IN MY OWN WORDS: Demetrio Albertini
IN MY OWN WORDS: Demetrio Albertini

IN MY OWN WORDS: Demetrio Albertini

The former Barça player explains his current confinement in Italy as well remembering his successes with AC Milan and his time as a blaugrana

Italy is currently playing in one of the most important games in its history. 

Unfortunately, as almost the whole planet, we Italians have the job of overcoming one of the most dangerous opponents we have ever come across: Covid-19. It is a difficult challenge and every one of us has to be at their best so that the country can defeat this virus. However, I have no doubt that we will help each other achieve this goal and that before too long we can say that we have beaten our biggest enemy. 

Albertini working at his desk at home.
Albertini working at his desk at home.

The days at the moment are very different ones for me and my family. When we found out that the north of Italy was turning into an area at risk, and before the government decided to close off the country, we decided to travel to Tuscany, close to Coverciano, where the Italian FA training centre is siutated and where I have my office. Coming here was the best option for us to get away from the most contagious areas and also so I was able to carry with my job in charge of youth football for the Italian FA. 

The coronavirus has all of a sudden changed the way Italians live

Demetrio Albertini

The coronavirus has all of a sudden changed the way Italians live. In my own case, life in Coverciano can be summed up as being connected to the Internet 24 hours a day to keep running my own firm as well as my obligations with the Italian FA. My two children, Federico and Costanza, are both studying at home via the internet and myself and my wife Uriana try to help them as best we can as they help us too. Confinement has changed all social relationships in Italy, but that has a positive side too; for example, there are lots of new social initiatives emerging thanks to social media. We are taking part in campaigns such as that of the artists Chiara Ferragni and Fedez as well as others I organise at my padel club. All of which go to helping hospital resources. 

Spending so much time at home can give you a lot to think about. For example, I have to be always on hand for calls and videoconferences with the FA. Right now, with football paralysed in Italy for obvious reasons, our work is to work out what millions of fans of Italian Football want to know: When will Serie A and the other competitions start up again? 

Our aim is to begin again in the middle of May but right now there are a lot of different possible scenarios possible: we cannot discount the possibility that Serie A will be played during the summer, that the season may be cancelled completely, or that it is decided with a series of play offs both at the top and bottom of the table. In fact, we are working with all these possible situations but it is very difficult to calculate dates with such uncertainty and we have to remember that health comes first. The same is true for the Champions League, which has an added difficulty as it involves many countries and that means we all have to be moving in the same direction, at the same speed to be able to be free of the pandemic at the same time and to keep on playing. The situation is very complicated but let's hope that the competitions can be decided out there on the field. 

Albertini setting an example with his mask on.
Albertini setting an example with his mask on.

When I think about the return of football, it is inevitable that I look back and remember how our passion for this crazy game began. In my case, it all started in 1982 when Italy won the World Cup in Madrid. I was just 11 years old yet that moment of glory, in which the whole country came together to celebrate the victory, was a turning point for me. It was then that I started to dream of becoming an elite level player and I dreamed of having my own football sticker, my own Panini. 

That dream came true in in the season 1988/89. It was then that I made my debut for my boyhood club, AC Milan. I had the chance to make my first appearance in a team full of stars coached by one of the best of all time, Arrigo Sacchi, the coach who gave me my chance with the first team. I always say that there have been two coaches who had a great influence on my career. One is without doubt Sacchi and the other is Fabio Capello. Arrigo Sacchi did not just want to win, he also wanted to be remembered for the style of his teams, and in fact he did it, just as Barça have done in recent seasons. 

When I was at AC Milan I played with someone who, together with Carlo Ancelotti, becomes my teacher on the field, a player who would later on be my coach. I have also had Ancelotti as a coach, but in this letter I want to talk to you about a figure who ended up as an important first at Barça. Do you know who I mean? 

Obviously, I am talking about Frank Rijkaard. 

Albertini talking to Frank Rijkaard during his time as a Barça player
Albertini talking to Frank Rijkaard during his time as a Barça player

The truth is I could never imagine Frank coaching a team. When I played alongside him he never raised his voice. In fact, when I came to Barça I used to joke with him that finally I was listening to him. Rijkaard played a vital role in my becoming a Barça player in 2005. He convinced me to come; he wanted a player who was a winner in the dressing room and who could also bring their experience to the team. They were happy months that ended with us winning the league title, a first for Barça since 1999. 

Barça has always been a part of my footballing career even though I only made six appearances for them. It is strange but there it is. Why do I say that? Well, for many reasons. First of all, I never lost against Barça, not even in a friendly. Furthermore, my career developed at the same time as that of Pep Guardiola. We formed part of the same generation of players, we both wore number 4 and we played in the same position at two very important clubs. 

Albertini during a training session with Barça
Albertini during a training session with Barça

There is more. I ended my career as a player at Barça and up until this moment, the only Champions League final I have helped organise with the Italian FA was that of Rome in 2009. Who won the trophy that year? Barça: no need to say more. 

It is also true that I was involved in one of the more unfortunate chapters of Barça history. You know what I am talking about, right? The Champions League final in Athens in 1994. 

When I think about it, it is difficult to understand what happened on 18 May, 1994. Barça had won the league the weekend before and we high on confidence. We, in contrast, had had 15 days to prepare for the final. Johan Cruyff's 'Dream Team' were a magical team with a unique style but they were not as physical as our AC Milan team. I am 181cm tall and I weigh 80 kilos and in that Barça I would have been one of the biggest players. However, in Milan, I was one of the smallest. 

I remember that our tactic was to press high up the field because we knew they were more tired than us. We could keep the ball well but we had great success with set pieces. It was a final that I remember happily even though I recognise that the feeling is not mutual in Catalonia. 

1994 was an important year in my life. Two months after lifting the Champions League trophy, I experienced one of the toughest defeats of my career, losing in the final of the World Cup against Brazil. We lost 3-2 in a penalty shoot out in which I scored my penalty. It was the first time I had ever taken one as a professional. 

It was very tough to lose that game and from these setbacks you can only pick yourself with courage and the support of the country. The defeat in the World Cup was a lesson that helped me to grow and it made me the footballer and the person I am today. I won trophies in every season as a professional except the campaign with Atlético Madrid in 2002/03 - although I will never forget the free kick I scored in the Santiago Bernabéu in the Madrid derby - and that allowed me to retire after a dream career. 

When he signed me Frank Rijkaard wanted to me to create a winning character within the Barça dressing room

Demetrio Albertini

When he signed me Frank Rijkaard wanted to me to create a winning character within the Barça dressing room, one hit by injuries and young talent that had not yet taken off. In the end my spell as a Barça player was the final chapter in my career and the cherry on the cake was the testimonial game that Barça and AC Milan put on for me the following season. On 15 March 2006 the San Siro was packed and so many stars of the world game together on the field. It made me really proud and emotional and it is something I will never forget, it will always be with me. 

Julio Baptista and Demetrio Albertini during a game between Sevilla and Barça in 2005
Julio Baptista and Demetrio Albertini during a game between Sevilla and Barça in 2005.

Now, however, faced with the exceptional circumstances which surround us, it is time to think as a group and all pull in the same direction. We will win again as we have always and we will once again demonstrate that working together, no-one can stop us. 

All the best from the depths of my heart for the Barça fans. You will always be part of my life. 

Força Barça!

Força Barça
Força Barça

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