Mazzola in an Italy jersey
|Date of birth||January 26, 1919|
|Place of birth||Cassano d'Adda, Italy|
|Date of death||May 4, 1949(aged 30)|
|Place of death||Superga, Italy|
|Playing position||Attacking Midfielder|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Valentino Mazzola (Italian pronunciation: [valenˈtino matˈtsɔla]; January 26, 1919 - May 4, 1949) was an Italian footballer and captain of the celebrated Grande Torino side, killed in the Superga air disaster. With Torino, Mazzola won an Italian record of five consecutive Serie A titles, as well as a Coppa Italia. He is considered one of the best football players of all time, and perhaps the first modern all-around footballer, as he was a quick and energetic attacking midfielder, who could score, create, tackle, defend and lead his teammates to victory with his charismatic presence (Mazzola was famous for raising his shirt's sleeves when his team was not playing well as a signal to his teammates and the fans).
Mazzola first broke into football by playing for the team at the Alfa Romeo Milano factory where he worked, just before the war. In 1939, Mazzola was called up to join the Italian Navy at Venezia. While there, he was encouraged to attend the trials at Venezia A.C. and did so. When the 20 year old Mazzola was informed that no boots were available for him, he replied "I can even play barefooted".
It was during this time at Venezia that Mazzola first met Ezio Loik, when the latter moved to the club from Milan. A nine-year partnership in both triumph and tragedy began. They debuted together in the 1942 game Italy played against Croatia and won 4-0. Both were very different, although they came from very humble backgrounds: Fiume-born Loik was quiet and somewhat defensive, while Lombard Mazzola was much more impulsive and friendly. Loik did not like Valentino at first instance, taking his reserve for arrogance, but both soon found a way of understanding each other. The partnership of both half-wings (mezzala in Italian) was based on the Fiuman's stubborn generosity and the Milanese's rare talent. Soon, they became Italy's most coveted uprising young players.
Mazzola's career with Venezia started modestly, with a tenth-placed finish in 1940 and a twelfth-place finish the next season. In 1941, however, the team won the Coppa Italia Final against Roma and finished third in the league in 1942.
Mazzola then made his debut for the national side on April 5, 1942, when he scored a goal.
As they finished third in the league, Venezia were only a single point behind Torino, who promptly began to take notice of Mazzola. The only problem was that Juventus had a verbal agreement with Venezia that they would sign Mazzola. However, Torino eventually offered 200,000 lira plus two players and won the player's signature.
Although the deal was intended to be kept secret, news of the upcoming move got out and as Venezia played Torino, the crowd began to taunt Mazzola, calling him a "sell-out". The outraged Mazzola clenched his fists and promptly led Venezia to a 3-1 win.
With Torino, Mazzola won the wartime league title in 1943. In 1944, the championship ended early, but Mazzola managed to score 10 goals (in context, however, Silvio Piola scored 31).
In 1946, Mazzola helped the team to the title, which they won over Inter Milan by 13 points. The next season, Torino won the title again, beating second-placed Juventus by 10 points. In 1948, Torino broke numerous records, including ending the season with the biggest ever advantage over the second-placed team (they beat Milan to the title by 16 points) and on May 11, 1947, Torino provided 10 of the 11 players who took to the field against Hungary. Mazzola played 12 matches with the Italian national team and scored 4 goals.
In the 1948-49 season, Torino won the last title they would get until 1976. Mazzola scored 109 goals in the Italian Championship with Venezia and Torino over 8 years.
Mazzola's first child, Sandro Mazzola, was born on November 8, 1942, just after Valentino had arrived at Torino. On February 1, 1945, his second son was born and was named 'Ferruccio' after Ferruccio Novo, the president of Torino.
Around 1946, however, his marriage ended in divorce. Valentino remarried and got custody of one son, Sandro.
The football lessons given to Sandro by his father would pay off later, when the young boy would play for Inter Milan and Italy. He won 4 Championships, 2 Champions Cups, 2 Intercontinental Cups and the 1968 European Cup with Italy, and played in the 1970 World Cup final against Pelé's great Brazil team.
Despite suffering from illness, Mazzola was determined to attend the match he had organised for Torino in Lisbon in 1949. On May 4, on the return journey from the game, the aircraft carrying Mazzola and the rest of the team crashed, killing everyone on board and leaving only one first-team player at Torino alive.
- “You can always win in football, as long as you change.”
- “Football will always be a game of eleven."
- “He alone is half the squad. The other half is made by the rest of us together.” (team-mate Mario Rigamonti).
- José Altafini, a forward who won the 1958 World Cup with Brazil and also played for Italy, Palmeiras and AC Milan is called "Mazzola" in his country because when he started to play it was said he looked like the great Valentino.
- in the Milan area, players who insist on dribbling are called "Veneziani" (Venetians). This is a reference to Valentino Mazzola when he played for Venezia.