I was born in Trieste under the Virgo sign on September 17th, 1971.
My first approach to sports was through.... basketball. I used to play in the courtyard behind the Salesians oratory, and I didn’t do bad, in fact I reached the Propaganda league with the Don Bosco T-shirt. Of course I was also fond of soccer - at the time I rooted for Triestina- and my dad often took me to see the matches at the legendary Pino Grezar stadium. My passion for soccer grew steadily, and by the age of 13 I was playing both soccer and basketball; but after a year of dividing my time between school and two different sports, I had to make a decision, and I chose soccer.
I played another season with the Don Bosco colours, with the legendary president Kanidisek; then I played with the junior Triestina colours, and progressed through all the categories - from “Giovanissimi” to “Allievi” up to “Berretti” and “Primavera” .
After my final year in “Primavera”, my coach Walter Franzot was called by the Monfalcone club, which was in Conference ( all this happened during the championship revolution: the “Interregionals” turned into National Championship, and a new league was added ). The same Franzot asked Triestina if he could borrow me for a year.
That was my first really challenging experience: I had to relate with expert players and several ex-professionals as well. It was a really positive experience, also because I did well in the role I’m best at, left back troand I scored 5 goals.
So I was called again by the Triestina, and was sent with the team to summer retreat. The club was in C1 and aimed to win the championship, so they had already recruited 2 well-known players; nevertheless, during pre-championship I aroused the interest of Triestina’s coach Zoratti, who – after a good championship with Massese- suggested my name to Massese’s chiefs executives, who were looking for a left back
Since I only had an Amateur Championship and some good references in my curriculum, they decided to try me before making any decision. After a week I gained coach Valdinoci’s approval - now one of my closest friends- who decided to name me first team: that was my first real adventure alongside professional players. Of course I made the best of this chance, and I was called by the U21 National league, under Boninsegna’s guidance. Another unforgettable moment was the match against the Triestina, which was in the same league as Massese: it was indeed a strong emotion to play before my parents and my friends, in the same stadium where I used to go as a spectator and ball boy. At the end of the Championship I went back to Triestina, and one of my dreams was answered: I was named first -team, and worn my hometown colours. It was 1992: that was my last year at the glorious Grezar stadium; that same year the "Nereo Rocco" stadium was founded: we played the opening match before 35.000 spectators. Unfortunately I had to face one of the biggest disillusions in my life: Triestina went bankrupt, a great disappointment for me, though I didn’t realize that would mark a turning point in my career. In fact I was still holding the titolare role, and I got a call by the Cremonese chief executive, Favalli- who had seen me playing several times- and offered me to join the team; consequently, the doors of Serie A opened wide: I bypassed in Championship and saw my dream begin to come true. That was going to be the first of 11 consecutive championships in top league. In Cremona I met one of the most important coaches in my career: Gigi Simoni. In fact, we would meet again later in Naples and Milano.
It was an incredibile season for the Cremonese, led by the magical trident featuring Florjancic, Tentoni and above all, Chiesa. The year after I was bought by the Torino club, and I trained with Nedo Sonetti. We had a hard time in the Championship, which was marked by two important events: the derbies with Juventus, that featured names like Del Piero, Vialli and Ravanelli. I can still recall the warmth of our supporters... The end of the season marked another turning point in my career: I was offered to play in Naples, under the guidance of Gigi Simoni. A charming challenge in one of the hottest spots in Italy. I look back at this as one of the most rewarding times of my life, under all aspects: for the town, the people and the boost they gave me. Playing in Naples can’t be compared to anything else. I think every player once in his life should be given a chance to make such a unique experience. From the professional point of view, that was an incredibile exciting year for us: we began with the idea of playing an ordinary derby, instead we ended up contending the first positions with Juventus, and by the end of the season we even played for the Italian Cup final against Vicenza. Sadly, we lost, and I still regret not being able to fulfil our fans expectations on that occasion. After winning the away match we were defeated in the supplementary rounds in Vicenza, with only 9 of us left on the field. Everything happened after an impressive play in the first part of the game and after we defeated Lazio in the quarter- final stage and Inter in the semi-final.
The regret for the lost Cup remains, but the experience with Naples will always be without doubt of great importance for me. However, many satisfying experiences were to follow, like the goal I scored in the 93rd minute of the Naples –Verona match, which immediately turned me into an idol for Naples. That was like a resonance box for me: I started getting several offers, and I chose Parma; the club, after achieving 2nd place in the championship, was about to play in Champions League, and I signed a 5 year contract, but once again... it was only going to last six months. But let’s start from the beginning: I found myself in a really strong team, playing side by side with names like Cannavaro, Buffon, Thuram, Crespo and my old friend Chiesa. Carlo Ancelotti was sitting on the bench. In Parma I also had my first experience in Champions League, playing 3 times as first team, but as I said before, my season was not to end in Parma. In fact in January, Inter knocked at Parma’s door: they soon reached an agreement and the following afternoon I was in Milan, with the black and blue club. Sitting on the bench I found an old friend of mine: Gigi Simoni.
The move to Inter was somehow written in my destiny: I shall never forget an event which dates back to my childhood, when I asked my dad to buy me Milan’s T- shirt: he didn’t find it and came back with Inter’s shirt. I didn’t protest and I put it on; from then on I would always wear it to play soccer with my mates.
After 20 years I was still wearing the same colours, but this time I wasn’t playing in the family’s garden but on San Siro’s grass, and my team-mates were players like Ronaldo, Djorkaeff, Bergomi, Zanetti, Pirlo, Recoba, Pagliuca and many other champions. The move from Champions to Uefa Cup wasn’t a big a sacrifice for me: not only was I playing with one of the most important football club in Italy, but we actually won the Uefa Cup. I recall the wonderful final in Paris, when Inter stood out with a distinct 3-0 over Lazio. Nevertherless, that season left me with a bitter taste after not winning the national championship. It was the famous year of the much contested challenge with Juventus, when Ceccarini denied a penalty to Ronaldo: that was an endlessly contested decision. We thought we deserved that Championship, and even today I still think it was unfair on us. The following year I was still with Inter, but even with Roberto Baggio’s arrival and even though the team was featuring some remarkable players, it wasn’t a particularly good period for us: we played below the expectations, probably because of the disillusions of the previous season.
I do have some positive memories though: for example, some matches in Champions League, where one can experience emotions comparable to those of a World Cup; or the challenge in Spain, in which I played as first team against the Real Madrid, featuring Raul and Roberto Carlos. In the year 2000 I was again at a turning point in my career: the ambitious Perugia- under the guidance of Gaucci- was aiming to win the Uefa Cup: he decided to make up a very strong team, and called Mazzone on the bench. The coach signed a two-year contract and chose important players: the team - which already featured Mazzantini, Nakata, Rapajc, Materazzi Olive, Ze Maria, Melli and Tedesco - was completed by Calori, Amoruso from Juventus, Ba from Milan and myself. I was immediately fascinated by the challenge, also thanks to Carletto Mazzone and his motivating force. In Perugia I was going to have the first of five seasons ( with a one –year parenthesis in Ancona, strongly desired by president Pieroni) with the Grifoni colours. It was the longest period I spent with the same club.
In Perugia I had many positive experiences and I still feel like it’s my second home- town. One of the most important events to me is the match we played under a rainstorm, when we defeated Juventus at the last Championship round, thanks to Calori’s goal. Juve’s defeat made them miss a chance of winning the League; on the other hand our incredible and unbelievable victory let Lazio win. So we took a small revenge over the disappointing experience with the Inter in the previous championship. In the locker room there were some friends who rooted Juve, and I still remember their faces: Doctor Colautti, the massage therapist Renzo Luchini, physiotherapist Fabrizio Ragusa, special people indeed, whom I greatly admire and still keep in touch with. Juve’s defeat also disappointed my future team-mate Saadi Gheddafi, a big fan of the black and white colours, who also was their sponsor and actionist. However, the most exciting moment for me was probably when Cosmi and Mario Palazzi arrived; at the time Gaucci was starting a small revolution, by saying goodbye to big names and emphasizing the value of young players. This proved to be a winning strategy, because with Cosmi we triumphed in “Intertoto”; that victory gave us the chance to compete for the Uefa Cup, even though Perugia was a small club. We played some incredible performances in top league, thus becoming the legend of Serie A. Some newcomers from Serie C would become very succesful, like Baiocco, Liverani, Blasi, Pieri, Bazzani and above all my friend Fabio Grosso, a clever guy with whom I started a strange and amusing psychological battle; at first it was mostly due to a sense of competition ( we were both left back ) but we quickly became real friends. Sometimes Cosmi would push me aside during the game, but we remained friends, and we still have a good laugh about it today. Unfortunately the year he left Perugia for Ancona we were relegated to Championship. So I decided to re-contact Gaucci and made an attempt to gain a promotion.
That was a brilliant season: with Colantuono on the bench we set the record for the largest number of away wins, reaching 2nd place with Torino and Empoli. The play -off final against Torino: a competition which proved useless to both clubs, because the Genoa, Championship winner, was to be relegated to Serie C for sport illicit. At that point Serie A was guaranteed, but another disappointing event was just round the corner, bringing back an old nightmare: Perugia went bankrupt. So I decided to try a new adventure and consider for the first time the possibility of working abroad. The opportunity came through my close friend and team-mate Fabrizio Ravanelli, who arranged a one-week trial for me with Queens Park Rangers, a legendary club from London, currently in Championship. The club had an italian president, Gianni Paladini, who had always been involved with English soccer; later on president Antonio Caliendo would also join the club. After about ten days in England it was time for me to sign a contract, and to start this new experience, with the Championship already begun. English soccer is really fascinating: to me it represents a unique experience I’m very proud of, and I’m glad to have ve made this choice.
It has given me the opportunity to make new friends and meet new people, and most of all, I’ve finally had the chance to fill the language gap, and learn to speak english correctly, in the capital town and with the legendary Queen’s club founded back in 1882. I am currently playing my second season with the QPR. I enjoy living in London and I’m still eager to play. What will my next colours be? I would like to wear the Queens Park Rangers colours again. The bond with my two presidents has grown strong to the point that I don’t need an agent; but taking a look back at my career the only thing I can state for sure is .... we’ll see..
[ ITALIANO >
I was born in Trieste under the Virgo sign on September 17th, 1971. y first approach to sports was through.... basketball. I used to play in the courtyard behind the Salesians oratory, and I didn’t do bad, in fact I reached the Propaganda league with the Don Bosco T-shirt. Of course I was also fond of soccer - at the time I rooted for Triestina- and my dad often took me to see the matches at the legendary Pino Grezar stadium. Continue...