Football Italiano’s 500@five – Christian Panucci: A Great among Legends

Parma confirmed earlier today that defender Christian Panucci has rescinded his contract with the club for ‘personal reasons’. This may well have been the last time that Panucci plied his trade in the Serie A competitively.


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After reports broke out earlier this year that Panucci was unhappy with his coach Francesco Guidolin, it was widely expected that this season would be the last one for the veteran defender. However, now Panucci’s adventure with the Gialloblu has come to a premature end. The ex-Roma man turns 37 in April and this move will probably signal the end of his long, illustrious career. His departure will certainly be a relief to managers around the peninsula as he has had a history of clashing with his coaches.

Panucci first broke on to the Italian scene with Genoa back in 1990 as a sprightly 17 year-old right winger. His appearances were restricted during his initial years but he played a part in il Grifone’s fourth-placed finish during the 1990-91 season. His performances for the Rossoblu earned him a transfer to Fabio Capello’s dominant Milan side of the nineties. For three seasons Panucci shone on the left flank for Milan while Mauro Tassotti showcased his talent on the right. The two formed one of the most indomitable full back partnerships in Italian football and played an invaluable part in Milan’s Champions League triumph of ‘94. After three highly successful seasons with the Rossoneri wherein – he won two Scudetti – he went with Fabio Capello to Real Madrid. He became the first ever Italian to play for Los Blancos.

Panucci had an admirably successful time even in Madrid and won his second Champions League medal with them in the ’98 final against Juventus. After spending one more season with the Galacticos he returned to Italy with Inter Milan. At the Nerazzurri he fell out with the then coach Marcello Lippi. Panucci famously said of his time at Inter: “Do I have any good memories? Breakfast in Milan, the highway and then the Appiano Gentile’s gates opened and I was dying to get out…” His problems with Lippi saw him get loaned to Chelsea and then end up at Monaco of France.

Finally after a torrid couple of years he joined up with Roma in 2001 and reunited himself with Fabio Capello at the Giallorossi. Panucci was not a regular in the Italian national team setup as he had run into problems with Arrigo Sacchi, but for the 2002 World Cup he was the first choice full back for Giovanni Trappatoni’s team. However, Panucci made a crucial error in the inglorious match with South Korea that led to the equalizer with a couple of minutes left on the clock. After the Euro 2004 debacle Panucci’s Italy stint was once again put on hold as Marcello Lippi took charge of the Azzurri.

By now he was a mainstay in the Roma defence and peaked for the capital side from 2006/07 and the 2007/08 seasons as they challenged Inter for the title. Panucci also became a leader at Roma as he would regularly rally the team around him and has been a guide to many of the young players in the squad. His brilliant form with Roma prompted Roberto Donadoni to recall him to the national team for the run up to Euro 2008. Panucci scored a decisive last minute header against Scotland en route to the tournament finals and was also the scorer of Italy’s equalizer against Romania.

After the Championships, Panucci saw his position at Roma come under threat from Cicinho. His relations with Coach Luciano Spalletti were already under a lot of stress and he refused to sit on the bench for the game against Napoli in January. Despite Panucci coming out and issuing an apology for his behavior, his time with the Lupi was effectively over. His move to Parma was seen to bring vital experience to the side and he put in some impressive performances till his supposed problems with Guidolin. His resignation from the squad brings to an end to a lengthy and highly successful career. In an age and time when Italy produced defenders of the highest calibre, Panucci may not have been in the elite but he was certainly a great.

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