Paolo Di Canio


Flamboyant, passionate, gifted and controversial, Italian footballer Paolo Di Canio's life has been as much soap opera as sporting drama.

As a player, Di Canio was a talented forward with a maverick streak. That individualism was almost certainly formed early in life. As a child, he was nicknamed 'Pallocca', or 'lard ball'. But exercise and a determination not to be cowed by his problems produced a remarkable turnaround and Di Canio signed for Lazio.

Spells at Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan followed – often culminating in rows with his managers – before he tried his luck in Britain, most notably at Celtic, Sheffield Wednesday and West Ham.

But controversy and Di Canio were old friends and they were soon reunited when, as a Wednesday player, he pushed over referee Paul Alcock. He received an 11-match ban for his troubles and further criticism when he talked about his attraction to fascism.

Ever the maverick, Di Canio then set about delighting fans. First up, he scored a spectacular volley for the Hammers in 1999 that was declared the Premiership goal of the decade. And two years later he won a FIFA Fair Play Award for refusing to play on with the goal at his mercy when Everton keeper Paul Gerrard lay injured.

As a manager, Di Canio continued in his divisive ways, gaining promotion for Swindon while often publicly deriding his players. A spell at Sunderland secured the Black Cats their Premiership survival but further dressing room unrest led to his dismissal just five games into the new season.

Whatever the future holds for Di Canio, it's unlikely to be dull.

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Paolo Di Canio