If this edition of our regular Shorts series was an ITV light-entertainment programme, we’d probably call it ‘Italians Say The Funniest Things.’ It’s not, fortunately, but here’s a selection of classic and faintly amusing quotes from some legendary Italians anyway.
The Corriere dello Sera reporter Gino Palumbo playfully imagined Inter legend Sandro Mazzola as the James Bond of football back in 1965. In a semi-jocular piece the Italian forward was described as ‘adventurous, precarious and ultimately victorious. Though not over SMERSH.’ With a twinkle in his eye, Mazzola replied: “Do you mean Herrera?’. Never a great one for humour even at others expense, the Inter manager was reportedly less than amused at being compared with Bond’s villainous Soviet nemesis.
Helenio Herrera was never, ever shy when it came to blowing his own trumpet. As undoubtedly arrogant as the Inter coach was, even his harshest critics had to grudgingly admit he had a flair for the memorable soundbite. At the height of his fame he was asked by the Corriere dello Sport where he thought he would place in an Italian popularity poll: “Behind Sophia Loren, but only because she has a better figure.” replied Herrera without missing a beat.
A great, if much repeated quote that’s still as relevant today as it was back in 1955. The much travelled Jewish-Hungarian coach Béla Guttmann was in charge of Milan and his team led Serie A two-thirds of the way through his second season in charge. Suddenly sacked after continual disagreements with the President, Guttmann would later comment drily to Brian Glanville that in future he was going to insist on a clause being inserted into his contracts saying “not to be dismissed while top of the League.”
Edmondo Fabbri coached the Italian national team between 1962 and 1966 and was famous for his prickly relationship with the media. Typical of this awkwardness was an exchange before a World Cup qualifier against Scotland about his selection of the defensive midfielder Giovanni Lodetti.
Journalist: “If you are not playing catenaccio then what is Lodetti doing at outside-right?
Fabbri: “Lodetti is there to stop Denis Law from scoring”
Journalist: “But Denis Law isn’t playing?’
Fabbri: “Then he should have an easy game!”
Inter and Italian legend Giacinto Facchetti was regarded the world over as a gentleman footballer with never a bad word to say about any teammate, coach or opponent. With one exception. Forced to play against Newcastle United in a 1970 Fairs Cup game in central defence rather than at full-back, Facchetti endured a physical battering from Newcastle’s robustious centre-forward, Wyn Davies. Inter’s skipper had some choice words to say about his opponent after the game, a wholly out of character reaction by him which suggested the extent of his anger with his Welsh opponent. “It simply isn’t football” was the only part of his rant that was printable.