Little, if any, attention was paid from both fans and media when Stefano Sorrentino announced his retirement back in January after more than 20 years in the professional game.
At first glance, this only seemed normal, as the 41-year-old goalkeeper had never played for a top team and had spent his best years at Serie A minnows Chievo. Yet, despite defending their goal for years, the Flying Donkeys practically forced him into retirement, as he was released against his will after their relegation to Serie B.
It’s safe to say that Sorrentino was never a type of player looking for attention, but the lack of respect the club demonstrated towards him after eight years and 271 appearances must’ve surely hurt.
Just like the end of his career, Sorrentino’s professional path started away from the spotlight and with many struggles, as the youngster failed to establish himself in the youth formations of both Lazio and Juventus. In 1998, the then 19-year-old shot-stopper signed for Torino, who were in Serie B, but once again he failed to break into the side and played only once.
In the following years, he had two loan spells in Serie C, before returning to the Granata, where he finally found some room, but in 2005 the club went bankrupt and the talented goalkeeper was on the market yet again.
In the same summer, Sorrentino signed for AEK Athens and managed 50 appearances for the Greek side, the most notable of which a 1-0 win in the Champions League against a mighty Milan team with the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi, Andrea Pirlo and Kaka among others.
After two years in Greece and a season-long loan in La Liga, where he helped Recreativo de Huesca to secure safety, Sorrentino’s Gialloblu fairy-tale finally began.
His first spell at Chievo lasted five seasons, during which the Flying Donkeys were among the main candidates to get relegated, but they never did. There is no doubt that one of the main reasons for their Serie A longevity at the time was Sorrentino, as his heroics often frustrated even the best strikers in the league and earned his team points that they didn’t deserve.
Despite this, in January 2012 Chievo decided to loan Sorrentino to a struggling Palermo team that was destined to go down to Serie B. When that eventually happened, the Sicilian outfit made the move permanent and Sorrentino joined a roster of prominent individuals that included Paulo Dybala, Andrea Belotti and Franco Vazquez.
Led by Beppe Iachini, that Palermo side took the league by storm and deservedly won the 2013-14 Serie B title, which remains the only trophy in Sorrentino’s colourful career.
However, things could’ve turned out differently, if Stefano had completed a move to Juventus, Roma or Fiorentina, who were all admirers of his talents at the time. That wasn’t meant to be, as Sorrentino remained for two more seasons as Palermo captain before returning to Chievo in 2016, where he spent the last three years of his career.
Those three campaigns are probably the main reason for this article, as although Sorrentino was already a well-known Serie A veteran, most of his displays during his second spell at Chievo were simply inspirational.
The Flying Donkeys were getting weaker year after year, before eventually falling down to Serie B, but the same cannot be said about Sorrentino, who despite being 40 years old, remained one of the best keepers in Serie A. He even saved a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty in January 2019, irritating the Portuguese superstar so much that a planned swap of shirts never materialised.
Antonio Di Natale once said about Sorrentino that he was one of the best Italian goalkeepers of his generation and taking it all under consideration, it’s really hard to disagree with the Udinese legend.
Never one to follow the rules, he decided there was still one way of enjoying the sport and joined amateur side Cervo, with his father as the coach. It’d be too unfair to put him in goal at that level, so Sorrentino is relishing a new lease of life as a centre-forward.