Valentino Mazzola with Torino
|Date of birth||26 January 1919|
|Place of birth||Cassano d'Adda, Italy|
|Date of death||4 May 1949(aged 30)|
|Place of death||Superga, Italy|
|Height||1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)|
|Playing position||Attacking Midfielder
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
Considered one of the greatest number 10's in the history of football and, according to some, the best Italian footballer of all time, Mazzola was captain and symbol of the Grande Torino, the team recognised as one of the strongest in the world in the second half of the 1940s, which won five championships, and captain of the Italian national team, for two years.
He became known during his time playing for Venezia, where he began to play as a left inside forward, a position he held throughout his career and allowed him to expand his fame beyond the borders of Italy, to the point of being considered, in his late seasons, the best player in Europe in his role. He died at the age of 30 in the Superga air disaster.
Mazzola was born at Cassano d'Adda, in Ricetto, a neighborhood of abandoned homes. His family was very modest; his father, Alexander, worked at Azienda Torinese Mobilità and died in August 1940, hit by a truck. His mother's name was Leonine Ratti, while the names of his four brothers were Piero, Silvio, Carlo and Stefano. His childhood was uncomfortable; in 1929 his father was fired because of the Great Depression, so Valentino, to help the family, began to work the following year when he had just finished the first grade of school. He found employment as a baker's boy, then, at age fourteen, the linen mill at Cassano d'Adda.
In the summer of 1929, at age ten, he threw himself into the river Adda to save the life of a man, who was four years younger, from drowning: it was Andrea Bonomi, future football player and captain of A.C. Milan. A Juventus fan at a young age, he was nicknamed "Tulen" for the habit of kicking old tins: he used to kick all the way to and back between home and a linen mill. When he played in his neighbourhood team, the "Tresoldi", he was noticed by a football fan, who worked as a test driver for the Alfa Romeo establishment in Arese, by which he obtained a place in the team and a corporate job as a mechanic.
In 1939 he was called up to join military service in the Royal Navy, in the port of Venice; he spent a few months on the ship, aboard the destroyer Confienza, and was later moved to the Compagnia del Porto. In Venice he obtained his elementary school diploma, attending night school.
Mazzola's first child, Sandro Mazzola, was born on 8 November 1942, just after Valentino had arrived at Torino. On 1 February 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.
He 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. Ironically, for a man later to die in an accident himself, at the age of ten, Mazzola saved the life of Andrea Bonomi, later a defender for A.C. Milan, by rescuing him from a river.
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 5 April 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 11 May 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.
Despite suffering from illness, Mazzola was determined to attend the match he had organised for Torino in Lisbon in 1949. On 4 May, 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.
Style of play
He is considered one of the best football players of all time, and perhaps the first modern all-around footballer, as he was a well-rounded and hardworking footballer who could lead his teammates to victory with his charismatic presence and leadership (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 was a quick, strong and energetic attacking midfielder, with excellent technical ability, vision, and accurate shooting and passing ability; he also excelled in the air. Because of his many attributes he was capable of both scoring and creating many goals, and was also competent defensively, often pressing and tackling opponents in order to win back possession.
- “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.
- Coppa Italia (1): 1940–41
- Serie A Top Goalscorer (1): 1946–47 (29 goals)
- Coppa Italia Top Goalscorer (1): 1942–43 (5 goals)
- Inducted into the Italian Football Hall of Fame (Posthumously): 2012
- Enciclopedia Del Calcio
- Sappino. p. 347, 348.
- Foot. p. 159, 160.
- Massimo Filipponi (2 January 2000). "Nessuno è stato superiore al Grande Torino" (PDF). L'Unità. p. 20. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- Sconcerti. p. 75.
- Paolo Spriano (5 May 1949). "La terribile sciagura di Superga" (PDF). L'Unità (ed. piemontese). p. 3. Retrieved 9 December 2011.
- Sappino. pp. 347, 348.
- "La prima moglie di Mazzola ritrova il figlio nei pressi di Casale". Nuova Stampa Sera. 10 May 1949. p. 2. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "VALENTINO MAZZOLA". Retrieved 29 December 2014.