Enrico AlbertosiItaly



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Born: Thursday 2 November 1939, Pontremoli, Italy
Position: Goalkeeper


An agile and acrobatic goalkeeper, Enrico Albertosi enjoyed a Serie A career which lasted more than 20 years and brought major trophies with three different teams. He also had a long international career which took in some of Italy's biggest successes and disappointments of the era. The later years of his career were marred when he was caught up in a match fixing scandal which resulted in a ban from football.


Born in Pontremoli on 2 November 1939, Albertosi grew up learning about goalkeeping from his father, who was an amateur player with local side Pontremolese. The young Enrico, commonly known as Ricky, joined the club himself as a teenager and by the age of 15 was playing in the first team. He soon got the chance to join fourth tier club Spezia, moving against the wishes of his father who wanted him to concentrate on academic studies.


Albertosi remained with Spezia until 1958, making half a dozen appearances in the club's 1957-58 promotion season, before being signed by Fiorentina as a back-up goalkeeper. For the first five years of his time in Florence, his first team opportunities were limited by the presence of long-standing first choice 'keeper Giuliano Sarti. He played most frequently in evening matches, with Sarti disliking the poor lighting used at the time.


It was Albertosi who played in goal when Fiorentina beat Rangers home and away in the final of the 1961 European Cup Winners' Cup, as well as in the Coppa Italia final against Lazio where he kept a clean sheet in a 2-0 win. His performances earned him a first international cap in the 4-1 friendly win over Argentina in Florence just four days after the Coppa Italia final, but without regular club football he had to wait several years to play for Italy again. He was selected for the Italian World Cup squad in 1962, but did not appear in the finals in Chile.


In 1963, Sarti was sold to Internazionale and Albertosi became Fiorentina's number one. He soon became known as one of the finest goalkeepers in Italy, renowned for his fast reflexes and tendendency to make spectacular-looking saves. Throughtout his time with Fiorentina, the club were regulars in the top five of Serie A but were always just short of a title challenge. Albertosi did however win his second international cap in the spring of 1965 and quickly made the position his own in the run-up to the 1966 World Cup finals in England.


He went into that tournament on the back of another Coppa Italia success with Fiorentina, edging out Catanzaro after extra-time, but once in England things turned sour. Italy won their first game 2-0 against Chile, but were beaten by the only goal of a tight second match against the Soviet Union. They still expected to progress, as a win over outsiders North Korea would have sealed a quarter-final place, but a sensational 1-0 defeat knocked them out and led to a huge overhaul of the national team.


Albertosi did not appear for Italy again for a year, and when he did he found himself sharing the goalkeeping duties with Dino Zoff. He played a number of the qualifying matches in the 1968 European Championship, including the first leg of the quarter-final against Bulgaria, but when Italy hosted the four-team final stage it was Zoff who was chosen. Albertosi had to watch on from the sidelines as Italy beat Yugoslavia in a replayed final to take the title.


Later that summer, the opportunity of a transfer to Internazionale arose and Albertosi was keen to make the move, but Fiorentina instead decided to sell him to Cagliari against his wishes. His unhappiness at the move was unlikely to have been helped as with without him, Fiorentina won the Serie A title in 1969 but a year later Albertosi did finally win the first championship of his career.


In 1970 he helped Cagliari to clinch their first ever title with two matches to spare, finishing four points ahead the Inter side he had wanted to join in 1968. Albertosi was ever present and conceded just 11 goals in 30 league games, setting a new Serie A record for a season of that length. His impressive performances meant that by the time of the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, he had once again taken over from Zoff as first choice in goal.


At the World Cup, Italy scored just one goal in their three group games against Sweden, Uruguay and Israel but remarkably still managed to top the group, with Albertosi keeping three consecutive clean sheets. He was finally beaten early in the quarter-final against Mexico, but Italy hit back to win 4-1 and set up a semi-final meeting with West Germany, a game that proved to be one of the most famous of Albertosi's career.


Italy led 1-0 for most of the match and Albertosi made a series of spectacular saves, which seemed to be enough to seal a place in the final. In the last minute West Germany equalised, setting up an astonishing period of extra-time which brought five goals, but Italy still ultimately came out on top 4-3. In the final they were outclassed by a wonderful Brazilian team, losing 4-1 in what proved to be Albertosi's final match in a major tournament.


Although he made several appearances in qualifying for the 1972 European Championship and remained in the squad right through to the 1974 World Cup, it was Zoff who took the number one shirt permanently. At club level, Cagliari had been unable to build on their 1970 championship success and after four more seasons in which he barely missed a match but won no further honours, Albertosi moved on to AC Milan in 1974.


Although he was already almost 35 and every year faced speculation that it would be his final season, Albertosi did not miss a league game in his first five years with Milan. He had joined Milan in a relatively poor period in the club's history, but did help them to reach the Coppa Italia final in 1975, losing to his old club Fiorentina. Two years later Milan went one better, overcoming a disappointing 10th place in the league to beat city rivals Inter in the cup final.


Now approaching 40, Albertosi's finest season with Milan came in 1978-79. The club managed to win the Serie A title for the first time in eleven years, despite nearest rivals Perugia remaining unbeaten all season. Despite that success, his top flight career came to a shuddering halt in March 1980 when he was implicated in a match fixing scandal which rocked Italian football. Albertosi denied involvement but he was banned from football for four years, a decision which given his age seemed to have ended his career.


In 1982, the bans which had been handed out as a result of the scandal were cut short to allow some of the players involved to appear in that year's World Cup, which Italy won. Although that was not relevant to Albertosi, it did allow his to resume his playing career at the age of 43, spending two years in Serie C2 with Elpidiense before a knee injury finally ended his career in 1984. In retirement he has worked as a goalkeeping coach as well as in the media as a journalist and a television pundit.


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