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Gianluca Zambrotta: Faithful Soldier

Did you ever have someone come into your life who was just always there when you needed them? Someone who was never demanding, but always true? And then, when the time came, they slipped away, almost unnoticed? Milan have recently lost a person like this, someone who faithfully served the club for 4 years. He played wherever he was needed, did everything he was asked, and wasn’t one to brag about all of the titles he’d won, even the World Cup. Gianluca Zambrotta was our faithful soldier.

Zambrotta tears up after his last Milan match

Zambrotta, like many footballers, started out with his hometown club in Como. Then he spent a couple of years with Bari before he found his rightful place as a champion with Juventus. And he would have gladly stayed there, it was his club, were it not for Calciopoli in 2006. Yes, he was one of the players that was a victim of the relegation and all of its horror. His sacrifice to move to Barcelona netted Juventus a much-needed 14 million transfer fee when they really needed it.

But he wasn’t as effective at Barcelona, which worked out great for Milan. We had tried to snatch him from Juventus in 2006 anyway, so were thrilled when he was finally able to join Milan in 2008.

Barca who? He always stepped it up in Champions League,
even against his former club

Amidst all of the changes at the club, he became a constant. In fact in the 2008-09 season, he played more minutes than any other Milan player. He could play at left back or at right back, and was one of the few players who did well on either side. Maybe he won’t be remembered as the greatest left back or the most amazing right back ever to grace the pitch, but he was dependable and did his best, whether it was a friendly or an important Champions League match.

His experiences with the National Team gave him even more wisdom and class on the pitch. He nearly missed out on World Cup 2006 with a muscle strain, but was able to recover and play and win and even be named to the 23 man World Cup All Star squad. Not to bad for a guy from Como.

Faithful servant to club and country

But our memories of him in the red and black are what will last. He wasn’t an attention seeker, although apparently he does like the rum. His nicknames in Italy are “Mojito” and “the essence of Rum.” Draw your own conclusions. But if he does like to drink, he certainly never let it affect his performances on the pitch.

For Milan he came in and filled a void – well two, actually. And even if he’s lost a step or two the past year or two, he has always been waiting quietly in the wings, ready for action, like a faithful soldier. And with all of the injuries we’ve had, he’s been just what we needed.

Celebrating his birthday this year, he was part of the Milan family

He left the club quietly, barely noticeable as the legendary players were making their exits. Had he been able to stay at Juventus, his exit would have been a much bigger deal, but he was sacrificed, and so he stepped out quietly from another club after only 4 years of faithful service, quietly waiting in the wings while our legends, his peers and fellow World Cup winners, took their bows.

He left quietly and with class, but he leaves an important role vacant at the club. Who will bring with them the skills and experience, humility and class, the ability to play well at both positions, and the strength of a champion? He may not have gotten as much limelight as the others who left at the same time, but I daresay he will be sorely missed next year. His job at Milan was never really the spotlight, but rather a soldier in the trenches, ready when needed, and faithful to the end. Grazie, Gianluca Zambrotta. You have left a bigger hole than we may even realize just yet, and will not be replaced so easily. Thank you for your service, your skills, and your humility and character. You will be missed. Ciao.


This post inspired by the music of The Clash