TheInsideLeft: Serie A Fratelli
This article I wrote appeared in november 2012 on TheInsideLeft (LINK)
The Italian national anthem is also known as “Fratelli d’Italia”, or Brothers of Italy, and Serie A has seen its fair share of talented siblings down the years. For this calcio fanatic, five favourite fratelli stood out…
In the beginning there was the Sentimenti family. Coming from the province of Modena, in Northern Italy, they were five brothers who played at a high level, between the Thirties and the Sixties, covering more than 30 years of football.
The five brothers were indicated by a Roman numeral to differentiate between them and four of the brothers reached Serie A with their respective teams, producing even some internecine clashes, like the match Juventus and Modena played in Turin in 1947/48. In the 81st minute, the referee awarded a penalty for Modena: Sentimenti V stepped up to beat Sentimenti IV in the Juventus goal.
Many brothers have played in Serie A since the days of the Sentimenti family, but here I have selected my five, who plied their trade from the Eighties onwards. I hope you’ll enjoy my choices…
GIACOMO FERRI I (Torino, Lecce)
RICCARDO FERRI II (Inter)
Two brothers, two defenders – stoppers, both of them. There was a very simple rule for the stopper in calcio of old: you had to be able to stop the opposite forward in any way deemed more-or-less fair. The stopper could represent the difference between conceding a goal and saving a match. For this reason it was a very risky job! You could provoke a penalty, or leave your team without a man for a last-man foul.
Or, indeed, you could end up scoring an own goal.
Riccardo Ferri has gone down in history as the man who beat the all-time record for own goals scored in Serie A, scoring eight in his own net to go better than the legendary Comunardo Niccolai, from the Cagliari of the Seventies.
But Riccardo was also a great defender: fast and clear in closing down and marking. He was part of the glorious Inter side, managed by Giovanni Trapattoni, which broke all the records in the 1988-89 Serie A season, and he was a pillar of the Italian national team that won bronze in the Italia ’90 World up.
His elder brother, Giacomo, didn’t play a match for the Azzurri, but he had a good career too, mainly with Torino and Lecce. He was a rougher, less talented, player than his brother, but he has remained in Torino’s fans hearts for his never-say-die attitude and his commitment to the Granata shirt.
FABIO CANNAVARO I (Napoli, Parma, Inter, Juventus)
PAOLO CANNAVARO II (Napoli, Verona, Parma)
There is a nice story about the Cannavaro brothers, who played from the Nineties until this day (Paolo is still playing for Napoli, while Fabio retired in 2011 after his last experience in United Arab Emirates). Both defenders, like the Ferri brothers, they started playing in Napoli, but when Fabio was already in the first team, Paolo was still growing up in the youth team. By the time Paolo made his debut in Serie B, Fabio was playing in Parma.
May 14, 2000: Parma are playing at the Tardini stadium against Lecce in the last game of the season and the score is 3-1 to the home team. Then, on 82 minutes, Mister Malesani decided to make a substitution: Fabio Cannavaro, the leader of the defence alongside Liliam Thuram, was to come out. In his place would, a young defender from Napoli would come on for his Serie A debut. He was, of course, Paolo Cannavaro.
It was like an imprimatur from the elder brother to the younger: ok, you can play in Serie A, like me. It was a very meaningful scene, that long minute in Parma, when two Neapolitan brothers passed the baton between one another on the pitch.
GIUSEPPE BARESI I (Inter)
FRANCO BARESI II (Milan)
Two brothers. Two sides of the same city. Two legends for their own respective teams. A derby within the family. These were the Baresi and Milan was in their destiny: AC Milan for Franco, Inter for Giuseppe.
When they were kids, they were brought from the little city of Travagliato, near Brescia, to the big city, Milan, for a trial with Internazionale Football Club. Giuseppe was admitted to play for the youth team of the club, while Franco was rejected.
His dream of playing together with his brother was over, and he was disappointed. But he didn’t give up, and decided to attend another trial, this time with the other side in the city: AC Milan. He passed this exam and became a Rossoneri player – one of the most glorious of all time.
It seems like destiny was amusing itself with this trick, as the Baresi brothers became symbols of their respective teams. Franco, the legendary sweeper who led the defence of his great Milan team, raising his hand to call offside or stepping up suddenly to move the line; Beppe, the midfield dynamo of the Inter side that won two Scudetti, the second coming in 1989 after a long and solitary nine-year gap.
LUCA PELLEGRINI I (Sampdoria, Verona, Torino)
DAVIDE PELLEGRINI II (Fiorentina, Verona)
STEFANO PELLEGRINI III (Sampdoria, Roma, Udinese)
Pellegrini were three brothers in A!
Three very different players with three different styles. Luca, the elder one, was a sweeper, who ruled the defence of the most successful Sampdoria side yet, the Blucerchiata team that won Serie A in 1991, a European Cup Winners’ Cup and three Coppa Italia. He always cut a very serious figure, thoughtful and composed.
Davide, the middle brother, had a more rebellious look. Long hair with a fringe, he was a winger, a talented and imaginative right-winger. He played for a number of clubs, but his most important appearance was with another player kissed by the Gods of football, Roberto Baggio, with Fiorentina in the two-year period 1987-1989. Then he became a notable player for Hellas Verona. There he played for two seasons with his big brother Luca, but they were relegated to Serie B.
The third brother, Stefano, had short hair. He was a right-back, who could also play as a right-midfielder. He won two Coppa Italia – the first with Sampdoria, together with Luca, captain and the second, by a twist of fate, he won after beating Sampdoria in the final, with AS Roma. The captain of the Genoese side that day was Luca Pellegrini himself and Stefano actually scored an own goal.
One very special Sunday – November 27, 1988 – Sampdoria and Fiorentina drew 0-0. In the last minute, Amedeo Carboni came off for Sampdoria to be replaced by Stefano Pellegrini. For one long minute, Luca, Stefano and Davide (with Fiorentina) all played in the same match in Serie A.
ANTONIO PAGANIN I (Sampdoria, Udinese, Inter, Atalanta, Verona)
MASSIMO PAGANIN II (Brescia, Inter, Bologna, Atalanta)
The Paganin story is a continental story. Antonio and Massimo, both from Vicenza and both defenders, had different careers, played always with different teams, until the 1993/94 season.
Ambitious Inter president, Massimo Moratti, decided to sign up a 23-year-old central defender from relegated Brescia, where he had made his debut in Serie A the previous year. This young player was Massimo Paganin, who joined in the Nerazzurri side his brother Antonio, a veteran at Inter, with whom he had won Uefa Cup in 1991 against Roma.
So what happened in that 1993/94 campaign to write Antonio and Massimo Paganin into the history books of European football?
“Something that made us very proud. We were the first brothers of all times to win a Uefa Cup together,”
Massimo Paganin once proudly announced, recalling the time Inter won the competition after a two-legged final against Salzburg. To close this piece, I want to quote Massimo Paganin who, when asked what it means to play alongside your brother at the highest level of the game, said: “Even if being someone’s brother can sometimes close some doors to you, it’s fine. It’s something to be proud of”.