Remembering the Overlooked Brilliance of Juventus Legend Mauro Camoranesi

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistDecember 16, 2016

Juventus midfielder Mauro Camoranesi celebrates after scoring against Atalanta during their Italian Serie A football match at the 'Atleti Azzurri d'Italia' Stadium in Bergamo on November 7, 2009.  AFP PHOTO / Damien Meyer (Photo credit should read DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
DAMIEN MEYER/Getty Images

When remembering the list of legends to have worn the famous black and white shirt of Juventus, many obvious names leap out. From all-time leading goalscorer Alessandro Del Piero to iconic skipper Gaetano Scirea, the club’s pantheon of stars is endless, taking in the likes of Beppe Furino, Giampiero Combi, Omar Sivori and John Charles along the way.

Following on from such widely recognisable names are those players held dear by the Old Lady’s supporters, men like Alessio Tacchinardi and Sergio Brio, who gave their all for the Bianconeri cause.

Perhaps less talented than those in the upper echelon, these players were nevertheless vital in winning numerous trophies over decades of success. There is an obvious line drawn between the skilful legends and their beloved hard-working team-mates, but that makes it difficult to pigeonhole Mauro Camoranesi.

Why? Because here was a player who won an amazing list of trophies, displayed incredible talent and ability on the ball yet also worked tirelessly to help secure every one of those victories.

His story began in the youth sector of Club Atletico Aldosivi, a side based over 100 miles away from his hometown of Tandil. That would come to be emblematic of a nomadic career. Camoranesi soon moved on to Mexico with Santos Laguna, then Uruguayan outfit Montevideo Wanderers, before returning to Argentina with Banfield.

Spending the 1997/98 season there, he would enjoy a breakout campaign, netting 16 goals in 38 appearances and earning a move back to Mexico with Cruz Azul. His impressive form continued, a record of 21 goals in 75 matches attracting the attention of European clubs who sent scouts to watch the young winger.

In the summer of 2000, Italian side Hellas Verona would win the race for his signature and he would find himself in a talented squad at the Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi, playing alongside the likes of Adrian Mutu, Alberto Gilardino, Sebastien Frey and Massimo Oddo.

Yet they would only narrowly avoid relegation via a playoff, eventually succumbing to the drop in his second campaign with the Gialloblu, but Camoranesi received an offer that saw him pack his bags once again.

During the previous campaign, he had scored a goal for Hellas in a 2-2 draw with Juventus (see video above), his performance putting him into the all-seeing gaze of Marcello Lippi and Luciano Moggi.

The Bianconeri coach and general manager made their move, signing the winger to a four-year contract, per UEFA’s official website, before Lippi then made a remarkable switch within his side.

Gianluca Zambrotta moved to full-back.
Gianluca Zambrotta moved to full-back.MASSIMO PINCA/Associated Press

Camoranesi impressed the Tuscan coach so much during pre-season that he handed him a starting berth almost immediately. His inclusion on the right wing came at the expense of the injured Gianluca Zambrotta, an Italy international who had previously called that role his own, only to find his path now blocked.

Amazingly, rather than bemoan his luck, Zambrotta returned and reinvented himself as a world-class left-back—think about that for a second—and would go on to become far better known and appreciated as a result.

For Camoranesi, joining Juventus was the making of him. He helped the team win the Serie A title in his first season, almost capturing a perfect double as the side went on to lose the UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan.

"Playing for Juventus was the best experience in my footballing life," he told Juve’s official website back in 2014. "It was my longest stint at any club as well as the most successful and exciting. As I’ve always said, it was the core of my career as a football player, the most important period."

While playing in a team filled with great players, the role Camoranesi played cannot be understated. Lippi fielded his side in a flexible formation, one that worked hard defensively yet flourished when in possession, thanks largely to the men nominally lined up on either flank.

Ahead of a four-man defence, a midfield of Edgar Davids and Tacchinardi provided protection, with Camoranesi often shuttling in-field to ensure they were not out-manned in the centre of the pitch.

Juventus XI 2002/03.
Juventus XI 2002/03.Adam Digby via lineup11.com

Playing with the energy and tenacity of a central midfielder, he also had the speed, skill and creativity to thrive as a winger, providing the perfect complement to Pavel Nedved on the opposite flank.

The duo supplied ammunition for Del Piero, Trezeguet and eventually Zlatan Ibrahimovic, only for the team to be ripped apart by the Calciopoli scandal. Camoranesi was part of the Italy squad which triumphed at that summer’s FIFA World Cup, but returned to find Juventus relegated to the second tier.

He would remain, joining Del Piero, Nedved, Gigi Buffon and Trezeguet in shunning moves elsewhere, heroes determined to help return the Old Lady to the top flight. It would be a Camoranesi goal that December—ironically against former club Hellas Verona—that fired them top of the table after an 18-point penalty.

They would win the Serie B title, with the Argentina native in rare form. One match in particular stood out, a 3-1 win over Lecce (see video above) in which he beat three defenders in a single move to create one goal, then netted himself after a similar move later in the match.

Upon Juve’s return to Serie A, Camoranesi continued to impress until he began to struggle with injuries, eventually finding himself on the outside looking in. Beppe Marotta arrived as director general in the summer of 2010, quickly taking on the task of informing such an influential star he was no longer needed.

Marotta admitted in an interview with Tuttosport (h/t Goal, link in Italian) that he was nervous, only to find that Camoranesi understood and only wanted to help Juventus become champions once again.

Camoranesi won the World Cup with Italy.
Camoranesi won the World Cup with Italy.Michael Steele/Getty Images

He would depart for VfB Stuttgart, then Lanus and Racing Club, before retiring in 2014. Camoranesi has begun a coaching career but will never forget his time with Juventus, the club honouring him as one of their 50 greatest players.

That nod to his accomplishments came when the new stadium opened in 2011, with the man himself telling Juve’s official website what it meant to be so highly regarded by a club he loves:

That means so much to me. I’m really touched. I’ve always said that. Hundreds of players have turned out for Juventus, all playing at the highest level, and to have been chosen as one of the top 50… and especially to have been chosen by the fans, is the best recognition I could ever have had. I’m very honoured and proud and it means I must have been doing something right during those eight years.

He did plenty of things well and deserves every accolade. Mauro Camoranesi might not be a name at the forefront of discussions over Juve legends, but in truth he should be.

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