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(Just) The Italian Job

Back in February 1996 Mark Meehan wrote an article in the Chelsea Independent fanzine about the possibility of Gianluca Vialli joining Chelsea FC. Four months later that became a reality and what a dream it turned out to be. Forza Vialli!

If you are one of those people who gets away from it all at the end of the season to sit in the sun make sure that on 30 June 1996 you are near to a television set or an English newspaper.

No silly, not to see if England have won the European Championship final at Wembley Stadium but to see what Gianluca Vialli will now do now that this contract has expired with Italian giants Juventus and he is now a free agent. Yes, 30 June 1996 could be another historic day in the history of Chelsea Football Club as that is the day Mr Vialli will be looking for a new football club.

There has been much press speculation in recent weeks that Mr Vialli would like to come to London and seeing the success of Rudd Gullit in London may like to follow him into the capital. Glenn Hoddle has already taken time out to quash those rumours apparently frightened off by Vialli’s £1m a year wages but with the Bosman case soon to shake English football to its very foundations getting the most expensive player in world football for nothing and paying out £2 million for a two year contract seems an excellent deal considering we paid more than that for Paul Furlong’s transfer fee alone.

Apparently Gianluca’s agent in this country is Dennis Roach who was the man responsible for Hoddle joining Monaco from Spurs so some Wapping hacks put two and two together and a back page headline was born. Roach has already done his bit also to quash the rumours saying “the story started because some Italian butcher, baker or candlestick maker was claiming to represent Vialli and starting to tout him around”.

Whilst Chelsea probably have a one in ten chance of signing Vialli and he may opt to join another London club such as Arsenal or Rottenham how many people know that much about him already?

To most people Vialli is that bald geezer who plays up front with the bloke with grey hair for Juve but to any Italian football fans who watch Channel Four every Sunday he is probably the best striker currently in Serie A. Having cost a staggering £12 million pounds when he joined Juventus in 1992/3 he repaid back probably most of his transfer fee last season when his sixteen goals brought Juventus their first Italian title in many a year and then helping them add the Italian Cup for a rare ‘double’. Channel Four viewers also voted him ‘Player of the Season’ so the man to say the least is a bit special when you consider at the time he was playing in the same team as Roberto Baggio.

He is also an established Italian international with 59 caps and 16 goals to his name although he has currently ‘retired; from international football due to a falling out bigtime with Italian coach Arrigo Sachi. He has not played for Italy for over three years and missed the last World Cup much to the dismay of most Italian football fans.

As well as winning the league and cup with Juventus, he has three cup winners medals, a European Cup Winners Cup medal and another Scudetto medal from his days with Sampdoria. So the man is no mug and at thirty one years of age potentially he has a couple of good years left in him. His Juve team are now in the latter stages of the Champions League and at this stage most people’s favourites for a European Cup Final showdown with Ajax Amsterdam. Winning the European Cup would bring down the curtain perfectly for Vialli on an illustrious Italian career and like Ruud Gullit the man would then need a new challenge.

So on 30 June 1996 when you are sitting on the beach tuning in to your radio and you hear that Italy have won the European Championship at Wembley just think that the best player in Italian football will not even be at Wembley but will probably at that moment be on a flight to London to sign for Chelsea.

It may never happen but we can dream can’t we?

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