Paolo Di Canio

Full name: Paolo Di Canio
Date of birth: 09/07/1968

Has there been a more controversial figure in the world of football? Whether you love him or hate him, Paolo Di Canio was one of the most exciting, magical and passionate footballers ever to grace the English Premier League.

Di Canio’s incredible skill and desire to impress will never be forgotten and he has been worshipped by the supporters of his many clubs. However, despite Di Canio’s undisputed and breath-taking talent, controversial incidents have dominated a career that never hit the heights a player of such quality should have reached.

The 39-year-old Italian is now exerting his own power as player-coach of Serie C2 side Cisco Roma and has the job of controlling his volatile temperament – something he rarely managed as a player.


Lazio fan

Born July 9, 1968 in Rome, Di Canio grew up in the working class district of Quarticciolo. As a boy, Di Canio was a hardcore Lazio fan and a member of the notorious Irriducibili – a gang that gives Italian ultras a bad name. In 1985 he signed for his beloved Lazio at the age of 16.

He was with Lazio for five years when they surprisingly decided to sell him to Juventus in 1990. After winning the UEFA Cup with Juventus in 1993, Di Canio fell out with manager Giovanni Trapattoni and was sent on loan to Napoli for the 1993/4 season.

He flourished in Naples with his his manager Marcelo Lippi calling him the best player in Serie A. Sadly, his following two seasons proved to be more difficult, joining AC Milan and competing for a place with Ruud Gullit. After another fall-out with his manager, this time Fabio Capello, Di Canio joined Celtic in 1996.


Di Canio’s flair comes to England

After a successful season in Scotland, scoring 15 goals in 37 appearances, Di Canio moved to the English Premiership, joining Sheffield Wednesday in 1997. In his first season in English football, Di Canio was the club’s top scorer with 14 goals.

Never one to stay still though, Di Canio joined West Ham United in January 1999 and helped the club qualify for the UEFA Cup during his time there, as well as becoming a hero with their fans and scoring 48 goals in 118 matches.

Again his off-the-field antics forced a change, as a public spat with manager Glenn Roeder in 2003, saw Di Canio move to Charlton Athletic. Despite signing an extension to his Charlton contract, in August 2004 Di Canio couldn’t turn down a move to Lazio – a club he has always had immense loyalty towards.

After seven years in the Premiership, Di Canio took a 75 per cent pay cut and abandoned Charlton to return to Lazio, who were delighted to have a Roman Lazio supporter playing for their team again.


Loyal to Lazio

But this dream return wasn’t the happy ending Di Canio envisaged. Di Canio’s historical links with the clubs ultras and their increased influence due to his presence in the team led to negative publicity for the club. This, as well as problems with team mates and coaches, led to club president Claudio Lotito releasing Di Canio in the summer of 2006.

He joined Cisco Roma on a free transfer, a side in C2, the fourth tier of Italian football, with the financial capacity to overachieve drastically in their domestic league. Di Canio is expected to be managing the side this summer.


The worst of Paolo

Di Canio’s tendencies to defy authority and speak his mind have lead to fall outs with management at nearly every club he has played at. His high profile fall-outs with managers including Ron Atkinson, Glenn Roeder, Fabio Capello and Marcelo Lippi have caused Di Canio to move around a number of different clubs due to his unpredictable personality and temperament.

In 1998, while playing for Sheffield Wednesday, Di Canio became famous for pushing referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent off against Arsenal at Hillsborough. Di Canio was banned for 11 matches and fined £10,000.

Throughout his career, Di Canio has battled with an inability to accept authority, and this is one of the reasons that, despite being one of the great talents of his generation, Di Canio was never chosen to play for Italy.

Worse was still to come. In the January 2005 Rome derby, Di Canio scored a stunning goal and greeted the Lazio fans with a salute that would brand him a fascist in the 3-1 win over local rivals Roma.

His right arm appeared to be raised in the straight arm Roman salute that would have been recognised by former fascist leader of Italy, Benito Mussolini, and the minority of supporters who have given Lazio a bad name over the years. He insists this was not a political statement, but the incident typifies Paolo Di Canio.

One moment of sublime football brilliance, overshadowed by letting his passion and manic devotion put him in the headlines for the wrong reasons. His defence was hardly helped by having DVX tattooed on his arm, the Latin appellative used for Benito Mussolini.


The best of Paolo

Portsmouth manager Harry Redknapp said Di Canio, ‘does things with the ball that make you gasp. Other footballs would pay to watch him train.’ Di Canio is an entertainer. When he is focused and in form, few can rival his invention, skill and technique.

In the 1999 season, Di Canio scored what many consider to be the Premiership’s greatest ever goal and what was the BBC goal of the season: a sublime volley against Wimbledon in the 1999/2000 season. In the same year he was voted Hammer of the Year by the club’s fans. Check out this YouTube.

The unpredictable Di Canio was awarded the 2001 FIFA Fair Play Award. When seeing the Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard badly injured, he caught a cross and stopped play rather than sliding the ball into an unguarded goal.


Honours

  • UEFA Cup – Finalist (1993)
  • Serie A – Winner (1996)


Clubs

  • 1985/90 – Lazio
  • 1986/87 – Ternana (Loan)
  • 1990/93 – Juventus
  • 1993/94 – Napoli
  • 1994/96 – AC Milan
  • 1996/97 – Celtic
  • 1997/99 – Sheffield Wednesday
  • 1999/03 – West Ham United
  • 2003/04 – Charlton Athletic
  • 2004/06 – Lazio
  • 2006 to Present – Cisco Roma


Individual Honours

  • FIFA Fair Play Award: 2001
  • Scorer of BBC Goal of the Season: 2000
  • Hammer of the Year: 2000


Player Statistics

Senior Club and National Team Statistics
Period Team Appearances (Goals)
1985-1990 Lazio 54 (4)
1986-1987 Ternana (on loan) 27 (2)
1990-1993 Juventus 58 (6)
1993-1994 Napoli 28 (5)
1994-1996 A.C. Milan 37 (6)
1996-1997 Celtic 37 (15)
1997-1999 Sheffield Wednesday 41 (23)
1999-2003 West Ham United 118 (48)
2003-2004 Charlton Athletic 31 (4)
2004-2006 Lazio 50 (11)
2006-2008 Cisco Roma 46 (14)