In this edition of The Talking Game, former Juventus, FC Barcelona and AC Milan Full Back Gianluca Zambrotta talks with Amlan Majumdar about why he left Juventus and his future plans.
Gianluca Zambrotta has played for some of the biggest clubs in Europe since making his professional debut back in 1994 for Italian club Como. The 36-year-old has won three Serie A titles during his spell in Italy, but the 2006 World Cup victory with Italy has undoubtedly been the crowing moment of his career so far. But nowadays, far away from the hustle of Serie A and La Liga, Gianluca Zambrotta is enjoying a ‘simple’ and ‘quiet’ life in the beautiful Swiss town Chiasso. THT Editor Amlan Majumdar caught up with the former Italian full back regarding his time in Italy and his future plans.
Amlan: Having played under managers like Dino Zoff, Carlo Ancelotti, Marcello Lippi, Fabio Capello and Frank Rijkaard, who would you say was the most tactically astute?
Gianluca Zambrotta: As a manager certainly Fabio Capello, under the tactical side Zoff, Lippi and Ancelotti. Rijkaard was much more offensive and spectacular game viewing.
Q: Marcello Lippi decided to turn you into a full-back from a winger. Was it hard to adapt to a new defensive role?
Zambrotta: Only at the beginning, in the defensive part of the game.
Q: Was Juventus’ relegation to the Serie B the sole reason for your decision to leave the club?
Zambrotta: It was not only my decision, but also a company’s decision which had to sell its best and representative players in order to recover the losses of retrocession.
Q: What was so special about that Italian side that won the World Cup in 2006? Personally, which is your most memorable moment in that World Cup?
Zambrotta: The team spirit was the strongest part. Most memorable moments were penalties in the final and then the party in Rome.
Q: You moved to Barcelona quite late in your career (29). Do you think that it would have been easier had you moved earlier, also what was your reason for choosing Barcelona as your next destination after Juventus, is there any other club you were close to joining at that moment?
Zambrotta: No. At that time I had offers from Chelsea, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter, but Juventus have not ever asked me to stay.
Q: For someone who has played in both the leagues, what are the fundamental differences between Serie A and La Liga?
Zambrotta: The management of the job of the match and the methodology of training.
Q: Your defensive error in that semi-final against Manchester United led to the Paul Scholes goal. Do those memories still haunt you?
Zambrotta: They do not haunt me at all. It is a mistake that can happen. The fact is that we lost the possibility to reach the final match.
Q: What is your personal assessment of Massimiliano Allegri? Your enjoyed limited playing time under him but he chose to play you in some of the important games. Do you think he is the right man to lead Milan forward?
Zambrotta: He is a great coach. It was a choice of either to get me to play the most important games the first year [Sic]. He certainly has the possibility of doing well at Milan.
Q: Why did you choose to move to FC Chiasso? What was it like to play against your former club, AC Milan, albeit in a friendly?
Zambrotta: Because it is a nice, simple, quiet reality where I can work peacefully and it is close to home, to my family. It [playing against Milan] was a strange sensation, but very pleasant, to meet the old friends again.
Q: Do you think the Serie A can return to its glory days, especially considering the financial turmoil that a lot of clubs are in at the moment and the disappointing performances of Italian clubs in the Champions League in recent times?
Zambrotta: Yes, certainly. I am confident even if the gap with the other teams at international level is still high.
Q: What are your plans for the future? Do you want to move into football management or coaching after hanging up your boots?
Zambrotta: I’m building and finishing a last generation Sports Center at my home in Como named Heracles Sports Center where I will give the possibility to older people, but especially to young people, to get closer to the Sport.
Then I would like to start practicing as a coach. For the moment I’m doing experience in Chiasso in Switzerland both as a player and as coach assistant.
Quick fire –
Having played against some of the most famous names in the game, who was the hardest player to defend against? Lionel Messi
Your best defensive partner? Fabio Cannavaro
Who was your footballing idol when you growing up? Roberto Baggio
If not a footballer, what would you have been? Textile expert in my town Como, the city of silk.
Any secret superstition you had as a footballer? No, nothing in particular but all sportsmen are a bit superstitious.