The memories of football fans, laced as they often are with a solid lack of sentimentality (at least we pretend they are), often leave little room for reminiscing about big money players who should have made it big, but didn’t.
Believe me, I’m far from alone in this regard. Indeed, I’ve got the “him? ach, he was rubbish” sneer down to a fine art, whenever someone asks me about a player who falls into the “shoulda made it” bracket.
Mention the name Gianluigi Lentini, however, and we have what is often referred to as a game changer. When we talk about having memory techniques down to a fine art, I am the king, the prince, the world heavyweight champion and the seven time Tour de France winner of wasting an evening on Youtube, with a glass (bottle) of Nero d’Avola, wistfully searching for, and repeatedly watching any clip, goal or interview I can find of The One who should have been The One.
The initial signs showed much promise, after he secured a £13million pound move to Serie A giants Milan, after being nurtured reasonably carefully at Torino, his first spell at the Turin club also including a loan spell at Ancona.
His first season at Milan would end with an emotional mix of triumph and despair, Milan winning the 1992/93 Serie A title at a canter, but subsequently going on to lose the 1993 Champions League Final in Munich’s Olympiastadion to Bernard Tapie’s Marseille.
The build up to 1993/94 season would see Lentini’s world quite literally turned upside down, after he somehow managed to flip his Porsche 911 when it left the road in the town of Villafranca d’Asti, leaving him in a coma for a few days, and facing an uncertain future, not only in football, but in life itself.
The Italian press, seemingly more concerned with Lentini’s transfer fee than his personal wellbeing, were quick to insist he would be back, sooner rather than later, and the tabloids predictably picked over the bones, claiming Lentini was having an affair with the wife of Italy’s 1990 World Cup hero Salvatore ‘Toto’ Schillaci, pouring a rather large handful of dirt on what was an unpleasant affair for a young man who was lucky to be alive.,
The enforced absence as a result of his injuries meant Lentini only notched up 60 appearances in the Rossoneri shirt between 1992 and 1996. He subsequently found enough fitness and fortitude to spend the 1996/97 season at Atalanta, before an emotional return to his spiritual home of Torino, where he spent another 4 years before drifting slowly down the Italian football pyramid at Cosenza, Canelli, Saviglianese and Nicese, before finally ending up at his hometown club Carmagnola.
In the physical sense, Gianluigi Lentini had come home. It’s just a shame that the scrapbook he compiled on his illustrious travels wasn’t filled with quite a few more memories. Grazie Gigi, you’re not forgotten.