Two weeks ago we published the first half of an unofficial list of (current) professional footballers who also happen to be Interisti. As an Inter supporter with an enthusiasm for social media it’s a group that I’ve been keeping an eye on for some time, so during the last international break we decided to start moulding it into an article of some kind, because it’s an interesting subject that nobody seems to talk about.
With Part 1 of the list (available here) having been dedicated to 10 Interisti that are currently playing in Serie A, Part 2 is dedicated to 10 Interisti that are currently playing in Serie B. (I have actually found 13, but this article has ended up being so long that I’ve decided to preserve three of them until next week. Otherwise you’d still be reading it on Christmas Day.)
Hope you like it!
Leonardo Morosini (Avellino)
Let’s start with my personal favourite: Leonardo Morosini.
As I see it there are plenty of reasons to be fond of Morosini, a talented trequartista who turned 22 last month, both as a player and as a person. Currently on loan at Avellino from Genoa, he has been one of the most promising young talents Serie B has had to offer over the last two years, ever since he broke into Brescia’s first team at the beginning of the 2015-16 season (which he ended with 8 goals and 3 assists).
Having spent eight years with the Rondinelle Morosini made the leap into Serie A in January when he signed for Genoa, but after playing just 91 minutes of football in the second half of last season he decided to return to the second tier for the 2017-18 campaign, where Avellino were waiting for him with open arms. Unfortunately he is out of action at the moment after rupturing his anterior cruciate knee ligament in September, but his recovery is proceeding well and he should be back in action sometime around April.
It’s the person behind the player that makes Morosini so popular amongst team-mates, fans and the media, though. In May 2016 he received the ‘Gentleman Serie B’ award at the Gentleman Fair Play Awards in Milan - an annual awards ceremony that celebrates people who have made outstanding gestures of sportsmanship - after dedicating a goal he had scored against Trapani to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks, running over to the touchline and holding up the French flag that the two teams had walked onto the pitch with (the game took place on the weekend of the attacks).
As well as his on-pitch antics though, Morosini also stands out for what he gets up to off the pitch, because he doesn’t fit the ‘raucous party animal’-style template of the modern-day footballer.
He spends a lot of his spare time with his family, and is particularly close to his grandfather, while he also has a huge passion for music that has accompanied him since childhood. You often find him posting videos on Instagram of him singing or playing the piano; two things he’s very good at doing.
He also excels in educational circles, having recently completed (I think) a course in modern languages with an online University based in Como, near where he lives. His exam results were nerd-tastic: pretty much full marks on every occasion.
His studies with eCampus enabled him to be a part of Italy’s men’s football team at the 2015 Summer Universiade, where the Azzurri won the gold medal thanks to a 3-0 victory over host nation South Korea in the final. Morosini scored 3 goals during the tournament (one of which in the final) and had Cagliari’s Paolo Faragò, who was discussed in Part 1 of this series, amongst his team-mates.
In short, he’s not your average professional footballer - he’s much better than that. And that’s before you factor in his unconditional love for Inter.
“I cried and despaired over Inter as a child,” Morosini told Guerin Sportivo in January 2016. “In particular when we lost that derby 6-0 in 2001 - we had ten guests round for dinner at our house, but after the fifth goal went in I turned off the television and went upstairs. Inter is about joy and suffering at the same time: the more we suffer, the more we love them. Without suffering it simply isn’t Inter. They’re an imperfect team, and perhaps that’s why we love them so much.”
When Morosini was 5 years-old, he was forced to undergo a painful operation to stretch the tendons in his body after being diagnosed with ‘bilateral tendon retraction’. It was a story that had a happy ending though: having written to Inter legend and then-President Giacinto Facchetti to tell him about his condition, he received the shock of his life one day when the phone rang.
“I was playing on the PlayStation with a friend”, he told Sky, “when Facchetti called the house. At first I thought it was the furniture company [there’s a furniture company called ‘Arredamenti Facchetti’ in Brescia], but it was him! He was calling to thank me for everything nice I’d said in my letter. A friend of mine had also written to him and he sent both of us some signed photos, which I’ve still got at home.” How nice of him.
Morosini wasn’t just a die-hard Inter fan as a child though, because he also played for them for six years between 2003-08 (as you can see from the Instagram photo above...), before moving onto AlbinoLeffe and then Brescia, where he remained until the start of 2017. “I chose to go to Inter with my heart”, he once said.
Being part of the academy certainly had its upsides for a lad like him. “I played in Inter’s youth system all the way up to the ‘Giovanissimi Nazionali’”, he told Corriere dello Sport last season, “but I was also a ball boy at San Siro from the Mancini years through to the Triplete season with Mourinho. As you can probably understand I’m very attached to those colours.
“I went through so many emotions there at pitch-side: the one game I can never forget is Inter 3-2 Sampdoria with the comeback in the last 6 minutes. For a 9 year-old kid it was absolutely incredible to witness your team go from 2-0 down to 3-2 up, but I could give you loads of examples from that period because Inter started having success again after Mancini was appointed.”
In September 2015 Morosini returned to San Siro, this time just as a spectator, to see Inter beat Milan 1-0 in the derby courtesy of a goal from Fredy Guarin, and since then he has continued to follow them with interest - as you can see from the image above, he seemed to particularly enjoy our win over Fiorentina last November (the night we were 3-0 up inside 20 minutes).
Last summer he actually came very close to signing for Inter, after reaching a verbal agreement with Piero Ausilio during the last few weeks of the transfer window, but the Nerazzurri never got round to agreeing a fee with Brescia and so he ended up at Genoa a few months later. Oh well.
One last thing: Javier Zanetti was the man who presented him with his Fair Play award at the ceremony last year, so he managed to get a photo with him afterwards.
“My captain”, the caption reads, “I’ve spilt many tears for you. This is a beautiful award to receive, and having you present me with it is truly priceless.” Aww.
I’m not going to write this much about every player in this article, don’t worry. I just think he’s great.
Alessandro Piu (Empoli)
Just as Inter-mad as Morosini, albeit not quite as fascinating on a human level, is Empoli forward Alessandro Piu. Or Alex More, if you wish to translate that into English.
Born in Gonars, a tiny town in Udine, Mr More joined Empoli’s academy aged 13 after being spotted by club scouts while he was playing for his local team, and eight years later he is still with the Tuscans - albeit now he is a member of their first team, whom he is attempting to help back into Serie A after their dramatic relegation on the final day of last season.
Should Empoli succeed in making an immediate return to the top flight Piu will get the chance to play against the team he has supported pretty much since birth, although he has already made one appearance against Inter - back in January 2016, when Roberto Mancini’s side won 1-0 at the Stadio Carlo Castellani. He only got three minutes off the bench, but still, it’s better than nothing.
“It’s a shame Milito won’t be there”, he told Messaggero Veneto before that game, “because he was the best. I’d like to get Icardi’s shirt if possible: I saw him when I was on the bench against Inter a few months ago [NB: Inter 4-3 Empoli, final game of the 2014-15 season], but I didn’t ask for his autograph because I was too embarrassed. I’ll try again this time...”
After Milito and Icardi, Piu’s next biggest idol is NBA star LeBron James, so he’d better have asked Maurito for his shirt after that match last year. Because he’s unlikely to get the chance to swap with LeBron anytime soon.
What’s particularly great about Mr More is that of all the footballers who support Inter, he is the one that mentions it most frequently in his social media posts. For instance, take a look at his Instagram story on the night of last season’s Champions League Final.
If that doesn’t endear him to you, I don’t know what will.
He’s a good lad is Mr More.
Marco Varnier (Cittadella)
If Leonardo Morosini’s chance to play for Inter has come and gone, Marco Varnier’s chance to play for Inter may be just around the corner.
Varnier is a 19 year-old centre-back who currently plays for Cittadella, but if reports are to be believed Piero Ausilio and co. are keeping close tabs on him and would be interested in bringing him to Inter next summer (as are Juventus, inevitably).
Born in Padova, Varnier began his career in the youth system of his hometown club but was forced to move elsewhere when the biancoscudati went bankrupt in 2014.
After two years playing in Cittadella’s Primavera, of which he was eventually made captain, he took advantage of an injury crisis last December to break into Roberto Venturato’s first team and he has hardly seen the substitutes bench since. Fast forward twelve months and he is now one of the highest-rated defenders in Serie B (justifiably, in my humble opinion).
Varnier’s agent confirmed earlier this year that he was an Interista as a child, but his liking habits on Instagram would suggest that he still very much is. If Inter and Juventus did lock horns in a battle to secure his services, who’s to say that his black and blue persuasion wouldn’t enable us to seal the deal?
Giulio Maggiore (Spezia)
If one were to create an XI of promising youngsters that are currently playing in Serie B then there’s no doubt Varnier would be picked at centre-back. Another player who’d make the cut is Giulio Maggiore, a 19 year-old midfielder who is impressing everyone at Spezia.
Maggiore, who has collected 39 first-team appearances for the Aquilotti since making his debut last September, received a lot of media attention back in May when he made a curious and some would say crazy decision: he turned down the chance to play for Italy at last summer’s Under-20 World Cup so that he could concentrate on studying for his high-school exams. Which he went on to pass - thankfully.
“I want to become a full-time professional footballer but I think in life you need to leave as many doors open for yourself as possible”, he told Sky Sport. “I thought about all the sacrifices I’ve made over the last five years and in particular this season, trying to combine my studies with my footballing commitments; it’s not been easy. I wanted to finish what I’d started, so with great pain and displeasure I turned down the national team.”
Maggiore’s conscientiousness was in stark contrast with the ‘serious lack of respect’ Gianluigi Donnarumma was accused of showing a month later, when he went to Ibiza with his girlfriend instead of sitting the graduation exams that he had rearranged with his accountancy institute.
Ironically the pair could very easily be team-mates at the moment, as Maggiore signed for Milan himself when he was 14 years old, but homesickness ensured that he left the Rossoneri’s youth system after just two months. Given that both he and his brother have always supported Inter (as well as Spezia) though, perhaps it was a good thing Giulio didn’t stay there too long - we might have lost him!
Giuseppe Mastinu (Spezia)
Curiously enough, there’s another player currently at Spezia who had a brief and unsuccessful spell in Milan’s academy as a teenager. Even more curiously, he is an Inter fan just like Maggiore.
The player in question is Giuseppe Mastinu, a 26 year-old forward from Sardinia whose career trajectory is fairly similar to that of Kevin Lasagna, another Inter supporter who was discussed in Part 1.
After a brief spell in Milan’s Primavera as a 16 year-old - an experience that was curtailed due to a knee injury - Mastinu spent eight years plying his trade in Serie D while working as a barman to make a living, but a spectacular 2015-16 season while playing for Olbia (in which he scored 16 goals) was enough to catch Spezia’s eye last summer, and ultimately the Liguri decided to give him his big break in Serie B.
Mastinu was interviewed for one of the club’s matchday programs last season, and from that interview there are three answers in particular which stand out.
Q: “What club did you support as a child?” A: “Inter.”
Q: “Who did you have a poster of in your bedroom?” A: “Ronaldo.”
Q: “What’s the best game of football you’ve ever seen?” A: “Inter 2-0 Bayern.”
Good answering, Beppe.
Mattia Finotto (Ternana)
Both Maggiore and Mastinu would have been in ecstasy seven weeks ago when Mauro Icardi’s hat-trick secured Inter victory in the Milan derby, but if that October weekend ended happily for them it certainly didn’t start quite as well; on the Saturday they suffered a painful defeat along with the rest of their Spezia team-mates, as Fabio Gallo’s men threw away a 2-0 lead to lose 4-2 against Ternana.
While they were left to lick their wounds though, there was one Interista present at the Stadio Libero Liberati who very much enjoyed his afternoon. Ternana striker Mattia Finotto, to be precise.
Set to turn 25 just after Christmas, Finotto was part of the SPAL squad that secured an historic promotion to Serie A last season, but the risk of spending nine months on the bench convinced him to stay in Serie B for another year, and so he is currently on a season-long loan with the Fere.
Asked last year which Serie A stadium he would most like to play in should SPAL secure promotion to the top flight, Finotto replied without any hesitation: “San Siro without a doubt! I’ve supported Inter all my life, it would be a dream come true to put that shirt on one day.” Unsurprisingly given the position he plays in, his favourite player of all time is Ronaldo.
Riccardo Bocalon (Salernitana)
Sticking with the centre-forward train of thought, another Serie B ‘bomber’ with Inter in his heart is Riccardo Bocalon, the 28 year-old forward from Venice who’s currently enjoying a long overdue return to Italy’s second tier with Salernitana, after signing from Alessandria in the summer.
Bocalon spent one season in Inter’s Primavera as a teenager (2008-09 to be precise) before embarking upon almost a decade in Lega Pro, and on a few occasions he even got the chance to train with the first team; an experience he holds very dearly to this day, coming as he does from a family of Interisti.
“I can still remember those months vividly”, he said in March. “It goes without saying that my desire to go back one day and wear the shirt of the team I’ve always supported is huge - why shouldn’t I dream?”
“Of all the players I trained with the one that impressed me the most was Walter Samuel. In my first training session he man-marked me with the determination and concentration of somebody who was playing a Champions League Final; he didn’t give me a minute’s rest, he made his presence felt constantly. To him it didn’t matter if he was up against us youngsters or his team-mates from the first team.”
Bocalon was part of the Alessandria team that made it all the way to the semifinals of the Coppa Italia in 2016, where they faced a team he was used to having antagonist feelings towards. “I’ve supported Inter all my life so this tie against Milan is going to be like a derby for me”, he told reporters in the build-up.
With all that in mind it’s most curious that his idol has always been Pippo Inzaghi, but we can forgive him for that.
Roberto Crivello (Frosinone)
Another man who dreams of playing for Inter one day is Roberto Crivello, a 26 year-old left-back from Sicily who currently plays for Frosinone.
What makes Crivello’s dream especially amusing, though, is that he came through Juventus’ youth system, where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Ciro Immobile, Iago Falque and Luca Marrone and won the annual Torneo di Viareggio in 2010.
“I’ll always be thankful to Juventus”, he said in 2013, “as they gave me the chance to develop both as a player and as a person, however I’ve been an Interista since childhood and for me it would be a dream to play for Inter at San Siro.” Ouch! “My idol is Javier Zanetti, who on top of being an incredible player is also a perfect professional off the pitch.”
We’ve had a few Milanisti and Juventini in our Primavera sides over the last few years, so it’s only fair they have an Interista every so often. Crivello may never get to realise his dream but he has at least played against Inter at San Siro, when Frosinone went there and lost 4-0 in November 2015.
Pierluigi Cappelluzzo (Pescara)
Like Crivello, Pescara striker Pierluigi Cappelluzzo (on loan from Verona) has already had the chance to play against Inter, although in his case both matches against the Nerazzurri were at youth team level during the 2014-15 season - first in the league and then in the Final of the Torneo di Viareggio, which Inter won 2-1. Cappelluzzo scored for Verona on both occasions - something he did regularly as a teenager.
Having scored on his senior debut at the age of 17 while playing for Siena, a few months before they went bankrupt (freeing him up to join Verona), Cappelluzzo was expected to turn into a prolific striker when he graduated from Hellas’ Primavera in May 2015, but in two-and-a-half seasons since then he has played 504 minutes of first-team football, scoring just 1 goal.
It would be fair to say that he hasn’t adjusted particularly well to life amongst the big boys - at least not yet. He is only 21 after all. But if we can’t love him for what he’s doing on the pitch (pretty much nothing), we can love him for being an Interista.
In particular, we can love him for the wonderful mug he has. And I don’t mean his face.
The image imprinted onto it is the front page of the Gazzetta dello Sport on 23 May 2010, a morning after that no Inter fan will ever forget for as long as they live (you can see a bigger image of it here).
I would most definitely like one of those.
In other ‘Pescara players that support Inter’ news, I have a suspicion that Cappelluzzo’s team-mate Christian Capone - an 18 year-old winger on loan from Atalanta - does as well, but I’m yet to find conclusive proof of this.
Let’s hope he does anyway, because he looks like a real talent.
Alessandro Iacobucci (Virtus Entella)
Last but not least for this week we have Virtus Entella goalkeeper Alessandro Iacobucci.
Originally from Pescara, Iacobucci spent a few years in Mantova and Siena’s academies before having his first senior experience with Sudtirol in the 2011-12 season. Upon signing for Parma in 2012 he was sent out on loan to Spezia and Latina, before returning to the Ducali and making 7 Serie A appearances during their ill-fated 2014-15 campaign, which ended in the club going bust.
In the summer of 2015 he therefore became a free agent, and that’s when Entella snapped him up. Iacobucci has been their first-choice keeper ever since, although his dream would be to play for Inter, the club he’s always supported.
According to an interview he gave in 2014 his role model has always been Gianluca Pagliuca, but naturally there is also a very special place in his heart for Julio Cesar.
Upon hearing the news of the acchiappasogni’s impending retirement, Iacobucci took to Instagram to thank him for everything he did in his seven years at Inter: “Grande Julio, numero uno... goodbye to an amazing goalkeeper who gave us so much joy.”
And with that we conclude Part 2. Sorry it was so long; I’m not very good at being brief. Next week Part 3 will mainly look at Interisti from Serie C and abroad, but it will also start with the last three men from Serie B - and somebody that I forgot to put in the Serie A section last week.
Until then, sempre and solo Forza Inter...