills. The complex, now elevated to the rank of basilica and maintained by Vallumbrosan monks, originated in the early 17th century and was expanded in the 18th century before a suppression of religious orders in the later part of the century led it to fall into disrepair.  It was fully restored in the last century.  A series of grottos exist behind the church, once a hide-out for robbers and a shelter during the Second World War, but these are now closed over safety concerns.

More reading:

The story of record-breaking coach Massimiliano Allegri

Marcello Lippi and Italy's fourth World Cup

Franco Baresi - Italy's greatest defender?

Also on this day:

1742: The birth of Pope Pius VII

1988: The death of car maker Enzo Ferrari