A name that rings true with Middlesbrough fans, Massimo Maccarone was an eccentric addition to the long list of fine Boro strikers. From Fabrizio Ravanelli to Mark Viduka, to Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Yakubu, and Maccarone – the Riverside has long been the home of some great forwards, but the latter proved many wrong with his performances.
Carlo Cudicini lasted 22 years as a professional goalkeeper, with 13 of those being spent in England between Chelsea and Tottenham, making him one of the Premier League’s longest-serving Italian stars. But for all his talent, it seems he was always with the wrong club at the wrong time and somehow forged a reputation as a “back-up” player.
Attilio Lombardo was one of the most robust right-wingers of the ’90s. He spent a year-and-a-half in England, playing for the newly-promoted Crystal Palace in 1997. His move shocked many, as Lombardo had only just reached the heights of Italian football with Juventus and he swapped that all to become Palace’s star player of an otherwise forgetful season.
The North East of England has never been a hot-spot for incoming European footballers, but Gianluca Festa broke the mold when he joined Middlesbrough in 1997. Festa was an iconic Premier League player, renowned for his hard-hitting, no-nonsense style of defending, and also for his goal-scoring touch. A player who Boro fans will associate with their “glory days.”
The Milan-born Alessandro Pistone made 149 Premier League appearances between 1997 and 2007, playing for both Newcastle United and Everton. A quick, forward-thinking, and generally reliable full-back, he could perhaps have moved up in the Premier League or even play for Italy, if he wasn’t so prone to the physio’s table.
Liverpool had some forgettable Italian names in their ranks – Mario Balotelli, Andrea Dossena, and Fabio Borini to name a few. They all disappointed during their spell at the club and would move on without leaving any lasting legacy. But none joined with as much expectation surrounding them as Alberto Aquilani, and none endured as torrid a time at Anfield as he did.
Is there a word, phrase, or metaphor that hasn’t already been used to describe Paolo Di Canio? The Premier League has long been home to the wild and the wacky, the brilliant and the obscene, and no single player fits all of those bills except the former Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic man.
Of all the Italian names to have graced English shores, Benito Carbone is one that you may well have forgotten. He arrived at Sheffield Wednesday in 1996 amid the “European invasion” of the Premier League and, despite always becoming a fan favorite wherever he played, his time in England always seemed to have a factor that was holding him back.
Roberto Di Matteo was an understated player. Through Chelsea’s resurgence in the 1990s, he was at the heart of it. But it is as a manager that he achieved true greatness, leading Chelsea to lift both the Champions League and FA Cup trophies in a few months, in what was possibly one of the greatest managerial turnarounds in modern Premier League history.
The Premier League is home to hundreds of overseas players, but go back twenty years or so and there were much fewer in the English top-flight than there is today. Foreign players were seen as exotic, flamboyant and simply different from what English football fans were used to. One player who was certainly different, but for all the right reasons, was Gianfranco Zola.
Udinese host Fiorentina in Serie A this weekend, as 13th play 14th. Luca Gotti’s Udinese sit a place and two points behind Giuseppe Iachini’s Fiorentina. They’re winless in six in the league and are fast falling towards the relegation zone – only seven five points separate Udinese from 18th-place Genoa. The Viola, on the other hand, are in a resurgent form.
SPAL make the short trip across the north of Italy to Parma this Sunday, as they look to move off the bottom of the Serie A table. Coach Luigi Di Biagio has overseen three games in charge of SPAL and has lost them all 2-1 – the last being at home to 2nd-place Juventus. His hopes of claiming anything at Parma will mostly lie with Andrea Petagna.