Ex-Napoli, Lazio and Genoa midfielder Francelino Matuzalem looks back over a chaotic career, with an unfortunate mozzarella addiction, scoring with his face, crying at Roberto Baggio and avoiding “jail or the cemetery.”
The fiery Brazilian was best known for his abysmal disciplinary record, receiving 11 red cards between Serie A and B.
“I won’t deny, if I hadn’t been scouted at Vitoria Bahia when I was a kid, I would’ve ended up the same place as many of my childhood friends: in jail or the cemetery. In our poor neighbourhood, drugs and crime were commonplace,” Matuzalem told gianlucadimarzio.com.
He discovered a different addiction when joining Napoli in 1999.
“Mozzarella! Oh my God… I couldn’t stop eating it. I got overweight and (coach Emiliano) Mondonico started benching me because of it. I don’t blame him, I was embarrassing.”
He never stayed long at any particular club, moving through Piacenza, Parma and Brescia.
“I almost cried when I saw Roberto Baggio for the first time. He was still a legend for me, as I watched that 1994 World Cup Final when I was a kid. Baggio and Ronaldinho are without doubt the best I ever played with.
“Mircea Lucescu became like a father to me at Shakhtar Donetsk. I scored my most important goal at Lazio, the 2009 Italian Supercup. It was a ricochet, but people thought it was handball. I can guarantee you it bounced off my face, because it really hurt!
“I remember after the Final, Jose Mourinho didn’t even want to receive his silver medal.”
Does Matuzalem have any regrets now that he has retired and is about to turn 40?
“My time at Lazio could’ve lasted longer if I’d been more rigorous in my training. I would’ve liked to play in a World Cup too, but looking back over how my life could’ve gone, I can only be happy with the path I took.”
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