expression on Marco Tardellis face, just after scoring
Italys second goal in the 3-1 World Cup final triumph
over West Germany in 1982, is one of the competitions
most enduring images - like 17-year-old Pele crying after
winning the trophy in 1958, or the Cruyff turn in 1974. It
illustrates the ecstasy, the unmatchable joy of scoring in
the biggest football match of all.
Seconds after seeing his ferocious 20-yard drive beat Harold
Schumacher, Tardelli picked himself off the floor, began shaking
his head and waving his fists before bursting into tears as
he rushed to embrace his compatriots on the substitutes
bench. It was fitting that the hard-tackling Juventus midfielder
should score in the final. He was Italys man of the
match that balmy July night in Madrid.
His goal against the Germans - one of six he scored for the
Azzurri - rounded off a marvellous tournament for Tardelli
who emerged as one of the stars of Espana82. There,
on the hard, sun-soaked pitches of Spain, he demonstrated
the qualities that would earn him 81 appearances for Italy
and make him a lynchpin of the Juventus midfield for a decade.
Born in Capanne di Careggine, near the Tuscan town of Lucca,
Tardelli began his career in 1972, as a full-back with Serie
C club Pisa before moving to Como in Serie B two years later.
After just one year in Lombardy, Juventus took him to Turin
and during his time with the Bianconeri he won all three European
trophies - the UEFA Cup in 1977, the Cup-Winners Cup
in 1984 and the European Cup in 1985. As well as those triumphs
in Europe he won five League titles and two Italian Cups -
all with Juve.
Many believe Italy has never properly replaced Tardelli,
whose last appearance for the Azzurri came in September 1985,
in a 2-1 home defeat against Norway. It was a sad way to end
his international career. He was a complete midfield player,
Italys answer to Johannes Neeskens, the midfielder who
epitomised Hollands Total Football during
Tardelli - at his peak one of the hardest men in European
football - was a midfield workhouse renowned for his ferocious
tackling. His commitment could not be questioned and he boasted
a competitive streak second to none. But the man from Lucca
frequently lent himself to the attack and had an uncanny knack
of steaming into the opponents penalty area from midfield
to score, as England found to their cost in a European Championship
match in 1980 which Italy won 1-0.
Another important Tardelli strike came three years earlier
in the UEFA Cup final of 1977 where Juve met Athletico Bilbao.
It ended 2-2 with Juve winning on away goals, Tardelli scoring
the first-leg winner in Turin. His sudden bursts forward earned
him the nickname Schizzo - which means spurt.
He was also a tremendously versatile player and Juventus Coach
Giovanni Trapattoni, who converted him to a midfielder, used
him in various positions.
Tardellis rise was nothing short of meteoric. One year
after leaving Pisa in the Third Division he was playing for
the reigning champions of Italy and in his very first season
with the Bianconeri he made the national team. Azzurri Coach
Enzo Bearzot, rebuilding after the disaster of the 1974 World
Cup in West Germany, was looking for new blood and was impressed
by the 21-year-olds displays in the Stadio Comunale.
So on April 7, 1976 Tardelli played in the friendly against
Portugal, fittingly in Turin. The Azzurri won 3-1 and since
that day Schizzo became one of Bearzots
figli prediletti - favourite sons. He travelled to Argentina
for the 1978 World Cup and played in six of Italys seven
matches as the inexperienced Azzurri defied the pessimists
to finish fourth.
The midfield hard-man, with his cold, brown eyes and wiry
frame, was one of Italys best performers and in the
first match, against France in Mar del Plata, he marked French
midfield maestro Michel Platini out of the game. After the
promise shown in South America, Tardelli and his teammates
were expected to win the European Championships of 1980 which
were staged in Italy. Tardelli was one of the few Italian
players to perform as they finished a disappointing fourth.
But it was in Spain where Tardelli confirmed his greatness.
Italys emergence in the second round coincided with
his growing influence. In the 2-1 victory over Argentina in
Barcelona, the game that really launched the Azzurris
challenge for the trophy, Tardelli scored Italys brilliant
second goal. Breaking through the middle of the pitch, he
overlapped Paolo Rossi who slipped him the ball. Tardelli
then beat Fillol with a low, hard shot with his right foot
from the edge of the area.
Along with Franco Baresi and Giuseppe Bergomi, who also played
81 times for the Azzurri, Tardelli is the fourth most-capped
Italian player of all time. Only Paolo Maldini, Dino Zoff
and Giacinto Facchetti have played more games. After 10 years
at Juventus and after the tragic Heysel Stadium disaster where
39 people lost their lives, he joined Inter in 1985.
Approaching his 31st birthday Schizzo was past
his best. In his two years at the San Siro he notched up 43
appearances but could not help the Nerazzurri win a trophy.
He ended his playing career in Switzerland, with San Gallo,
where he spent one season. In 1988 he finally hung up his
boots before turning his hand to management.
He took his coaching badge at Coverciano in 1988-89 and was
appointed assistant to Italian Under-21 Coach Cesare Maldini.
He had an indifferent time at club level with Cesena and Como
and returned to the Under-21 set-up with Maldini. In 1998
he was appointed Coach of the Azzurrini and masterminded the
2000 European Championship triumph. It came as no surprise
to see Tardelli mentioned as a likely successor to Dino Zoff
when he quit as Coach of the Azzurri after Euro 2000. But
his time should come when Giovanni Trapattoni eventually retires
at the end of the current World Cup campaign.
Weve met Marco Tardelli the player, weve met
Tardelli the Coach. Now Bettina Sabatini meets Tardelli the
The Marco of a champion
Its murder trying to negotiate the one-way system that
circumnavigates Lake Como. The 35 degrees outside only makes
matters worse, although it doesnt seem to bother the
lad on the Vespa who whizzes up alongside me at the traffic
lights. "To get to the Circolo make a sharp left at the
level crossing or youll end up having to go round the
Lake again," he shouts, revving the engine on his moped
while I beg for directions. I am grateful to have been spared
a third lap and the lights change before I can tell him that
I have been round once already.
The Circolo Canottieri Lario is a very picturesque and extremely
exclusive boat club, attracting mainly very middle-aged, bordering
on elderly, businessmen. Marco Tardelli is neither. At 46,
there is no hint of grey in his brown, cropped hair and his
naughty expression and podgy, freshly shaven cheeks, make
him look like an overgrown schoolboy.
"How are you?" I ask, presumptuous enough to think
he remembers me from a few years back. "My life is wonderful,"
is his emphatic reply. "Who could be happier than me?
I havent played for years but I lead almost exactly
the same life I led as a footballer. I train with the boys,
I relax with the boys, I travel with them, I even eat with
"How do I look?" he asks, turning to me for reassurance
with both hands on his belly, gently caressing the rotund
protrusion on which he proceeds to rest his folded arms. He
doesnt remember me, I think to myself, as I try not
to laugh too heartily. "You look great, especially without
the beard, although, a few extra miles on your bike wouldnt
do you any harm," I reply cheekily, remembering not only
that he loves cycling but that diplomacy is, in fact, an art.
I am not sure whether my answer satisfies him or whether his
typically Tuscan, couldnt-care-less attitude prevents
him from taking offence. What becomes blatantly obvious, however,
is that a man like Tardelli does not belong in a place like
"Im honorary vice-president," he says shrugging
his shoulders. "No one bothers me here." Then with
a frown he adopts the exhausted, lordotic stance of a mother-to-be
towards the end of pregnancy and continues: "Anyway,
Ive got back problems so I cant overdo it. Im
being treated for it but its just taking ages,"
"How about Luca Carretta?" I suggest. "Wasnt
he the team osteopath in France last year? Hes the best.
He certainly put me right."
"Barcelona! Thats it, we met in Barcelona didnt
we?" he exclaims. YES, he remembers, I think to myself
happily. "But what were you doing in Barcelona?"
he asks, looking more puzzled than I consider necessary. "I
ran in the marathon," I reply humbled once again.
"Of course. I do love athletics," is his enthusiastic
reply. "You know, as a youngster I played football as
well as running the 800m. I carried on both sports for years
and I really did dream of becoming a middle-distance runner.
One year I took part in the Giochi della Gioventu, a national
youth competition where I made it to the final. It was to
be held on the same day as a football final I was also supposed
to play in, the Torneo Berretti, a really important Under-19s
tournament. My club, Como, were furious because I decided
to run. I eventually had to choose between the two sports
though and here I am."
Now, Im not often one to be left speechless but Tardellis
excited monologue leaves me gob-smacked. Who knows whether
middle-distance running lost what football undoubtedly gained
but his background does shed a little light on his overall
sporting prowess. A true all-rounder on the pitch and one
of the fastest players around, it is now easier to understand
why he was nicknamed Schizzo.
He continues unperturbed: "I suppose not but its
funny to think that although Ive always loved football,
what really made my mind up was the fact that I could kick
a ball in more places than I could run repeats. You need a
proper running track to do athletics and there have never
been many of those in Italy, but we didnt need anywhere
special to kick a ball around. The streets, courtyards and
garage doors were good enough for that. For years though my
idols were athletes, not footballers - Pietro Mennea, Sara
Simeoni, Carl Lewis I remember them all. The marathon,
It isnt difficult to understand why Tardellis
ragazzi have formed such a close-knit group. Warm and open,
passionate about life and unrestrained in his enjoyment of
it, he insists there are no secrets behind his success. "There
are lots of good Coaches around and we all have our own ideas
on how to create a good team but if youre asking me
what I think I give the lads that makes the difference, I
have to say my character. You have got to have character
as well as talent to perform at certain levels. Ive
already been through what they are going through now and I
can offer them an example of how to cope with various situations.
And I choose my boys using the same criteria. If theyve
got it, I can help them develop it, but I cannot give them
what they just havent got. Its really quite simple,"
he says earnestly.
There are no hidden agendas with Tardelli and his rather
brazen self-confidence and I-am-what-I-am motto has taken
his popularity to new heights all around the country. I wonder
whether he is at all anxious at the possibility of becoming
the most criticised man in the country, when he takes over
from Trapattoni in two years time. "Not in the slightest,"
he says clasping his hands together on his lap. "All
I can do is prepare myself psychologically in the time thats
left, continue in my role as Coach of the Under-21s and gain
as much experience as I can from it. The rest boils down to
"You make it sound like the easiest job in the world,"
I joke, as we make our way to the gate. "Compared to
understanding women, it is," he chuckles with a
glint in his eyes. But thats another story.
Born: Capanne di Careggine, 24/9/54
Serie A debut: Juventus 2-1 Verona, 5/10/75
Last Serie A game: Inter 1-0 Fiorentina, 26/4/87
Club: Pisa, Como, Juventus, Inter, San Gallo
International debut: Italy 3-1 Portugal, 7/4/76
Last cap: Italy 1-2 Norway, 25/9/85
International caps: 81
International goals: 6
World Cup (1982)
Lo Scudetto (1977, 78, 81, 82, 84)
Coppa Italia (1979, 83)
European Cup (1985)
Cup-Winners Cup (1984)
UEFA Cup (1977)
European Super Cup (1984)