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Mauro Tassotti: Unsung Hero


There is a saying “always a bridesmaid, never the bride,” which seems like a strange phrase to use for a footballer. But it couldn’t be more applicable to Tassotti, who spent his entire career being a backup to other stars. In fact, so much so, that now when he supposedly is finally leaving Milan after 35 years, I have heard nothing official about his departure yet, although it seems to be happening. Both in his playing career and his coaching career, he is truly an unsung hero.

Only glimpses at the spotlight, usually in the background, but always a part of greatness

On the last podcast, I made a few jokes about his longterm hairstyle and his colorful reading glasses, but they were jokes made with love for a man who is often overlooked, yet has been a constant force at Milan for the past 35 years. Although he was born in Rome and played his first two years at Lazio, Milanisti will always associate him with the red and black.

A little known fact, he transferred to Milan while both Lazio and Milan were relegated to Serie B in 1980 due to a betting scandal. Joining the legendary Baresi, he helped win Serie B both times Milan were relegated, and then would win five Scudetti in Serie A, three Champions League trophies, four Supercoppa trophies, three UEFA Super Cups, and two Intercontinental Cups. As part of that infamous back line, he was also part of both Sacchi’s and Capello’s Milan teams, including the Invincibles. He was also made vice-captain to Baresi, but never owned the captain’s armband, as he retired the same year as Baresi.

Maybe if he would have stuck with this haircut, he would have made the spotlight

He was also an unsung hero for the national team. Largely overlooked for callups due to a wealth of defensive talents and a coach who apparently didn’t like him, he only featured in one major tournament for the Azzurri: the 1994 World Cup. You know, the one where Italy finished… you guessed it, second place. In fact, the most infamous moment of his career seems to have been in that tournament, when he broke Luis Enrique’s nose with an elbow to the face. He received an eight match ban for that, which essentially meant an end to his national team career.

After serving as the number two to five different Milan managers – Ancelotti, Leonardo, Allegri, Seedorf, and Inzaghi – he was offered the head coach position at Lazio in 2012. But he turned it down, saying that it was too hard to leave Milan. He did have one game to his name as a caretaker manager in 2014 in between Allegri’s sacking and the hiring of Seedorf, and obviously stepped up to the plate when coaches were sent off. But he seemed to prefer being the one behind the scenes than the one in the limelight.

His passion for Milan was never just in the background

However to give him second billing would diminish the amazing things he did at Milan these past 35 years, both on and off the pitch. He has been the backbone of both the legendary Milan defense and the coaching squad, even if he was rarely in the spotlight. It is hard to imagine any coach leading Milan without him standing behind them, always present, but never a distraction. He will truly always be one of Milan’s longest serving unsung heroes. Grazie mille, Tassotti.


This post inspired by the music of Spandau Ballet’s “True”