Archives for posts with tag: Lazio

by Rocco Cammisola

Lazio won their first league title – Scudetto – in 1974, a team led by Tommaso Maestrelli beat Juventus to the title by just two points. On the pitch they played a high paced, attacking style that has seen certain members of the squad remembered as all-time legends. However, off the pitch they were an unruly bunch of prickly characters who failed to observe any sort of social standards. Read the rest of this entry »

by Suhail Seedat

As another of Juventus’ all-time legends, Alessandro Del Piero, equalled a huge landmark this past weekend, news of another great player becoming a permanent fixture at the club was met with just as much joy and enthusiasm in the city of Turin.

Pavel Nedved, the wiry, tricky, sharp winger was regarded, during the 2000s, as one of the finest offensive midfielders in European football. His undeniable endeavour and application resulted in Nedved receiving the highly prestigious Balon d’Or in 2003, the first Czech to do so since the break-up of Czechoslovakia.

While the tag of ‘industrious’ is used rather patronisingly for footballers who lack natural talent and touch, Nedved’s perseverance added an extra dimension to his game. Boasting excellent technique, especially with free-kicks and long range efforts, his goals and assists magnify his tactical reading of the game. Initially a left winger who loved to jink and slalom on his right foot, Nedved was capable of playing across the midfield area, reflecting his character and personality in helping the team whenever in need.

Nedved was born in Cheb, a small city near Prague and from a young age he was encouraged to become an accountant. He most certainly didn’t regret his decision to become a footballer when, at 19, he debuted for Dukla Prague and then moved onto Sparta Prague a season later. It was at Sparta that Nedved’s star began to shine after scoring 26 times during his four-season spell, coinciding with an excellent Euro 96 campaign which led to him joining Zdenek Zeman at Lazio.

At Lazio, Nedved’s play became more tactically sophisticated, playing alongside Roberto Mancini, Dejan Stankovic and Juan Sebastian Veron during his period in the capital. Moreover, his time at Lazio was arguably the most successful period of his career. Scoring the winner in the 1999 Cup Winners Cup final against Real Mallorca at Villa Park led to winning Super Cup the same year.

The following season, under the management of Sven Goran Eriksson, the club managed an unprecedented double, winning the Coppa Italia and its first Scudetto in 25 years. Since then, the Biancoceleste haven’t won the Scudetto and, after five years, 138 matches and 51 goals for Lazio, Nedved was signed by Juventus for a whopping €41m to replace the outgoing Zinedine Zidane.

Proving to have the capabilities of replacing his predecessor, Nedved was lauded with accolades in helping Marcelo Lippi’s Juventus win consecutive Scudetti. Though Nedved was highly instrumental to the team advancing to the Champions League final in 2003, his tackle on Steve McManaman in semi-final meant he missed out through suspension. Despairing at his predicament, Nedved was seen crying when leaving the pitch and was later heard to say, ‘My dreams of winning the big eared cup since I was a child are over’.

When Fabio Capello was installed as Juventus manager, the Old Lady of Turin claimed another two titles, triumphs which were later withdrawn following the Calciopoli scandal, the club later being doomed to relegation to Serie B. Time was against Nedved after promotion to have one final push for the title as the balance of power had been shifted from Turin to Milan. As his injuries mounted up and arrived with greater frequency, Nedved decided to call time on his marvellously successful career.

Compared to other highly acclaimed players, Nedved’s achievements stack up very well. Nicknamed La Furia Ceca (The Czech Fury) by the Juve fans for his frenzied attitude during matches, the affection towards him did not only surround the walls of the Delle Alpi but spread across the globe, Nedved being loved for providing some of the most magical moments in football’s recent history.

Read more from Suhail on his blog, The Art of Football, and follow him on Twitter @lester_ss.

by Mark Critchley

Late night cab drivers infamously hear a lot of nonsense. Inebriated mumblings, intoxicated ramblings and even drunker fumblings prove a harvest for any front seat voyeur, apart from when they’re escorting my altered state home. That’s because when I’m drunk, all I go on about is Gazza.

Cue either disagreement or shared reverence between myself and the cabbie; one of the two generally ensues. Quite how this conversation begins I’m not too sure, but I do know how it can end. I know it can turn nasty, and I know it’s a long walk home.

Yet like every other tragic hero, from Milton’s Satan to Marlowe’s Faustus (and if we have to go there, yes, a bit like Marmite too), the essence of Paul Gascoigne is in this ambivalence. Take his excellent technique but add the alcoholism, mix his glowing personality with the domestic violence, add a splodge of sublime with a dollop of abhorrent and you’ve got a character who can command glowing warmth or uncomfortable dislike in equal measure, and is all the more encapsulating for it.

If there’s one focal point for Gascoigne, and admittedly a tired one at that, it is 1990. For the best part of that year, I was taking my nutrients from an umbilical cord and, although ‘Nessun Dorma’s popularity may have enhanced my barely formed brain cells, Gazzamania itself didn’t quite reach the womb, rendering my experience of that summer and most of his career as retrospective. But what a retrospect, and what a player.

Tenacity and technique; light feet stuck on powerful thighs; looking like crap but playing with cadence; forgive me if this at all sounds a bit erotic but Gascoigne sat bang in the middle of the midfielder’s Venn diagram at Italia ‘90. Hence from then on he screamed the problematic nature which still defines him; because when two worlds collide to form something so wonderful, what exactly do you call it?

I’m just happy to call him English. For once, the country had produced a player with artistry and imagination, and was lucky enough to have him on form at a major tournament. Taking on the Dutch and selling the Cruyff turn back to them; inspiring with exuberance against Cameroon in the quarter-final; scoring one of the greatest free-kicks Wembley has ever seen in the FA Cup semi-final a year later, and almost giving Barry Davies’ a knee trembler in the process; at these points, Gascoigne’s peak looked a long way off.

Sadly, it wasn’t. In the subsequent semi-final, such zeal cost him when a rash challenge on Nottingham Forest’s Gary Charles backfired and saw Gascoigne come off the worse, snapping his right knee’s cruciate ligament. Then followed a number of further serious injuries, each one diminishing the expectancy which surrounded his consequent return – much like how certain admirers of Gazza increasingly doubt the man’s capacity for sobriety with every breaking newsflash today.

I for one don’t, but cannot say I’m not concerned. Travis Bickle, perhaps the most famous of all cabbies, angrily promised to clean up “the dogs, the scum, the filth”; a category which Gascoigne has seemingly been swept under by the football fans (and in my experience, taxi drivers) whom once adored him.

Yet, whether he needs it or not, for simply being as fantastic a player as he was at one point, Gazza deserves our unreserved support and the knowledge that he is still greatly admired. For once, when it comes to the most ambivalent man in British football, there’s really no two ways about it.

Read more from Mark on his blog, Spotter’s Badge, and follow him on Twitter @markcritchley.

(L-R) Beckenbauer, Pele and Chinaglia

by Martha

Giorgio Chinaglia was (and is) graceless, on and off the pitch. He was a bull of a footballer, physical but labored, lacking the ability in the air his size would suggest, and given to angrily disappearing for long stretches of matches. He fought with teammates wherever he went, argued with coaches and reserved his respected for a very select, very motley few – Pelé? Please. Pelé got in his way.

As a youngster, he was on the books at Swansea (though born in Italy, he spent most of his youth in Wales and was once described as “more Welsh than Italian”) but was quickly dismissed for his lack of athleticism and discipline. What they missed at Swansea, though, was Chinaglia’s vicious right foot and his gift for getting it on the ball almost instantly, no matter his position. And they also missed the most important bit — what he had inside. They saw the ego, and the belligerence and the need for confrontation that he wore like armour, but they missed the secret, gnawing need to prove to everyone that they were wrong about him. Wrong about everything.

It was that need that made him a legend.

When Lazio turned 100, fans voted Chinaglia — the only Lazio player ever to lead Serie A in scoring, and the scorer of the Scudetto-winning goal in their magical 1973-1974 season — the club’s greatest-ever player. That honour was bestowed despite the fact that his relationship with the fans had been so bad that, in 1972, Chinaglia had sent his wife to live with his family in Naples out of concern for her safety. This despite the fact, in 1974, after throwing Azzurri coach Fulvio Bernardini a vaffanculo upon being substituted against Haiti, he was the default scapegoat for Italy’s dismal World Cup performance.

This also despite the fact that, in 1976, after the departure of his mentor Tommaso Maetrelli from the Lazio bench, he fled Rome — and Italy — under cover of darkness to join the New York Cosmos in the worryingly unstable North American Soccer League. This despite the fact that he drove the team into Serie B as its owner in the 1980s and later led a corrupt takeover bid that resulted in the arrest warrants which now keep him from returning to Italy.

Chinaglia is not a man one easily forgets.

In New York he was the same man he’d been in Italy, and the same boy he’d been in Wales. He still scored goals like a machine, he still gave no quarter to anyone, and he was still never, ever wrong. He was regularly abused by Cosmos fans, ran coaches out of town, and argued with team-mates like Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer as he outshouted and outlasted them and almost everyone else in the league, doggedly carrying on even as the NASL crested under and collapsed around him.

When the dust had cleared, Lazio’s greatest-ever player was the NASL’s all-time leading scorer with 242 goals in 254 matches, had a place in the North American Soccer Hall of Fame and was a long-standing American citizen.

There are as many stories about him as there are goals on his tally sheet, but the most enduring image of Chinaliga is that of an aging bear of man lumbering across the Giants Stadium turf, chanting his own name as the boos of his own fans rain down upon him. And he’s alone — he’s always alone, which is probably how he told himself he liked it.

Follow Martha on Twitter @MarthaCalcio.

by Jamie Rooney

There aren’t many pre-match warm-ups that bowl you over – routines can be interesting, engaging but never captivating. However a regular pre-match exercise cooked up between David Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron stands out as a piece of consuming theatre.

With the staple pre-match drills and stretches over, Beckham and Veron would peel off, spaced about half a pitch apart to ping balls at one another. The ball would fly in from around 50 yards, a deft first touch stunning it dead, the second a cushioned set-up, finished with a lash down the laces, whipped straight back from whence it came, all done without the ball ever touching the surface. Repetition of this act would run blemish free ten, twelve, fifteen efforts or more.

Juan Sebastian Veron’s reputation as a football player broadly depends on the country in which the question has been raised; in England Veron is labelled as a very expensive flop, but not many expensive flops have played a pivot role in a Championship winning side, that being Manchester United 2002/03.

For a select minority in England Veron was an absolute delight graced with complexed intelligence, a visionary genius at a level beyond his peers playing around him, blessed with an acute sense of timing for a pass, a tackle or a run.

However, his sense of good timing on the pitch didn’t compliment his timing off it.

When Veron left Lazio for Manchester United he arrived at the right club at, arguably, the wrong time. Ferguson’s midfield at that time would generally line up in a single band of four – Beckham, Keane, Scholes and Giggs, all fantastic talents worthy of a start in what was a typically English formation.

Veron would find himself a part of a central midfield pairing or pushed out wide as part of a four, not a role alien to him but certainly not a tactic which played to his strengths.

At Lazio, Veron was Eriksson’s quarterback before the term became en vogue in the game. But, in 2001, English football culture was different to that in Italy where Veron had built a reputation as one of the world’s best footballers.

Had Veron stayed at Old Trafford a while longer he could have been the deep-lying central midfielder playing in Ferguson’s recent version’s of 4-3-3, 4-5-1 and 4-6-0. The perpetual movement of Ronaldo, Tevez and Rooney ahead of him would have enabled La Bruja and his unparalleled vision for a pass to flourish.

However, during the 2002/03 English Premier League, ideas of a five man midfield or three up front were still relatively uncommon occurrences. In a United shirt, Veron’s sagacity was compromised, he was a misfit shoe horned in to an already high quality football team going through their most important period of learning.

Ferguson was conscious his pacey 4-4-2 was open to exploitation in Europe and he needed an alternative tactic he if was to consistently conquer Europe. Carlos Quieroz’s arrival may have help completed the picture of a three man midfield, but the idea was seeded by Juan Sebastian Veron.

In the coming years Veron’s legacy helped enable United to go on and produce, unprecedented undefeated records in Europe, involving consecutive Champions League finals, winning  it in 2008. But Veron had parted company with United long before this continued European success.

In the summer of 2003, after winning the Premier League, eclipsing the soon to become Invincibles of Arsenal, Veron moved south to Chelsea, a switch which highlights two very important themes about Veron’s career.

Firstly, Veron is not a player capable of lengthy service, rarely does Veron go in to a third season with the same club and, secondly, he is player who persistently flirts with success.

Veron’s arrival at Chelsea coincided with what would become their most glorious period, the Mourinho years. In alternative ways the same theme of success can be linked with his spells at Sampdoria, Parma, Lazio and Inter.

In terms of collective transfer fees, Veron is the third most expensive player of all time, but now he is back in his home country plying his trade at boyhood club Estudiantes de La Plata, the team where it all began for Veron more than fifteen years ago.

With Estudiantes Veron has completed three seasons, leading them to an unexpected Libertadores triumph in the same year Manchester United were defeated by Barcelona in the Champions League final. Veron has also been honoured with the South American footballer of the year award in both 2008 and 2009.

Juan Sebastian Veron is a great footballer and, for the select minority in England who vehemently defend him, he has the statistics to help reinforce this view. However, in the grand scheme of things who cares whether he’s liked? For those who have seen him play and understood his complexities, the memory of Juan Sebastian Veron will remain forever.

Read more from Jamie on his blog, or follow him on Twitter @jamiefjrooney.

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