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Antonio Nocerino: the 500.000 Euro Man

‘Twas the night before deadline and all through the club
Not a Flamini fill in was sighted, not even a sub,
But Galliani in his brilliance was calm as could be,
He’d heard about something from his pal Zamparini!

Away to his phone he flew with such haste,
A deal must be brokered, no time to waste!
The next morning, as transfer deals settled like snow
We had a new player called Nocerino!



It is hard to know where to give the credit on this deal. Galliani was brilliant in keeping his ear to the ground and making a deal in the 11th hour that redefines shrewd. A €500.000 transfer fee plus a loan of U19 player Ricardo Ferreira would have been a great deal for an average player. But the player he got must have surprised even him, the amazing Antonio Nocerino. His incredible talent and his ability to fit in at Milan right away make Galliani look like a genius of epic proportions, which of course, he is. But you have to give credit to Nocerino, who had a solid three years at Palermo, a nice gig going with the National Team, and has really stepped it up since coming to Milan with his serious mad skills.


Born April 9, 1985, Nocerino is now 26 years old. He is a Juventus youth product and moved up to the senior team in the 2003-04 season, but did not make any appearances for Juve. Instead, like most young players, he was loaned out to a lower division club,  Avellino, for the season, making 34 appearances for them.

In 2004, Genoa bought him on a co-ownership deal, when he was priced at €450.000 for half his rights, plus Domenico Criscito and Francesco Volpe going to Juventus. He made a total of 5 appearances for Genoa and was subsequently loaned out to Catanzaro, Crotone, and Messina through the 2005-06 season. Genoa then sold their half of ownership to Piacenza, where he made 37 appearances and scored 6 goals in the 2006-07 season.

His efforts there did not go unnoticed, and in 2007, Juventus bought out the other half of his rights from Piacenza for €3,7 million and he made 32 appearances for the club during the 2007-08 season.

From pink jerseys to playing vs. David Villa in the CL

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I think most Juventus fans would agree that the deal that sent Nocerino to Palermo was wrong on many levels, even if it may have seemed wise at the time. Nocerino was sent to Palermo for €7,5 million as part of a deal that also brought Amauri to Juventus. Given Nocerino’s contributions to Palermo and now Milan as well as all of the issues with Amauri, in hindsight, Zamparini was a genius.

Nocerino struggled a bit to fit in but eventually became a permanent fixture in Palermo’s midfield, starting in 106 matches over three seasons and scoring a total of 6 goals for the club. He had planned to stay, having initially signed a 4 year contract and was waiting for a contract extension offer from the club which he expected but hadn’t yet come. And suddenly, on the last day of the transfer market, he was sold to AC Milan. Did I mention that his transfer fee was only €500.000 plus a U19 player on loan? And that he was literally signed in the final hour of the transfer market?

The incredibly low transfer fee and last minute no-drama signing was not the only smart piece of business Milan did that day. They also signed him to a 5 year contract, showing both the player and the fans the faith they had in him for Milan’s future.

Refusing to celebrate vs. his old team... Class Act.

Faith which has not been disappointed. Not only does he sit just one goal behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic as second top scorer for the club, his 4 goals have come in impressive fashion. He scored his first against his old club, Palermo, and showing pure class refused to celebrate. Then came Parma. A brilliant hat trick made sure that every Milan fan knew his name, and I think the goals surprised him as much as anyone else. Of course, Zamparini, and possibly people within the Juventus camp were probably crying, but then again, hindsight is 20/20, right?

But he is a defensive midfielder. The goals are incredible, what he has brought to Milan’s offense in terms of movement forward and being a part of offensive plays is spectacular. However, he is still great at hounding his man, dispossessing opponents, and doesn’t just get the ball and boot it up the pitch. He has good ball handling skills, solid passing, and makes plays that are smart and controlled. And he’s tough as nails, too, up for any challenge and never backing down. He played well enough on the right, but when Allegri listened to him and moved him to the left, his natural side, that is when the explosion of form (and the byproduct goals) came along.

From virtual unknown to unlikely hero

Prandelli could tell you that he is a great player, too. He played for the Azzurrini at the U-19 through U-21 levels from 2004-2007, including captaining the U-21 side that won the Toulon Tournament in 2007. He represented Italy on the Olympic team that played in Beijing in 2008, as well. And since 2007, he has 8 caps for the senior National Team, currently a regular on Cesare Prandelli’s squad as they prepare for Euros next summer.

Nocerino is one of those players that hasn’t had a lot of press until now. He has been humbly and quietly doing his job. What he does rarely gets him on the stat sheet or even the scoreboard. And he doesn’t seem to need that recognition. I am just glad that he wound up at Milan when he reached the form of his career thus far. At 26 years old, this could be just the tip of the iceberg for his for his great form, too. And while many like to compare him to Gattuso or say that he is an upgrade to the Milan star, I like to think of him as his own player. A well-rounded but defensive minded TEAM player who is both tough and talented and whose Milan star is just starting to shine. Our very own 500.000 Euro man.


Thank you to Adel Abdulle for the idea for this post