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Ignazio Abate: The Blonde Fury

Have you seen Milan’s starting right back? If so, it was probably only by pausing your DVR. Ignazio Abate not only had an incredible year at Milan this year, he’s lightning fast, and if you blink, you just might miss him.


Many may not know this, but Abate has footballing in his blood. His dad, Beniamino Abate, is a former goalkeeper who played for Udinese, Inter, and Cagliari, among others. He is also currently the assistant keeper coach at AC Milan. (probably hard to pick up on the ladies with dad around all the time, but sacrifices must be made for football.)

But unlike his father, Abate started as a winger. He came up through Milan’s youth system, with loan spells to Napoli, Sampdoria, Piacenza, and Modena from 2004-2007. He played the ’07-’08 season with Empoli and the ’08-’09 season with Torino until Milan brought him back home in 2009.

For Italy, he played for the U-18 through U-21 teams, including being on the team that won the Toulon Tournament in 2008 under coach Pierluigi Casiraghi, who helped a lot with his development. And he also  played on the Italian Olympic team in Beijing in 2008.


When he came back to Milan, he was actually a reserve midfielder. With his speed and stamina, Leonardo asked him to play the unfamiliar fullback role. Despite some moments of brilliance and some hints at what he was capable of, however, he never flourished under Leonardo. His positioning sense and tackling and defensive skills were lacking, so his blistering pace was just not enough to warrant starting.

Enter Allegri in the ’10-‘11 season, who quickly assessed the potential but knew that Abate was going to need a lot of help to make this position his. He maximized his resources by pairing Abate up with the legendary Tassotti, and the two worked feverishly to make a wicked fast right back out of this winger.

Although he had been putting in largely strong performances, naïve errors left him more criticized than praised early in the season. But by the time Milan faced Real Madrid in November, though, Abate’s extra training paid off when his signature blazing pace and blossoming defensive skills completely frustrated one Cristiano Ronaldo. Thanks also in part to his cool under pressure and yet confident demeanor, a lot of people began to notice what Allegri had seen in him from the start.


Watching Abate’s development throughout the season has been truly remarkable. He went from almost dead weight to deserving Scudetto winner, having successfully tussled with the likes of rivals Goran Pandev and Javier Zanetti, as well as outpacing talented Champions League contenders. He even basically neutralized Balzaretti when we played Palermo, showing just how far he’d come in only one season. And while he’s still got a lot to learn, I think it is safe to say this one will only get better and better with time. Between his amazing work ethic, great attitude, humility and willingness to learn, he is a champion for both now and the future.

Like the furies of Greek mythology, he pursues the unpunished on the pitch with blistering pace and amazing stamina. Now that he’s learning how to read the game better, deliver lethal crosses, tackle cleanly, defend boldly, and has even saved our phenomenal center backs a time or two with his pace and tactical awareness, he has become Milan’s starting right back without question. At only 24, and especially considering where he was a year ago, he truly is extraordinary. Give the kid a few more years and I’m sure everyone will know the one they call The Blonde Fury.





This post inspired by the music of Ministry