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  08/01/2015: LazioLand Legends: Giuseppe Favalli
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Giuseppe Favalli deserves a place in any Lazio Hall Of Fame as the holder of the record for the most total appearances in the Biancoceleste colours. If there had not been any competent rivals for his position over the years then surely he would also have gone on to break the Serie A appearance record. Over a twelve year period, this reliable left-back played in a huge total of four hundred and one matches for the First Team of Rome, winning many trophies along the way as the Cragnotti era heralded the most successful spell in the club's history.

Yesterday, the 8th of January, was actually Giuseppe's birthday. He was born in 1972 in Orzinuovi, a small town near Brescia in Lombardy. His early days as a footballer were spent in the youth teams of Cremonese, a Serie B club from the local town of Cremona, and he made his debut in 1988 at the tender age of sixteen. Cremonese achieved promotion at the end of that season, and although Giuseppe had only played twice, he was trusted with a regular spot in the first team for the Serie A campaign. It was a difficult time for the little team and they could not retain their place in the top flight but crucially some of their younger players, including Giuseppe, had received an invaluable insight into the highest level in Italian football. Relegation did not prove to be a long set back for the Grigiorossi who used their experience to gain an immediate return back to Serie A. Although ultimately they would again fail to stay up, the step up in quality was no problem for young Giuseppe and his assured performances attracted acclaim and interest from other clubs.

In 1992 Lazio were entering a new phase after the investment of Sergio Cragnotti. One of the first signings of the new regime was to be Favalli, for a fee of what would now equate to just over 2.5 million Euros. It was a time of rapid change for Lazio as older players from the pre-Cragnotti era were gradually phased out and replaced by Italian youngsters, such as Giuseppe himself, and expensive foreign imports of the highest quality. Under the tactically astute management of Dino Zoff the team finished fifth and then fourth with Favalli a regular in the side as the squad began to take shape into a side capable of great things.

Flush with money and with huge ambition, fourth place was not good enough for the owner and it was time for the excitement and kamikaze football of the wily Czech coach Zdenêk Zeman. Favalli continued as the regular left-back and the abundance of goals in such an attacking side led to second and third placed finishes. However, the success that was demanded continued to elude the ever more expensive team.

The arrival of Sven-Göran Eriksson ushered in a change not only for Lazio, but for Giuseppe himself. A new rival for his position was signed, another Giuseppe. Pancaro was an adventurous full-back from Cagliari, who had just been relegated, and Eriksson wanted two top class players in every position. Over the next few years it would be a case of rotation between the two, the more attacking verve of Pancaro was often used against lesser teams but the diligence and solidity of Favalli gave the team extra steel when needed. A run to the final of the UEFA Cup gave him nine appearances in Europe as the regular starter, although the campaign ultimately ended in failure. Some success under Eriksson was instant as the Coppa Italia became the first trophy of the Cragnotti era, and the first silverware for Giuseppe. With three competitions to play for, there was always game time for both of the left-backs and the following season the whole squad was utilised to achieve continental glory in the Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup.

1999-2000 is the season that all Laziali know and remember with the most fondness. It started well for Favalli as he held the left-back position for much of the first half of the season. Some niggling injuries stalled his game time and by the time the Scudetto was secured, Pancaro was the regular starter. For such a long serving player, there was no animosity and the fact that Lazio could alternate between two such quality players in most positions was key to fighting on all fronts. The trophy cabinet was filling up for Favalli after season by season progress since his debut in 1992.

The excesses of the late 90's and early 00's could not continue and Lazio quickly fell into financial trouble after the overspending of Cragnotti. Big players were now on the market and sold for huge fees to try and balance the books. One of the most important to leave was beloved captain Alessandro Nesta. It left a hole in the team in more ways than one and a new leader was required for a club in transition but going in the wrong direction this time. The new boss Roberto Mancini had been part of the Scudetto winning side and although he had signed another two potential rivals to Favalli, Juan Pablo Sorín and César Aparecido, it was the long serving and loyal Italian who was his choice to lead Lazio. Favalli had taken the role at times in the past when Nesta had been injured and had the strong leadership qualities associated with his long servitude. Sorín ended up failing miserably and César was far too attacking to be used as a defender so the older man held onto his spot as left-back, although rotation remained his enemy at times.

2004 saw the final success for Giuseppe when a revitalised Lazio outclassed Juventus over two legs to win the Coppa Italia for a third time during his career in Biancoceleste. Lifting the trophy was to be his last act as captain and brought down the curtain on twelve years of glory. Lazio were changing ownership and, as his contract ran down, Favalli needed a new challenge. A free transfer to Internazionale showed the high regard in which he was held by Mancini, who had just moved to Milan to try and revive the glory days for the long suffering Nerazzurri. More trophies followed in his two years with Inter but as an older player, his position was never guaranteed and his contract was not extended. As so many players seem to have done over the years, Favalli crossed the divide in Milan to join rivals AC where he achieved further success, even being part of the Champions League winning squad. Game time was at a premium now as he was seen as an experienced reserve for when the more expensive starters were injured or suspended. A move to centre back partly negated his dwindling pace but it was clear that time was running out on his long career and, aged 38, he retired.

Throughout his career, international recognition never seemed to come easily for Giuseppe. After appearing for the Under 18's and Under 21's, he made his debut for the senior Azzurri in 1994 against Estonia. With a plethora of full-back options available to Italy managers, including the irrepressible Paolo Maldini, it took until 1998 before Giuseppe was selected again for a friendly against Spain. Although he was entering the most successful period at Lazio, no further caps arrived until Giovanni Trapattoni perhaps surprisingly began utilising him in qualification for Euro 2004, where he would go on to make his sole tournament appearance.

Looking back on nearly three hundred Serie A matches, just under sixty in European competitions and almost fifty in the Coppa Italia must give Giuseppe Favalli many memories to treasure. He gave many years of service to Lazio and was part of lots of happy memories that Laziali will remember for ever.

Happy birthday for yesterday Giuseppe, forever a Lazio legend.
Author: Ed Gill
 
 
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