One-club players have become a rarity in football these days but Giuseppe Giannini certainly belongs to this rare breed after spending more than 20 years with his home-town club Roma in the Italian Serie A. VALHMOR CAMILLERI met the former Italy midfielder who spoke about his career and the current state of the game in his country…
Affectionately known as ‘Il Principe’, for his creative ability, elegance on the ball and passing range, Giuseppe Giannini spent the majority of his 16-year career with Roma and established himself as a club icon.
His love for the Giallorossi is evident as his eyes light up every time he speaks about La Magica.
“For somebody who was born in Rome, to don the Red and Yellow jersey is of great pride,” the 53-year-old said.
“I was lucky to follow on the footsteps of players of the calibre of Agostino Di Bartolomei and Bruno Conti who played a leading role at our club and every time I used to wear the captain’s arm band I always tried to carry out my job with great professionalism.”
Giannini, who made his senior debut for Roma as an 18-year-old in a match against Cesena, was part of Nils Liedholm’s team that won the prestigious Serie A league title in 1982-83.
“Winning the scudetto with Roma at such a young age was a great emotion,” Giannini said.
“I was very young and I was still a new face to the senior team but that experience helped me mature a lot as a player. To win the league that year was a great achievement and I cherished every moment of that particular campaign both as a player and fan.
“As a player, winning titles are the most memorable moments, so the championship and Coppa Italia winning medals on four times will remain as major highlights.
“On the other hand every derby I lost represented my worst memories. There was one in particular where I missed a penalty against Lazio... that was really hard to fathom.”
Giannini’s technical qualities did not take long to be spotted by then Italy coach Azeglio Vicini who named the Roma midfielder for the World Cup qualifier against Malta at the National Stadium.
“Every time I come here to Malta I remember making my debut with the national team,” Giannini, who went on to make 47 appearances in the Azzurri shirt, said.
“I remember that I was one of a small group of young players who were promoted to the senior team and four days before the match we trained at Trigoria, Roma’s training ground, and that really helped me to settle in with the squad.
“The match went really well as we won 2-0... that was the start of my international career.”
With the Azzurri, Giannini enjoyed some great memories which included reaching the semi-finals of the 1988 European Championships while two years later he was included in the 22-man squad for the World Cup that was hosted on home soil.
“Italia 90 was a rollercoaster of emotions for us,” he said.
“The whole country was behind the team and everyone believed we could have gone all the way.
“However, in the semis we were up against Diego Maradona’s Argentina in Naples. In those days, Maradona was a legend for the Napoli fans and in fact part of the crowd that day also decided to give their backing to the Argentines.
“We ended up losing that match on penalties and it was a huge disappointment.”
Talking up of World Cup heartache, it was inevitable that Giannini would give his say on Italy’s failure to reach the 2018 World Cup following a play-off defeat to Sweden.
“Like most of the football fans in my country I was surprised that Italy failed to qualify,” Giannini said.
“I have great respect for coach Ventura and I don’t think he should be made the scapegoat of our failure to reach the finals. When you miss out on a major target, the blame should be shared by everyone and not just the coach.
Giuseppe Giannini- “In the two matches against Sweden we created very little to say the least. We witnessed a very disappointing Italy team that we thought it was much better than it effectively was with a lot of young players failing to leave their mark when it mattered most.”
Following Italy’s elimination coach Giampiero Ventura was sacked while FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio also stepped down from his post.
Damiano Tommasi, who is the president of the players association, has been backed by many to lead a revamp of the game in Italy.
Giannini said that the former Roma midfielder would be a great choice but said that more had to be done to solve the current problems that are plaguing Il Calcio.
“Damiano Tommasi is a very intelligent player who is working very well for the players association,” Giannini said.
“He is an ideal candidate to replace Tavecchio and I also think that there are other former players who could bring in a new wave of enthusiasm in the Italian game which needs to change a lot of things if we are to return at the highest level.”
Giannini pointed at the country’s failure to nurture young talent as one of the reasons behind the football’s debacle in Serie A.
“We need to seriously consider revamping our entire system of youth development,” Giannini said.
“The way things are run at the moment leave little space for upcoming players to break into the first team of our Serie A clubs. It’s clear that there are too many foreign players in Italy and in the youth sector the clubs are working with the least resources possible.
“Also there are several unemployed coaches who were former players and would be ready to step in and work with the youngsters and help them maximise their potential. I’m sure a young player would listen more to someone who experienced top-level football.”
During the conversation, it was inevitable not to talk about Giannini’s heir, Francesco Totti, who he helped to get into the Roma team.
“I consider Totti as a true legend at Roma,” Giannini said.
“I saw him at the start of his career as he was my room-mate as a 16-year-old. My father brought him to the club from Lodigiani while his mother, Fiorella, is a good friend of my family.
“He deserves to be held in high esteem at Roma as he helped the club to some memorable moments.
“He’s now begun a career as a club administrator and I hope he stays at the club for many more years.”