Spurs and Italy a short history:
Following on from my piece on Spurs and Ireland, I thought I’d do another one of these articles as I really enjoyed the last one, this piece was requested by a supporter and it’s quite fitting considering that were just days away from facing Juventus in the champions league. This time it’s a shorter piece, as I go through all of the players of Italian descent to have been on the books of Tottenham Hotspur football club either at senior or youth level. Sadly there isn’t that many, but I will be happily corrected if someone lets me know if I have missed anyone out. Once again I have done in-depth research to make this as accurate as possible.
The first player to play for Spurs who was of Italian descent was local lad Tony Marchi, a familiar name amongst Spurs fans. The Edmonton born wing-half/ midfielder joined Spurs a youth player back in 1948, Marchi would begin a 17 year relationship with the club albeit via a two year spell in Italy. Tony became one of the youngest players to play for the club, when he made his debut as a 17 year old against Grimsby in 1950 under the legendary Arthur Rowe. Tony would go onto make 131 appearances for the lilywhites before taking a path less traveled. After he left Bill Nicholson’s side in 1957 to play for Italian side Juventus. Never making a senior appearance for the club, Tony spent the two seasons in the country of his ancestry playing for both Torino (Juventus arch rivals) and Vicenza on loan. In fact it was Nicholson himself who made the trip over to Italy to bring Tony back to north London in 1959. Tony would go onto become a part of the famous double winning side of 1960-61, playing a further 101 times for his local side, captaining them on many an occasion. His greatest moment came in the spring of 1963 when he started for Nicholson’s side in the final of the 1963 European cup winners cup as they famously thrashed Atletico Madrid 5-1 in Rotterdam to become the first English side to win a European trophy. Tony eventually left Spurs in 1965 after retiring from the game. Marchi then entered the world of management the same year when he took charge of Cambridge United for two years. Before taking charge of Northampton town for a solemn season during the 1967-68. Tony recently celebrated his 85th birthday and was presented with a special shirt by club legend Gary Mabbutt, courtesy of the club.
It would be a further 33 years until the next player of Italian descent played for Spurs, this time it would be the first native Italian to play for the lilywhites. It was a famous transfer at a bleak time for the club, after Christian Gross managed to acquire the services of renowned Italian midfielder Nicola Berti on a free transfer following the expiration of his contract at Inter Milan. A tenacious box to box midfielder, Berti joined Spurs during a difficult campaign. A campaign which saw Spurs fight for their premier league status, Berti provided steel and energy to the side and helped the lilywhites secure a comfortable 13th placed finish, before departing for Alaves at the end of the season. The Italian international who was a runner up with his country during the 94 World Cup, Berti enjoyed a distinguished career for both club and country. And despite only playing for Spurs for one season, he is still considered a bit of a cult hero by fans. Which may have something to do with a certain song that the fans still sing to this day, I needn’t get it started! The next Italian to make the move to north London was defender Paolo Tramezzani who joined the lilywhites from Italian club Piacenza in 1998. Tramezzani only ever made six senior appearances for the club during a two year spell. Many fans will remember the defenders debut for the club which came in a friendly against Peterborough in 1998, in which Tramezzani scored in. The defender departed Spurs for Pistoiese in 2000. Tramezzani who is now a football manager was most recently in charge of Swiss side Sion.
Signed to the club the season after Tramezzani joined, Italian youth prodigy Luca di Giuliautonio would become the third Italian to join the club when he signed as a 16 year old in 1999. Spotted by Spurs scouts in a schoolboy tournament in Italy, di Giuliautonio made the trip to London with a fellow team mate in Maurizio Consorti who also impressed the Spurs scouts. Both players would only ever play in the youth ranks for Spurs, midfielder di Giuliautonio returned to Italy in 2001 to play for Monturanese. Whilst Consorti who had impressed for the u17’s, even being given a senior squad number for the 2000-01 campaign. Was released by the club the following season and would return to Italy where he signed for Castel Madama. Around the same time we had a goalkeeper on our books by the name of Angelo Galetti who had previously been playing for Empoli. Galetti had been capped by his country at u15 level. Italian Spurs fans would have to wait a further ten years until the club signed another Italian player but it was well worth the wait. I remember being ecstatic at finding out that we had signed experienced goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini in January of 2009 from rivals Chelsea. It was yet another major coup by then manager Harry Redknapp. The highly regarded Italian who had spent many years as a number two to Petr Cech at the blues. Was a welcome addition to the club during a difficult time, with his razor sharp reflexes and speed. Cudicini enjoyed a good time at Spurs, fluctuating between being a number one, two and three during his three year spell at the club. Cudicini would go onto play 19 times for the lilywhites before joining MLS club LA Galaxy in 2012. Cudicini who has now entered the world of coaching, is currently an assistant coach to Antonio Conte at Chelsea.
The next player I’m going to mention wasn’t born in Italy but still has strong connections to the country. Souleymane Coulibaly emigrated to the country from his native Ivory Coast as a 13 year old to join his father. It was during his teenage years that the skilful forward would take his first steps into making it as a professional, signing for local side Siena. It was after his impressive performances for Ivory Coast at the 2011 u17 World Cup that Coulibaly First came to the attention of the club. Dubbed the new Drogba after scoring nine goals in five matches for his country. Despite rumoured interest from both Manchester United and Real Madrid, Coulibaly made the switch to Spurs in 2011 where he joined the clubs youth set up. After spending three seasons at the club, playing for both the u18’s and u21’s and after scoring some spectacular goals in the process. The one time wonderkid joined Italian Serie B side Bari for a sum of £2million pounds. Since then Coulibaly has played for a whole host of clubs including the likes of Peterborough United and Kilmarnock. Now 23 years of age Coulibaly finds himself without a club having last played for Egyptian side Al Ahly. Since Cudicini’s time we have never had an Italian player play for us, though there have been numerous cases of first second and even third generation Italians playing in our youth set up.
Starting with midfielder Mario Noto who was a part of the Spurs academy set up during the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Noto who operated in the centre of midfield went onto play for Crystal Palace and Reading before entering the world of non league football where he has represented sides such as Boreham Wood. Noto is currently playing for Enfield Town in the Bostick premier league. I had the great pleasure of interviewing Mario last month for my blog, he talked about growing up watching the great Milan side of the 90’s amongst all other things Spurs. Going back to the 1980’s we had a couple of players with Italian sounding names such as Leo Lisanti but I was unable to verify this. Since Mario Noto’s time in the academy we have had the likes of Giancarlo Gallifuoco (now of Dover) who have played for the Spurs youth teams. Though Australian born Gallifuoco is of Italian descent. As is a certain Massimo Luongo(once a highly rated academy midfielder) Luongo who is now a fully fledged Australian international, currently plays for QPR. Luongo did make one senior appearance for Spurs during a league cup third round tie against Stoke. Slightly before Luongo’s time was highly rated goalkeeper Mirko Ranieri. A former youth international for Italy at u16 level, Ranieri was brought to the club from Perugia by sporting director Damian Comolli in 2007. Comolli spoke at the time of Ranieri s great intelligence and shot stopping ability. After various loan spells at lower league sides Ranieri was released by the club in 2012. He was last seen playing for Italian side Gubbio. And that brings an end to this article, hopefully it’s been an informative and interesting read as we prepare for our all important second leg with Juventus on Wednesday evening. COYS