The Italians, eh?
When they’re not casually dinking penalties down the middle to send England packing from the Euros, they’re bringing their stylish charm to the Premier League and teaching the locals how to play football.
There’s nothing quite like the suave nonchalance of an Italian player who knows he’s better than everyone else – just take one look at Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon if you don’t believe me.
But while those two never graced the Premier League, a bunch of other guys did – and here’s the pick of them.
GK – Carlo Cudicini
Perhaps best remembered by the modern football fan as the perennial understudy to Petr Cech at Chelsea and later Heurelho Gomes at Tottenham, but contrary to popular belief, he was a quality shot-stopper in his own right in the early 2000s.
He was the Blues’ player of the season in what was a pretty average 2001-02 campaign and for a short spell was considered to be the best keeper in the league, garnering a reputation for saving penalties – keeping out Kevin Phillips, Gary McAllister and Thierry Henry from the spot at his peak.
RB – Alessandro Pistone
Who? Oh yeah, him.
Pistone was primarily a left-back, but he was versatile enough to justify shifting him across. He wasn’t spectacular, but did a steady job for Newcastle and Everton over a combined ten years in the Premier League.
Also, there’s hardly any Italian full-backs.
CB – Angelo Ogbonna
That thing we said about there being hardly any Italian full-backs? That also applies to centre-backs.
Hence why West Ham’s Angelo Ogbonna is, indeed, here.
CB – Marco Materazzi
Materazzi is a man best known for taking the most famous headbutt in history square on the chest. Seven years prior to establishing himself in pretty stellar Inter and Italy sides and becoming a World Cup winner with the latter, however, Materazzi was best known to fans in England for his colourful season with Everton.
As part of a back-line marshalled by the stoic Davie Weir, he managed to rack up three red cards in just 27 appearances for Walter Smith’s side before heading back to Italy.
LB – Andrea Dossena
Dossena, you might not have given us much, but you did give us that stunning free-kick as Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool ran riot at Old Trafford in 2009. And given the circumstances here, that is enough.
Moving swiftly on.
CM – Roberto Di Matteo
The final six seasons of Di Matteo’s highly-respected career came as he settled into life in England with Chelsea in the late 90s and early 00s, and though he didn’t quite catch the beginning of the Roman Abramovich money era (that would come later as a manager) he still racked up six major honours at Stamford Bridge.
A classy playmaker playing alongside the legendary Dennis Wise, he twice got his hands on the FA Cup among six major honours.
CM – Jorginho
There’s something about Chelsea and Italian players. The second part of our midfield double-pivot is just one of two active players who make the cut here and that can come as no surprise.
He’s one of the most efficient ball-carriers in the division and is now shining without the crutch of Maurizio Sarri, although a reunion on that front might not be too far away.
RW – Paolo di Canio
Di Canio was probably one of the most naturally gifted players the early part of the Premier League era had to offer and hammered in the goals at a rate just short of one every two games for West Ham – it’s just a shame about his politics.
He’s shunted out onto the right wing for obvious reasons.
LW – Gianfranco Zola
Once an understudy of Diego Maradona (the greatest player of all time, by the way) Zola went on to have a glittering career, the largest section of which came with Chelsea – who seem to have a thing for Italians, now we’re thinking on it.
Zola’s intelligent use of space and killer final ball earned him 80 goals in 311 appearances for the Blues and he remains thought of as one of their all-time greats.
CF – Fabrizio Ravanelli
A very, very good striker that made some very, very bad decisions. He had two spells in England, but both came with sides who were ultimately relegated from the Premier League; Ravanelli knew how to choose them.
Despite the fact both teams he played for were pretty dung, the target man registered 48 goals in 103 appearances for Middlesbrough and later Derby. He would later, bizarrely, feature for Dundee in Scotland.
CF – Gianluca Vialli
Rounding off our Italian XI, Vialli earned his stripes as part of a deadly partnership with Roberto Mancini at Sampdoria, kicking off a journey that earned him a move to Juventus and then, you guessed it, Chelsea.
He was hamstrung with injuries while in England and managed just short of 90 appearances over his three years, but continued to be a consistent goalscorer – even after taking over from Ruud Gullit as player-manager in 1998.