The history of English footballers in Italy makes for rather interesting reading. It tends to go one of two ways. Either you’ll be a legend, an eternal figure in the Hall of Fame, or you’ll return home disgraced, albeit healthily tanned.
So, if you’re reading Joe, here’s our handy guide to succeeding in Serie A.
Do be nice
‘Gentle Giant’ John Charles remains a bonafide legend at Juventus, netting 108 goals in 155 Serie A games after arriving for a British record £65,000 from Leeds in 1957. However, it wasn’t just his goalscoring exploits that made the Swansea-born centre-forward so admired in Turin. John Charles was one of the game’s true gentleman, a bastion of sportsmanship in the country of Catenaccio.
“We cry for a great champion and a great man. John represented the sport in the best and purest way,” then Juventus vice-president Roberto Bettega declared after Charles’ death in 2004, according to the Mirror.
Don’t perpetuate the stereotype of the brutish Englishman
Paul Gascoigne was, by almost all accounts, a thoroughly likeable character. Troubled, yes, but with a wit as sharp as his tongue, Gazza could light up any dressing room with his imitable and instantly recognisable ‘cheeky chappy’ character. Well, that’s how we see him. The Italians have a rather different perspective.
Dogged by injury, Gascoigne’s £5.5 million move to Lazio in 1992 was little short of a disaster. Belching into a reporter’s microphone on live TV didn’t help. Nor did greeting the club’s president with the immortal phrase “Tua figlia, grande tette.” We’ll leave you to translate that one.
Do win a trophy
There are few better ways to win over a stubborn fanbase than parading a gleaming silver cup through the city centre on a double decker bus. That generally goes down rather well. Now, that’s not to say Torino stand any chance of ‘doing a Leicester’. The perpetual brilliance of their city rivals Juventus makes odds of 5000-1 seem rather generous.
But, with Max Allegri’s all-conquering side focusing steadfastly upon the Champions League this season, and with Inter, Roma, Napoli possessing their own European dreams, Sinisa Mihaljovic may be quietly confident that his side can nick a sixth Coppa Italia trophy from under the noses of the distracted elite. Graeme Souness and Trevor Francis remain widely respected in Italy for guiding Sampdoria to Italy’s domestic cup in the ‘80s. Hart could do worse than to follow their lead.
Don’t have your confidence destroyed and your career ruined
A classy centre-half, Des Walker was certainly more ‘cultured’ than the blood-gushing Terry Butcher-style centre-halves of the 90s. Yet, after being torn apart by legendary forward Beppe Signori on his debut for Sven Goren Eriksen’s Sampdoria, one of the most gifted defenders in English football history was never the same again.
So, Joe, it’s all quite simple really. Win a trophy, make an entire nation fall in love with you and, for the love of god, don’t insult the president’s daughter.