Great Italian Players: Ciro FerraraBy: Francesco | September 23rd, 2008
In the modern game you always hear stories of players being prima donnas or trying to get a bigger contract or making a move to a big club just for the money, but Ciro Ferrara was a player who was none of those things. Ferrara was a model professional, a consistent performer, and even if he wasn’t world renowned during his playing career he is simply one of the best defenders Italy has ever produced.
Born in Napoli in 1967, Ferrara grew up in the youth system of his hometown team. A promising youngster, Ferrara made his first team debut at the age of 18 in May of 1985 vs. Juventus (the team he would play for later in his career). He was immediately a regular starter the following season and enjoyed the successes of the Maradona era in Napoli. Ferrara was in fact very good friends with El Pibe during his time in Napoli. Ferrara won his first Scudetto in the 1986/87 season, and then won the UEFA Cup in 1988/89. In the final second leg vs Stuttgart, Ferrara scored a memorable goal on a volley from a Maradona assist that helped Napoli win their first European trophy 5-4 on aggregate.
Ferrara won his second scudetto in 1989/1990 and then continued to lead the Napoli defense throughout the post-Maradona era. It was at Napoli where he first had Marcello Lippi as a manager and the duo instantly clicked. When Lippi left for Juventus in 1994, the first thing he did was bring Ferrara along with him. Ferrara ended his Napoli career with 323 games and 15 goals for the Partenopei. He left his spot in central defense for an up and coming youngster named Fabio Cannavaro (who’s idol happened to be Ciro Ferrara).
At Juventus Ferrara immediately became the leader of the defense and started to win many trophies as the Bianconeri won trophies in Italy, in Europe, and in the World (Intercontinental Cup). Upon his arrival at Juventus in 1994 he immediately won another scudetto. The following season, Juventus won the Champions League for the second time in their history, defeating Ajax on penalty kicks. Ferrara took a penalty in the shoot-out and scored. The following year Juventus bought Uruguayan harman Paolo Montero, who would form an excellent partnership with Ferrara and the duo led the Juventus backline for years. As he got older, Ferrara played less of a role and was on the bench most of the time, but any time he was called upon he put in a quality performance. Before retiring in 2005, Ferrara won another 4 scudetti with the Bianconeri, taking his tally to 7 scudetti in total as a professional player, one Coppa Italia, and four Italian SuperCups. He retired playing exactly 500 games in Serie A and scoring 15 goals. Upon retirement he went to get his coaching license.
The one thing we can say about Ciro Ferrara’s career is that he was unlucky with the national team. He made his debut for Italy in June of 1987, and was part of the squad in Euro ‘88 without playing a game and played in the Olympics that summer as well, finishing 4th place. He was part of Azeglio Vicini’s squad for the 1990 World Cup, but he only played one game: the 3rd place match where Italy triumphed over England. After the 1990 World Cup Sacchi didn’t take Ferrara into consideration (and there were so many options at the back) and so Ciro missed out on USA ‘94. After the World Cup Sacchi called up Ferrara on a regular basis for Euro ‘96 qualifying and Italy qualified for the tournament, but Ferrara was ruled out due to injury. After the Euro he was a starter on Cesare Maldini’s squad throughout World Cup ‘98 qualifying, and just as it seemed he would get his chance to shine in a major tournament, a leg injury ruled him out. After World Cup 1998 Dino Zoff also called up Ferrara on a regular basis and he was named to Italy’s Euro 2000 squad. He played only the final group game vs. Sweden as Italy were runners-up to France. After the Euro and with less and less playing time at Juve Giovanni Trapattoni didn’t call up Ferrara at all. The game vs. Sweden was his last in an Azzurri jersey. Ferrara ended his national team career with 49 caps and 0 goals.
Ferrara held a farewell game at the Stadio San Paolo in Napoli between former and present stars of Juventus and Napoli. Ferrara played for each team for a half, and Diego Maradona returned to Napoli after a 14 year absence just to see his good friend’s farewell game. Ferrara’s mentor Marcello Lippi was now the coach of the national team, and Lippi gave Ferrara a job on his coaching staff. Ferrara worked mainly with the defense and was excellent for the locker room atmosphere. Even though he didn’t get any success with the national team as a player, Ferrara had the satisfaction of winning the World Cup as being part of the coaching staff.
After the World Cup Lippi resigned and therefore Ferrara was not a part of the coaching staff anymore. He became the director of the youth program at Juventus in the summer of 2006 and held that job until this summer, when Marcello Lippi was appointed Italy manager for the second time and Ciro Ferrara was once again summoned to be a part of the staff, this time in the bigger role of assistant coach.
Some curious facts-
Ferrara is also known to be a genuinely nice person and also had a good sense of humor. He once said “Soccer made me famous, it made me rich, it made me successful, but the one thing it didn’t make me was handsome.”
Ferrara is noted to have an excellent singing voice and showed off his talent in Juventus’ version of Lucio Battisti’s hit “Il Mio Canto Libero”. Video:
Ciro Ferrara is easily one of the most underrated players of the last 20 years but he is also one the best defenders to come out of Italy in recent times. Juventus and Napoli fans think he is a legend, and so should all calcio fans because he truly was a legend.