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Another good week. I now feel sufficiently educated on the major events that have defined Bologna’s history, but I’m sure I’ll come across more as my calcio research continues. I could’ve spent more time profiling Schiavio, Bulgarelli & co., but there’s only so much time in the day.

This week’s history-centric format worked well, I think. Ideally I’d spent two weeks with each club: one outlining their history, the other covering other topics (profiles, successes, failures, etc.). Sadly, Serie A has 24 rounds to play and I still have nine teams to cover. Spending a fortnight with every club before the season’s end just isn’t possible.

That said, Bologna are one of the clubs I’ll be revisiting in 2012. I’ve covered a lot of ground with them, but I feel like there’s still plenty to learn. It’ll be interesting to see how Pioli’s mini-revival progresses after a few months have elapsed.

I still haven’t decided which team to write about next week so check back tomorrow for a quick briefing. Here’s what I’ve written this week:-

  • After the Goldrush: The fallout from Bologna’s golden era and a good excuse for a Neil Young reference.
  • (Off-topic) (Serie A Weekly) Fiorentina Defeat Farcical Roma: The latest edition of my Team of the Week column, focusing on Fiorentina’s performance against Roma last weekend.

 

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In and out: Gigi Maifredi.

Bologna’s third Serie B stint started shortly after Gigi Maifredi’s departure. A dismal Serie A campaign saw them relegated in 1991. Maifredi returned after his Juventus dismissal, but was quickly out the door again as Bologna finished a poor 13th in Serie B (1991-92). By now the title-winning sides of yesterday were like ancient history, and a soul-destroying 92-93 saw Bologna relegated to Serie C1 again.

Here begins a new era for football in Bologna. Bologna Football Club dissolved on June 19th, 1993 after years of financial trouble, but re-emerged as Bologna Football Club 1909 in Serie C1. The refounded side were allowed to keep their league place, and finished fourth in Serie C1’s Group A at the first time of asking.

This meant another year in the doldrums (1994-95). The Rossoblu, however, had become almost unbeatable. Losing just once all season, Bologna stormed to the Serie C1 title with games to spare. On the last day of the season they stood 22 points clear of second-place Pistoiese, having accumulated 81 points and a +42 goal difference in 34 games.

Bologna’s momentum continued. A water-tight defence helped them battle through Serie B in 1995-96, and they were promoted as champions by the season’s end. History suggested that Bologna were back where they belonged, and they justified this with a seventh-place Serie A finish in 1996-97.

Legendary Azzurri forward Roberto Baggio joined the Rossoblu for a single season in 1997-98 and was a huge hit despite his advancing years. Baggio finished with a career-best 22 Serie A goals, firing Bologna to Intertoto Cup qualification and going on to star for Italy at the 1998 World Cup. The Divine Ponytail left for Inter after the World Cup, but his in Bologna remains one of his career’s most productive.

Change was afoot for the Rossoblu. They won the Intertoto Cup to gain entry into 1998-99’s UEFA Cup. Coach Carlo Mazzone arrived in the dugout and another heroic forward, Giuseppe Signori, took Baggio’s place. Bologna finished ninth in Serie A but fared well in Europe. Victories over Sporting Lisbon, Real Betis, Slavia Prague and Olympique Lyon saw them march to the UEFA Cup semi-finals, which they lost to eventual winners Parma.

1999-00 saw new coach Sergio Buso sacked after just seven games in-charge. In came ex-player Francesco Guidolin, who led Bologna through their second-consecutive UEFA Cup campaign. The Rossoblu again lost to the competition’s eventual winners (Galatasary), but fell in the third round on this occasion.

The Rossoblu were on a high, but fell to 11th (2002-03) and 12th (2003-04) in Serie A and struggled badly after Signori’s 2004 departure. A disastrous end to the 2004-05 campaign saw Bologna claim just 11 points from their last 15 games, forcing them into a relegation playoff with Parma. Bologna won the first leg 1-0, but were relegated after losing the home leg 2-0.

Down went Bologna, and in came Renzo Ulivieri who’d previously managed the club from 1994 to 1998. Majority shareholder Giuseppe Gazzoni Frascara left the Rossoblu and the club finished eighth, outside the playoff positions. Napoli, Genoa, and the Calciopoli-stricken Juventus made Serie B their home in 2006-07, severely limiting Bologna’s chances of promotion. They went one better than the previous year by finishing seventh, but still missed-out on the playoffs.

That coveted promotion came the following season, and Bologna have been a Serie A side ever since. They’ve constantly battled against relegation and haven’t finished above 16th in the past three years, but veteran striker Marco Di Vaio’s goals (56 in 108 games) have helped keep them afloat.

Bologna’s story is one of incredible highs and terrible lows. They’ve been Italian champions seven times and have tasted cup success at home and abroad, but they’ve been up-and-down since the ‘80’s and almost went out of business in 1993. Still, Bologna have never been outside the top tier for longer than six seasons and only Genoa, Milan, Inter and Juventus have more Scudetti to their name

The Rossoblu are currently 17th in Serie A: one position and four points from the relegation zone. Stefano Pioli is the new manager, and the ex-Chievo man has claimed four points from four games since his October appointment.

Watching Bologna can be a frustrating experience. They have some exciting attacking players, but it rarely comes together on the pitch. Di Vaio has recently overcome a six-month goal drought with three goals in his last five games, but his all-round play has been largely disappointing.

Prospect: Gaston Ramirez.

Gaston Ramirez, the 21-year-old Uruguayan, is Bologna’s most interesting prospect. Ramirez can play up front or out wide, but he’s played mostly as an attacking midfielder this term. He’s an excellent ball carrier who loves running at players, and his through-balls have already provided three assists from nine starts. Manchester City and Chelsea have reportedly been monitoring his progress, and it’s easy to see why.

Ex-West Ham player Alessandro Diamanti is the other key man in attack. A player of unquestionable ability (check his cheeky back-heel assist against Siena last week), Diamanti’s Achilles heel has been his inconsistency. The trequartista rarely produces two good performances in a row, and must improve if he’s to be anything more than a luxury player for the relegation-threatened Rossoblu.

Bologna are a counter-attacking side who are happy to concede possession and break with pace. This can make for some exciting moments as the Rossoblu plough down the flanks, but they’re more reactive than proactive. Bologna’s players lack the quality to control games and impose their will on opposing teams and their aggression has cost them numerous goals from set pieces this season.

It’s not hard to build an argument for Bologna’s survival. Pioli’s Chievo boasted a very tight defence, and Bologna’s defence should improve if the manager can transfer his ideas to the Rossoblu’s ageing defenders. Di Vaio could do with a more reliable strike partner than Robert Acquafresca, but the Rossoblu definitely have the firepower to outscore the likes of Cesena and Lecce.

Lets hope that this club of great tradition can escape the relegation battle sooner rather than later.

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World War I, for whatever reason, produced a huge upturn in Bologna’s fortunes. The Rossoblu hadn’t even come close to winning an Italian Championship before Italy’s war involvement forced calcio’s suspension in 1916. When the league resumed in 1919, however, Bologna were instant contenders. They reached their first two (losing) finals in 1921 and 1924, and won their first championship in 1925.

World War II didn’t produce the same improvement. Bologna had finished seventh and sixth in the two season’s leading up to Serie A’s suspension in 1943 and never finished higher than fourth in the decade following the league’s 1946 revival.

1949-50 was particularly grim. Bologna struggled without the previous era’s now-retired stars and flirted with relegation all season. In the end they finished 15th, surviving by just three points. Things got even hairier in 1951-52, and the Rossoblu needed a last-day 4-2 over Como to avoid dropping into Serie B for the first time in history.

Things improved, and Bologna finished fourth in 1955. The following season saw the emergence of a man who’d soon become synonymous with Bologna FC, Ezio Pascutti. The talented winger scored 11 goals from 18 games to help the Rossoblu to a fifth-place finish in his debut season (1955-56). Pascutti is as well-known his fiery temperament as his ability and famously punched a USSR full-back during a 1963 international friendly. Still, 296 games and 130 goals in 15 seasons make this one-club man a Bologna legend.

Fulvio Bernardini: Bologna revolutionary.

Fulvio Bernardini, who’d previously coached Fiorentina to the 1955-56 Scudetto, joined Bologna in 1961 and oversaw a revolution. The Rossoblu had finished 10th in 1960-61, but Bernardini had a blueprint to bring Bologna back to Serie A’s forefront.

The likes of Pascutti, midfielders Romano Fogli & Giacomo Bulgarelli and brick-wall defenders Pardie Tumburus and Mirko Pavinato formed the basis of a solid Rossoblu squad. Bernardini added libero Francesco Janich, West German international Helmut Haller and Danish hitman Harald Nielsen to the squad, and his vision was complete a few years later.

Having finished fourth in both of the previous two seasons, Bologna approached the 1963-64 full of hope. An excellent start saw the Rossoblu go undefeated in their first six games, and they didn’t look back all season. Bologna lost just twice all season and claimed their first Serie A title since 1941 with the Dane, Nielsen, finishing as the league’s top scorer (21 goals).

Many of the Scudetto-winning side became Bologna heroes. Pavinato, Janich, Fogli and Tumburus all made 200+ Rossoblu appearances, while Haller and Nielsen scored 48 in 179 and 81 in 157 respectively. Bulgarelli’s 486 games make him Bologna’s all-time appearance leader.

Bologna’s seventh Scudetto was sadly their last to date. Bernardini left in 1965 and Bologna haven’t been able to replicate his league success since. They came close in 1966, finishing second to Helenio Herrera’s Grande Inter by just four points, and finished third the following season, slipping further downwards from thereon. It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, and the 1970’s saw Bologna win their only two Coppa Italias (in 1970 and ’74).

If the 1970’s were mediocre, the 1980’s were disastrous. Spending much of the season battling with Cagliari, Genoa and Milan, Bologna were relegated to Serie B in 1982 after a last-day defeat at Ascoli. Perhaps the only bright spot of this season was Roberto Mancini’s emergence: the current Manchester City boss scored 9 goals in 30 Rossoblu appearances, and was transferred to Sampdoria as the season’s end.

The decline continued in 1982-83. Bologna’s hopes of an immediate Serie A return proved far-fetched, and they struggled for consistency in an incredibly tight league. A remarkable eight points separate bottom (20th) from seventh on the season’s last day, and the Rossoblu’s 18th place finish saw them relegated for a second consecutive season.

Faced with a terrifying slide into oblivion, the Rossoblu had to rally or face extinction in 1983-84. Playing in Serie C1 for the first time in history, Bologna’s fortunes improved. It was a three-horse race for two promotion places with Bologna, Parma and Vicenza battling it out. In the end, Bologna were promoted as runners-up, finishing just a point ahead of Vicenza and a single goal worse-off than champions Parma.

Bologna became second-tier midtablers, finishing ninth, sixth and tenth in their first seasons back in Serie B. 1987-88 saw coach Gigi Maifredi arrive from Ospitaletto and another upturn in Bologna’s fortunes. Spearheaded by 21-goal man Lorenzo Marronaro, Maifredi’s Rossoblu were promoted as champions, and followed-up with safe 14th place Serie A finish in 1988-89.

Finishing eighth in 1990 saw Bologna qualify for the UEFA Cup for the first time, but Maifredi didn’t stay to guide them through Europe and left for Juventus during the 1990-91 season. Brimming with the previous season’s possessiveness, Bologna tifosi had no idea of the troubles that would follow.

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Bologna circa 1930.

The 1930’s mark the start of the most successful period of Bologna’s history. Bolstered by the arrival of three Uruguayans (Francis Fedullo, Raffaele Sansone and Michele Andreolo) the Rossoblu looked to start the new decade with a bang, but finished seventh in Serie A’s first year of competition (1929-30).

1930-31 opened with plenty of promise. Bologna smashed Triestina 6-1 in the first game of the season and beat Livorno 5-0 to take an early lead atop Serie A, but their performances slid as the season went on. They finished a credible third, just seven points behind winners Juventus and three from second-place Roma. 81 goals in 34 games made Bologna the league’s second-higher scorers (top-scorer Carlo Reguzzoni finished with 18), and they had the second-meanest defence in the league with just 33 conceded.

A good platform for Bologna to build on, and build on it they did. The Rossoblu pushed Juventus closer the following season (1931-32) and finished second, four points behind the Bianconeri and 10 ahead of third-place Roma. Angelo Schiavio was back to his best, and his 25 league goals helped Bologna to Mitropa Cup qualification.

The Mitropa Cup was one of Europe’s first international club competitions, and the 1932 edition comprised of Bologna, Juventus, Sparta Prague, Slavia Prague, Admira Vienna, First Vienna, Ferencvaros and Ujpest PC. Bologna beat Sparta 5-3 on aggregate in the first-round, before a 2-1 win over First Vienna secured a place in the final.

The final was not to be, however. Crowd trouble in the other semi-final between Slavia Prague and Juventus saw their second leg tie abandoned in the first-half. Rocks were thrown, one striking Slavia’s ‘keeper, and the players were trapped in their dressing rooms for hours after the game as a riot ensued. Both teams were thrown out of the competition, leaving Bologna without opposition for the final. Naturally, the Rossoblu were awarded the trophy.

Inauspicious European success aside, 1932-33 wasn’t a hugely successful season for Bologna and they slipped to third in Serie A. They finished fourth the following season but still qualified for the Mitropa Cup after the competition’s expansion. Bologna reached the final, and were given a chance to earn their victory this time. The Rossoblu lost 3-2 to Admira Vienna in the first leg, but a Reguzzoni hat-trick helped them storm to a 5-1 home victory that saw them clinch the trophy.

European success was becoming increasingly regular, but domestic gold continued to elude Bologna. They finished sixth in 1934-35 as Juventus hoovered-up another championship. The Rossoblu had established themselves as one of the best teams in Italy, but they hadn’t won a title since 1929.

That changed in 1935-36. Bologna sealed their third Italian championship after a highly-competitive Serie A season saw them win just 50% of their 30 games. Just ten points separated first from seventh, and Bologna snatched the title by a single point thanks to a 1-1 draw with Lazio on the season’s last day. Bologna scored just 39 goals all season (Schiavio was their top scorer with 10), but conceded just 21. Theirs was not a stunning victory, but one of grinta and team-work.

Bologna repeated the feat in 1936-37, winning Serie A by a more-convincing three points and qualifying for the European Cup for the second season running. 1937 also saw the Rossoblu become the first-ever Italian club to defeat an English club after a 4-1 exhibition victory over Chelsea. Led by Hungarian manager Arpad Weisz, Bologna had become known as “the squad that makes the world tremble.” They’d become the strongest team in Italy, but would have to wait another two years to add to their trophy collection.

1937-38 saw Bologna finish fifth in Serie A but just four points off the top spot. It looked like their dominance was coming to an end, but they returned with aplomb in 1938-39 to record their most convincing championship win yet. 53 goals in 30 games saw the Rossoblu to a fifth Italian title. They lost just four times all season, with Uruguayan hitman Hector Puricelli scoring an impressive 19 goals in his first season at the club.

1938 also marked the retirement of legendary marksman Schiavio, who’d been with Bologna since 1922. Schiavio mustered just six appearances in his final season but retired aged 33 with his legacy in-tact. 242 goals in 248 appearances make him the Rossoblu’s all-time leading scoring and a true club legend. His place in Bologna folklore isn’t just assured: it’s guaranteed.

A second-place 1939-40 finish preceded Bologna’s sixth championship in 1940-41. Reguzzoni and Puricelli starred as Bologna beat Inter and Milan to the Serie A title, but this season will always be remembered more for non-footballing reasons than Bologna’s sixth Scudetto.

Benito Mussolini had declared war on France and Great Britain weeks after the previous season’s end. Mussolini insisted football continued as a means of propaganda, but there was an understandable sense of unease throughout the campaign. Nonetheless, Bologna overcame Fiorentina’s early-season dominance to win the title by four points, with the Viola eventually falling to fourth.

The seasons that followed were fruitless for Bologna, as the Emilia club finished seventh and sixth in 1942 and 1943. Serie A was eventually suspended in 1943 as Italy’s involved in World War II intensified, and that’s where I’ll pick-up tomorrow.

I still can’t believe that Bologna were so dominant during this time period. As I said on Monday, I’d assumed they were no more successful than Palermo or Udinese, but it looks like I was hugely wrong. I knew a thing or two about the early successes of Pro Vercelli, Torino and Genoa before starting this blog, but I had no idea about Bologna.

I’m guessing that the decline starts sinking-in after the Second World War, but we’ll see. Maybe there are more tricks up Bologna’s sleeve yet…

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Bologna Football Club 1909 were founded on October 3rd, 1909, in a move orchestrated by Austrian Emilio Arnstein. Arnstein, who’d become interested in football while studying in Prague and Vienna, had already formed Black Star F.C. in his homeland.

Arnstein, the story goes, immigrated to Bologna in 1909. One of the first sights he came across was a group of young men playing rugby (students, mainly) who the locals referred to as “those fools who run behind a ball.” Arnstein met with the rugby players and converted them to football, thus beginning the legacy of Bologna F.C.

Interestingly, one of these men was Antonio Bernabeu, brother of future Real Madrid legend (and stadium namesake) Santiago. One of Bologna’s original board members, Antonio split his time between football and his legal career, but his staunch dedication to his original profession prevented his career from reaching the heights of his brother’s.

Louis Rauch: founding father.

The only club I know of to be founded in a brewery (!), Bologna formed with a continental board. Louis Rauch, a Swiss dentist, was elected the club’s first president and played for Bologna as a striker until 1911. He also coached Bologna from 1910-14, but that’s where his involvement in football ended. All I’ve really been able to find out about Rauch’s life post-1914 is that he died in a car accident in 1952, aged 72.

Guido Della Valle, an Italian nobleman, was the club’s first vice president and his son, Giuseppe, was a prolific striker during Bologna’s formative years. The younger Della Valle notched 104 goals in 208 games for the club between 1916 and 1931, and even represented his country on 17 occasions (scoring six goals). Arrigo Gradi (“Henry Degrees” in literal English) was the club’s first captain, but injuries restricted him to just 15 career appearances.

Bologna, like Genoa, are known as the Rossoblu (“Red-Blues”) because of their colours. These are the colours of Rauch’s Swiss colours, and Gradi, knowing this, turned-up to training one day wearing them. They were adopted as Bologna’s colours from that day forward, and the team still play in a variation of their original strip.

The Rossoblu played their first match on March 20th, 1910 and ran-out 9-1 winners against Virtus, a local side who played in white. They played another game that afternoon, thrashing Sempre Avanti 10-0. Gradi, Rauch, Bernabeu and Guido Della Valle were in the line-up for both games.

Competing in regional divisions for their first year of existence, Bologna’s first notable win came later in 1910, when they defeated reigning Italian champions Internazionale Milan 1-0. They were subsequently admitted into the Prima Categoria competition (Italian football’s highest tier) for the 1910-11 season, but failed to progress from a group with Verona, Venezia and Vicenza.

Bologna continued to fail to make the competition’s final stages until footballing activities were suspended for World War I in 1916. Football resumed in 1919, and the Rossoblu’s fortunes improved immediately. They reached the Italian Football Championship’s semi-finals in 1919-20 and went one better the following season, falling 2-1 to Pro Vercelli in the 1920-21 final.

They hadn’t yet won the championship, but Bologna’s star was very much on the rise. It was 1924-25 before they’d reach another final. They boasted an exciting attacking line-up of Giuseppe Della Valle, Angelo Schiavio and Bernardo Perin, but still went-in as underdogs to nine-time winners Genoa in the Northern region final.

This stage was not a single game but a five-game series. Genoa won the first tie 2-1, with Bologna reversing the scoreline a week later. The following two fixtures ended in draws, before Bologna notched a pivotal 2-0 victory in the deciding victory.

The Grand Final’s first leg took place in Bologna on August 16th, 1925. Bologna welcomed Alba Roma (now defunct) with a 4-0 thrashing in the opening leg, but fell 2-0 a week later in Rome. Regardless, a 4-2 aggregate victory had secured Bologna’s first-ever championship, with star forward Schiavio scoring 16 goals throughout the campaign.

Bologna reached the following season’s final stages but finished second to Juventus. 1927-28 wasn’t quite as fruitful and the Rossoblu finished fifth in the final division, but they reached the grand final again in 1928-29. Bologna had their revenge on Juventus, beating the Turin side over three games to secure their second championship. Schiavio was the star of the show once again, scoring 30 goals in just 26 games.

Serie A was founded for the start of the following season, and Bologna were of course admitted into Italy’s new top tier. Surprisingly, Bologna struggled and finished seventh out of 18, with injuries restricting star-man Schiavio to 15 appearances. Thus began the 1930’s, and Bologna’s best years.

Tomorrow: a rundown of the thirties and a golden era of football in Bologna.

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Bologna: the Game-Changer

This week I’ll be researching and writing about Bologna, who up until about 24 hours ago I was convinced had been a mid-tier Serie A side since the dawn of time. Apparently not: it seems Bologna have won the Italian championship not just once, but seven times.

Seven times! That’s four more than Roma and five more than Lazio, Fiorentina and Napoli. It turns out that Bologna, like Genoa, were a dominant force back in the day, but I’m still blown away by this revelation.

This week’s format is going to be a bit different. Instead of just throwing a quick history report together on the first day of writing, I think I’m going to use most of the week to explore Bologna’s heritage. They clearly have a lot of amazing stories that I know nothing about, and it’d only be right to dive into the most significant years of the club’s activity. My shock at Bologna’s glittering past only compounds the size of the task ahead of me!

Tomorrow: Bologna’s formative years.

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Cristiano Doni’s implication in the Calcioscommesse scandal has shattered his reputation and effectively ended his 20-year playing career, but he remains an Atalanta legend. Nerazzurri staff, players and fans have been vociferously supportive of their club and captain since the guilty verdicts were announced in August. The denial, protestations and fight to prove their innocence will continue, and Doni will remain a hero regardless of the outcome.

The ordeal has only strengthened the Nerazzurri’s resolve, and they’ve never been more supportive of Doni than they are today. Such is the nature of Bergamo’s sons and daughters. They are a proud, defiant people, and Doni is very much one of their own. Named an honorary Bergamo citizen in 2008, Doni and Atalanta have been great for each other. It’ll take more than a betting scam to break their bond.

Born in Rome on April 1st, 1973, Doni began his footballing education with Modena in 1988 but didn’t make his professional debut until a 1992-93 loan spell with Serie C2’s Rimini. Doni notched 6 goals in 31 appearances for the Romagna side, before moving up a division with Pistoiese the following season.

Modena decided against retaining Doni’s services despite the productivity of his loan spells, and the gifted midfielder moved to Bologna in 1994. Two promotions in two years saw Doni’s star rise with Bologna’s, but he was discarded before he could make his top tier debut. Doni didn’t have to wait long, however, as his new club Brescia were promoted as Serie B champions in 1997.

Cristiano’s Bergamese odyssey began in 1998 when he arrived at newly relegated Atalanta. Finishing with 8 goals in 27 games, Doni’s on-field influence continued to grow but his new side were unable to secure promotion and finished sixth in Serie B. The following season, 1999-00, was more productive for Doni and La Dea. Playing as a left-winger for the first time in his career, Doni scored an impressive 14 goals in 35 games, and a fourth-place finish was enough to secure Atalanta’s Serie A return.

The Nerazzurri impressed in Serie A and finished 7th, but 2000-01was a dark season for Cristiano Doni. He and his team-mates were accused of rigging a cup tie were accused of rigging a Coppa Italia tie with Pistoiese. Everyone involved was eventually acquitted, but Doni’s involvement has only compounded suspicion of his Calcioscommesse involvement.

Doni returned with aplomb in 2001-02 to record his most successful season yet. 16 goals in 30 Serie A appearances saw the playmaker earn a call-up to Giovanni Trappatoni’s Azzurri. Scoring on his debut (a friendly with Japan), Doni’s good domestic form earned him a place in Italy’s Euro 2002 squad. Doni made seven international appearances overall, scoring once.

A playoff loss to Reggina in 2003 saw Atalanta relegated, and Doni, too talented for Serie B, soon departed. He moved to Sampdoria that summer but became increasingly injury prone and rarely produced his best form. Two fruitless seasons in Genoa ended with a switch to R.C.D. Mallorca in 2005 but Doni continued to struggle, scoring just twice in 24 games.

Aged 32, it looked like Doni’s career was winding down. A spate of injuries and erratic performances meant Doni wasn’t exactly a hot commodity upon leaving Mallorca, but La Dea swooped to save him from the scrapheap. Doni returned to Atalanta in 2006, famously comparing his Nerazzurri jersey to Clark Kent’s Superman costume.

If Doni became a fan favourite during his first Atalanta spell, he became a legend during his second. Doni missed 10 games through injury in 2006-07 but still captained the side to an eighth-place finish, scoring 13 goals along the way. La Dea achieved another strong finish in 2007-08 (9th) as Doni’s rejuvenation continued. The following season he notched nine goals (including four against champion Internazionale), having already become Atalanta’s all-time top Serie A goalscorer in 2008.

Atalanta went into decline the following season. Doni mustered just 2 goals as La Dea slipped into the relegation zone and struggled for consistency all season long. A finish of 18th eventually saw Atalanta relegated, but Doni, 37, had become a Bergamese institution. Doni announced that he wanted to see-out the rest of his career with La Dea, and stuck around for his first Serie B season since 1999-00.

Captain Doni made an immediate impact, scoring five times in the season’s opening three months. His peak years were long gone, but Doni was reborn in the second-tier, providing a touch of class rarely seen outwith Serie A and finishing with 12 league goals, his highest tally in three seasons. Atalanta finished as champions and returned to Serie A, but without their captain. Doni was hit with a 3½-year band for his involvement in Calcioscommesse, and his playing days are probably numbered.

Doni was an advanced playmaker who typically operating between midfield and attack. His vision, touch and passing accuracy were superb: his game was based on technicality, not physicality, which explains why he was still playing at 38. Last season he played at the tip of Atalanta’s midfield diamond and showed that his ability to cut defences open with a single pass hadn’t diminished. His ageing body mightn’t have been able to cope with Serie A’s demands this season, but it would’ve been nice to see him try.

If this is the end of Doni’s career, he’s left plenty to be proud of. He’s seen Atalanta through two promotions and some of their best ever Serie A finishes. 112 goals in 323 appearances make him the club’s all-time leading goalscorer (by a margin of 50) and Atalanta’s fourth all-time appearance maker. His reputation outside Bergamo is now tainted, but Nerazzurri fans will always revere him.

In July, over 4,000 fans took to the Bergamo to protest their club’s innocence. That their club are guilty is incomprehensible to them, and that Doni could’ve played an active role in Atalanta’s demise is unspeakable. In their eyes, Atalanta will always be innocent, and Doni will always be a legend.

Sources:-

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