From female strikers, Libyan dictators and South Korean traitors, to bankruptcy, racehorses and exile, it was all part of daily life for new Palermo Coach Serse Cosmi during his four years working under the controversial Luciano Gaucci at Perugia.
Much has been made of how Cosmi will fare with Maurizio Zamparini, the temperamental Palermo President, breathing down his neck. After all, Zamparini has spent this season criticising Delio Rossi, whom he finally sacked this week. He has overseen 18 managerial changes in his eight years in charge of Palermo, and has earned his reputation as one of Italy’s fiercest Presidents. However, his new Coach will be prepared for anything Zamparini could possibly throw at him.
Gaucci, Perugia’s notorious former President and racehorse entrepreneur, made himself part of football folklore when he revealed plans to sign Germany’s female goalscorer, Birgit Prinz.
Prinz scored seven goals as Germany’s ladies won the 2003 World Cup, and in the same year found herself on the verge of being recruited to the men’s game. Gaucci proudly declared that he had found a loophole that did nothing to prevent women from playing in Serie A, and claimed he’d rather sign Prinz than a man because she was cheaper.
“She is very beautiful and she has a great figure. I can assure you that as a player she’s very good,” Gaucci commented.
In the end, the authorities prevented a transfer going through, prompting Perugia’s furious President to exclaim that he would sign a horse instead because, apparently, there are no rules to prevent that either.
One signing Gaucci did complete was that of Saadi al-Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi. Quite how or why Gaucci brought over the controversial politician’s son is anyone’s guess, particularly as he was revealed as a stakeholder at Juventus and had to resign from his position there in order to become a Perugia player.
Injury also restricted al-Gaddafi and Cosmi flatly refused to start him, much to Gaucci’s disdain. In the end, the Libyan tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone and left Perugia after one brief substitute appearance. Gaucci suggested the failed drugs test was merely a conspiracy to get al-Gaddafi out of Italy.
The most infamous action of the Perugia boss was his sacking of Ahn-Jung Hwan, the South Korean international, whose extra time golden goal had eliminated Italy from the 2002 World Cup.
“I have no intention of paying a salary to someone who has ruined Italian football,” he cried.
“I am a nationalist and his behaviour is not only an incomprehensible wound to my Italian pride, but also an offence to a country which two years ago had openly welcomed him.”
When Perugia were declared bankrupt in 2005, Gaucci was a wanted man for his part in an alleged fraudulent deal that saw €35 million go missing. With a prison sentence looming, he fled to the Dominican Republic for exile. By this time, Cosmi had left Perugia and could be afforded a wry smile at his former boss’ misfortune.
Zamparini is widely regarded as Serie A’s toughest President these days. He has been in regular trouble with the authorities over volatile remarks, and earlier this week publicly lambasted former Palermo Coach Rossi for losing 7-0 to Udinese. However, buying women and sacking his own players on the basis of their nationality is not his forte.
Cosmi must have reminisced about his Perugia days when he met Zamparini, while sparing a thought for Gaucci, the man who made his life so difficult yet so entertaining. Zamparini may be provocative but unless his transfer policy incorporates family members of world leaders, he will be a comparative walkover.