|Full name||Carmelo Imbriani|
|Date of birth||10 February 1976|
|Place of birth||Benevento, Italy|
|Date of death||15 February 2013(aged 37)|
|Place of death||Perugia, Italy|
|Height||1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)|
|1996–1997||→ Pistoiese (loan)||24||(1)|
|1997–1998||→ Casarano (loan)||32||(2)|
|2004||→ Foggia (loan)||12||(0)|
|2009-2011||Benevento (Youth Team Coach)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Carmelo Imbriani was born 10 February 1976 in Benevento, Italy.
As a child he proved to be an athlete in every aspect, participating in many different school sports, from cross country to handball, from volleyball to the long jump, where at 12 years old he became regional champion at the youth games with a jump of 5.60 meters (18.3727 feet).
There were those who tried to convince him to become a professional athlete, and the Guardia di Finanza sport group, he was taken to the national championships in Rimini, where despite an unfortunate hamstring injury, he still made it to the podium, leaving the gold medal to one who jumped 4.80 meters (15.748 feet).
But it was on the small field in his hometown of San Giovanni di Ceppaloni, behind the elementary school, that he cultivated his biggest passion for soccer. In one of the many country tournaments, he was noticed by some of the directors of Vigor Sannio, a small soccer club near the capital of Benevento.
With permission from Carmelo's father Fernando, the directors of the small Benevento soccer club took it upon themselves to go and pick Carmelo up on Sundays for the games, and then drove him back home. In Autumn of 1989 at Telese Terme, there were scouts looking at those participating, as well as Gatti and Zagatti, who came all the way from the glorious AC Milan to observe.
They were selecting youngsters under 13, and Vigor Sannio was pinning its hopes on Carmelo. Of 350 players, 14 were selected, including Carmelo. A week later "The Red and Black (AC Milan) called his parents. They offered 500,000 lira (about $350) a month, plus room and board, until he turned 15. But those same scouts were also speaking as parents, and advised them, it would be best to have a family member with him in Milan".
The boy had no relatives in Milan but Carmelo wanted to play, and would have gone even if his parents could not hide their concerns. The decision to stay or go remained pending. Meanwhile his team won the provincial championship against Casale Caudina, which was coached by Pasquale Casale.
It was really the coach Casale, who at the end of the match got close to Carmelo. His team was going to tryouts the next Wednesday and Casale wanted Carmelo to join along with his eleven players. At the Collana, the old battlefield of Napoli when Jeppson and Pesaola were playing, he found himself in front of Nick D'Alessio, Sandro Abbondanza, and Riccardo De Lella, three magicians of the youth national team.
Even after the first mini-half of twenty minutes, held by coach Casale's team, Carmelo continued to stay on the field with other players, even as others were substituted in and out. After a good showing and a great goal, Carmelo waited for the outcome. Among D'Alessio's notes on him were: " Lanky, fast and technical". They told his dad Fernando that Napoli was willing to pay the gas to get him to three workouts a week, but that there were no beds for him to stay there.
Coach Casale offered Carmelo's dad some advice, saying that he did not have to agree to allow Carmelo to travel: " Mr. Imbriani, it doesn't matter if you bring him to me or to others! But this boy needs to play where he lives!". Carmelo's father took Casale's advice, but director D'Alessio scheduled an appointment for Carmelo to play in a tournament to be held a few months later.
And so started Carmelo's strange, adventurous bond with Napoli, a team with whom Carmelo played only tournaments for those months, without officially being part of the league.
At 13, he left San Giovanni di Ceppaloni, his destination "Centro Paradiso": in Naples. From there on out, the only problem for Fernando was that he had to be ready to take Carmelo back home Sunday mornings after the games. Unfortunately there was only time for a quick greeting to friends and family, and then he was due back in Naples again.
It was in a room with a window facing the practice field that he was allowed, every day, to enjoy the playing of Careca, a player who would become his idol. At that time, there was no contract, but Napoli made sure he wasn't missing anything.
There was chef Maresca, who made sure Carmelo ate and grew healthy, and Mrs. Maria who kept his room clean. Every Wednesday he would skip school, because Napoli had a double training session that day.
Seeing Maradona and his companions so closely was a spectacular privilege that few people have had. Among the players Carmelo most respected was, without a doubt, Gianfranco Zola. Over the years, he attracted Carmelo's attention not for his amazing plays, but truly for just being a good, simple guy.
The first official championship that Carmelo played with the Napoli blue jersey was with the young players of Beppe Massa. With Carmelo on the team, the championship was swept, as he scored almost every Sunday.
Carmelo ended the series as top scorer, with 19 goals in 21 games. Despite being only 14 his lifestyle changed, his summers also changed. There were no more long chats with Giovanni, his lifelong friend, but there were tournaments to be played with the Napoli team, all around Italy.
In January of 1991, scouts Corrado Corradini and Sergio Vatta, already known for discovering Totti, Inzaghi, and Nesta, called Carmelo in for a meeting to be part of the under 15 Italian National team. From 25 May to 1 June, the National team competed in the Under 15 World Cup at Regello.
The Italian National Under 15 team won the tournament after defeating Czechoslovakia in the final, and Carmelo earned the top scorer award. The results were proof of what was predicted and reported on a previous 21 February sportscast: "Vatta discovers Imbriani".
Not even a month later, Carmelo experienced another career success on the international field. On 27 June 1991 at the Vetta tournament in Pescara, Napoli defeated Dynamo Kiev in the finals, not even allowing a single goal throughout the entire tournament.
Napoli won the tournament, and Carmelo earned the trophy for Best Player of the tournament. He passed more time as a student of Coach De Lella, and on 3 March 1992 his first live televised match was on Rai TV.
Another trip to the finals for Carmelo was against Juventus at the 21st City of the Arc tournament in Trento, one of the most important showcases for young soccer players.
In that tournament, Carmelo was once again top scorer of the team, but it was not one of his best days. He was upset in the first half with how the match was going, but was able to turn things around with advice from Coach De Lella: "Calm down. Go out there in the second half and make the score 2-0". Said and done! Carmelo scored right after Sbrizzo, resulting in a rush to embrace his coach.
Upon returning to San Giovanni, he received one of the most significant awards of his entire career. A musician had written a song for him called "The Soccer Player". Carmelo saved the words written just for him, on a tiny, rumpled piece of paper in his wallet.
"How often do you think back to your friends, and would like to leave it all, to go out at night without the pressure of coming back home early. You can't see any girls because you don't even have time to dream, but this is your life. You are a soccer player."
Carmelo could not play for five months due to a groin injury. His return coincided with an international tournament played in Jamaica. Napoli won the tournament with a goal from Carmelo in the final against Flamenco the favorite team to win the tournament from Brazil.
There was a lot of attention on the young Carmelo: Attention that allowed him to be the most visible in Sormani's youth team, and consequently among the first team's best reinforcements.
Ottavio Bianchi, another coach for Napoli, chose him among three young players to play in Thursday matches together with Sbrizzo and Longo. He noticed Carmelo had one leg that was narrower than the other, and he was interested in curing that defect.
On 26 February 1994, Carmelo played in his first match for SSC Napoli, this time under the command of Coach Marcello Lippi, who put Carmelo on the field at the 80th minute against Cagliari. Naples lost the match 2-1, but that match remained unforgettable for Carmelo.
In July of 1994 he left for his first camp with SCC Napoli in Sarnano (Mc), but he didn't find space in Guerini's Napoli, and after a few weeks, he returned to join in the youth team training, coached by Canè.
In the months that followed, he collected three titles with Giannini's National Under 19 team. He returned to Series A in a match between Napoli and Brescia after coach Boskov called him in the middle of the season.
On 14 May 1994 Boskov decided to put Imbriani in the starting line up of the Brescia match. He bestowed onto Carmelo a number that weighed as much as a boulder: Number 10…Maradona's number.
In the 37th minute, when Pecchia came from the right and made a center cross, Carmelo transformed his life long dreams into a reality. Before he began his long run toward the bench, he turned to see if it was all true. The ball had entered the goal, and he scored his first goal in Series A.
"Don't change a winning team" was the Boskov's philosophy. So the number 10 stayed with they young straiker from San Giovanni. He would wear that jersey until the end of the season because Napoli went on to defeat Milan, Cagliari, and Parma in their last match at home.
However, the last match was not a good memory. Napoli could have entered into UEFA but to do so needed to win, and hope that Inter would tie Padova at their home match.
Carmelo did not have a contract and he was making 100,000 Lire (about $70.00) a month, and that day could have brought 60,000,000 (about $42,200) Lire all at once as a prize for qualifying into UEFA.
The game finished with Napoli beating Parma 1-0, but at the 91st minute, the news arrived from Milan that Del Vecchio scored a goal. And with that news, the dream of qualifying for UEFA vanished for Napoli and Carmelo.
Many believed that a championship could be won, especially with the talent in Series A. According to the papers, there was already a new gem to add to the crop of those born in 1976, along with Totti, Nesta, Di Vaio, and Morfeo.
Carmelo knew about the economic problems that Napoli was going through, so he did not ask or speak about his contract that summer, just so he could continue wearing his prized jersey. Meanwhile the Slavic coach put a veto on the transfer of Imbriani to a C1 team. In 1995, the series A championship introduced some new aesthetic innovations, such as names on the backs of jerseys, and personal fixed numbers.
Carmelo chose number 19, the same as his age, and he had his last name in huge letters on the back of his jersey. He could finally and proudly show "Imbriani, " which, as a child, he thought did not sound like the name of a professional soccer player.
In the first two games, Carmelo only played one half. In the third game, Boskov put him in to start, and in Bergamo, Carmelo scored the second goal of his Series A career. He earned his spot on the field for the much anticipated home match at San Paolo stadium against Inter Milan.
After two goals scored on the road, it was his golden moment to score in San Paolo, the stadium in which he was a mere ball boy so many times.
He realized his dream in the 32nd minute of the match when Pizzi, after some excellent footwork, put the ball in the middle from the left, and Carmelo pushed off the shoulders of Pagliuca, scoring. This was a dream that neither 70,000 roaring fans, nor Paul Ince (who tripped Carmelo, stopping his run) could wake him from.
Fallen, he got back up, wanting to continue his victory run. He ran by the box seats where his dad was watching, then over to the bench to hug his teammates who played with him in the youth team.
The game ended 2-1 and Imbriani became a good luck charm. With Agostini, the team won all 7 of their next matches. The papers presented the match against Juventus in Torino as a clash of the best, and Carmelo found himself on the front page of the Sport Courier with the huge headline: "Vialli or Imbriani".
The paper compared Boskov's 2 students: the highest paid attacker of the championship and Imbriani, who was still playing without a salary.
In Turin, he found himself playing against a team coached by Marcello Lippi. To mark the match, one of soccer's legends, Ciro Ferrara, had just walked away from SCC Napoli. Against all odds, Napoli took the lead with a goal from Pecchia, but the game was soon tied with a goal from Vialli.
Imbriani however, was also noticed when Buso made a cross that was low and strong to the center. He put aside his shyness, and in an unexpected and bold move, he took the ball and shot for the goal with his heel.
Everyone stopped, except for Peruzzi, who blocked what would have been an exceptional goal. Before the referee whistled the end of the game, there was time for one more play for Napoli, but nothing came of it, and the game was lost.
At the end of the match, Boskov stated, " If the guy isn't distracted, Napoli and Italy have found an amazing striker". In the days that followed, the papers wrote about that play and hypothesized about how Carmelo's career could have been changed if that heel shot had gone in.
Many illustrious players went out of their way to comment on the play, from Bettega to Vinicio. Even the great Gigi Riva said," I am very impressed because a technical play like that is born from astuteness and quality. It was an instinctive play, and instinct is a natural talent in soccer, in the sense that not everyone has it".
Carmelo's analysis was simpler, and he explained it to his dad when he went to pick him up at the airport: " Dad I hit the ball too well, fully on my heel. If it had sliced, it would have gone into the goal".
There was a break in the league, and for 2 weeks if seemed like nothing else was written about in the papers. When the games started up again, the first match was with Florence. He played a disappointing match and had to contend with expectations leaving him exposed to criticism.
According to the press, too many compliments had gone to his head. While Carmelo knew he would not have written those articles himself, he also felt he had to justify himself and apologize for not being useful in that match. He wanted to prove himself.
On 25 October 1995 he signed his real, professional contract. This was the result of the many sacrifices from himself and his family. Napoli would give him 60 million lire that year, 100 million for the next year, and 150 and 200 for the two years following.
He did not rent an apartment, but he continued to live in the same little room, shared that year with his friend Pecchia, in the guest room of "Centro Paradiso". It felt as close to home and family as he could get.
Napoli needed players who could score goals, and there were many names on the market for possible reinforcements, such as Inzaghi, Dugarry, Tovalieri, Del Vecchio, and Muzzi. But in the end, none of those names made it to Napoli thanks to Boskov. His intention was to elevate the heritage of Napoli with players from the same region. He told the press, "Inzaghi? No thanks, I have Imbriani"! Unfortunately, that quote weighed on the career and morale of Carmelo, especially in light of Pippo Inzaghi's dazzling successes in Italy and in Europe.
Despite the confidence of the coach, and the repeated declarations from the team department head, Agostini, who always defended him from attacks by the press, Carmelo failed to have a steady performance for the rest of the season.
At the end of the season, Imbriani played in 28 games, and scored 3 goals. The new season began with a change on the sidelines. Coach Simoni replaced Coach Boskov. For Carmelo, the possibility of finding a place on the new Napoli proved to be objectively difficult.
Carmelo was still very young, wanting to show off, and especially wanting to play at any cost. He agreed to play down a category for Pistoia in C1, and this was a very bad choice. Carmelo paid for this bad choice with his skin, and started to understand how easy it was to fall, and how much more difficult it was to climb back up to the top in soccer.
That year Carmelo had to complete his compulsory military service, so he was stationed in Napoli, and could only go up to Pistoia on Thursdays. This was not even enough time to get noticed by the coaches (4 in all that season, with "only" 3 who could guide players to the top of the team).
The end of the season finally came, and exhausted, Carmelo said: "From riches to rags. It felt like the world was smiling at me: My debut in Series A, my first goals, headlines in the paper, journalists who went out of their way to find me at home…then suddenly the world just crumbled around me".
It seemed like the statement of a soccer player at the end of his career, but Carmelo was only 21 years old. However his statements convinced a journalist of the Sport Courier on 19 August 1997 to analyze the relationship between the world of journalism and the world of soccer.
"We should be ashamed: We journalists for so carelessly exalting and depressing human beings, and the soccer industry for so cynically crushing enthusiasm, passion, and lives".
Imbriani spent the following year in Casarano, where he would have a way to show off with a young Miccoli in his early days. At the end of the season however, the team was forced to declare bankruptcy.
When he returned to Napoli, which in the meantime had fallen into Series B, he was not able to re-enter into the team plans, and was forced to go away again. He was thinking of playing professionally outside of Italy.
He spent 15 days in England that August. There were contacts with West Bromwich and Barnsley, but perhaps the words of his father after his Milan tryout returned to his mind: "Money does not have weight on the scale if you have to take away happiness and the affection of the environment in which you grew up".
He therefore remained in Napoli with jersey number 25 until the end of January. Then he said his final farewell to his Napoli blue jersey when he made a deal with Genoa.
With the season already in progress, he didn't find much space. However when he was called to the field, he played well.
In Napoli he had always played second striker, while at Genova Cagni had him as an end midfielder, which would become the role most suited to his characteristics and technical tactics. He regretfully left Genoa that summer. Fortunately Cosenza wanted him and he stayed in Series B. In Calabria he played three championships, and found the number of his childhood dreams on his back: 7.
At first he played excellent and prestigious soccer in Cosenza, sponsored by Mutti. The team surprised everyone by coming so close to becoming Series A. Characteristic of those years unfortunately, was a groin injury that kept Carmelo out of play for 5 months.
After his next attempt to return to the game, a herniated disc stopped him from play again. Meanwhile, the corporate problems for Cosenza began, and at the end of the 2001/2002 season, it declared bankruptcy. Carmelo was released after the failure of the team.
While waiting for a call from Series B, he meanwhile trained at Santa Colomba in Benevento. He found gracious hospitality from the yellow and red team, and became the subject of a long courtship from the militant team in C1.
After 20 days he was already part of the team, and chose to remain in the city. At the end of the season, back from a good championship, he did not renew with Benevento in hopes of receiving that call from Series B, which never came.
So, he found himself without a team, and played in preparation with other unemployed colleagues from AIC in Pistoia. At the same time he also worked on achieving a category three coaching license.
In October he went to Salerno. For three weeks he trained with the team without officially becoming part of the group. A few days after he signed with the team, he was inexplicably left out of the roster. It was the beginning of a nightmare.
It was three months of hell before his friend Lello Sergio (in Foggia) called him, giving Carmelo his trust and believing blindly in his technical skills and overall, his desire for redemption.
He needed a few weeks to regain his physical and mental form, to regain his confidence with the ball, to settle himself, and to metabolize the patterns of Coach Pasquale Marino, who had him play as the center striker of his trident. He played well for 6 months, but not even Foggia could enroll in the next season due to company problems.
The 2004/2005 season found Carmelo at the beginning of yet another preseason without a team. This time he trained alone and with incredible suffering, thinking of making the drastic decision to leave soccer all together. He went to Ariano Irpino, where the directors of the soccer club there wanted him at all costs, but he could not bring himself to play inter-regionally. He thanked them and returned to Benevento. The beginning was a little difficult. After all, he was joining a trial team that had almost reached Series B only a few months ago.
The turning point came with the arrival of his fraternal friend Pino Taglialatela in Benevento. He was able to help Carmelo regain more confidence. They had many talks; with the goal to get back some of Carmelo's pride.
He found his smile, and even more space until he was finally able to score a goal again, this time in a derby played in Avellino. His goal allowed Benevento to leave Stadium Partenio after 58 years with a victory, and Carmelo found his permanent place in the hearts of Benevento fans. At the end of the season, Benevento enrolled in the C1 league but Carmelo was forced to move down to C2.
Catanzaro offered him a chance to return in Series B and Carmelo accepted their offer. However, another hurdle arrived when he sprained his knee and could not play for a month and a half. In November, both the sporting director and coach, who had wanted him in Catanzaro, left Calabria. He understood it was time to repack his bags and return home, to where Benevento was waiting for him once again.
He played many seasons in the yellow and red jersey, and lived there from 2005- 2009 as one of the team's most represented players. On 20 October 2007 he celebrated the milestone of 100 games played for the team. At the end of the season he was promoted to C1 with Benevento after some exceptional and exciting playing.
On 22 June 2009 like an illustrious spectator, he sat on the bench for 90 minutes and watched Benevento's hopes of moving up to Series B fade away in a bitter final match lost at home against Crotone. However, the summer of 2009 was one to remember, as he wed his love Valeria, whom he had met in Benevento a few years earlier.
When he returned from his honeymoon, he was faced with more bad news. His contract was not going to be renewed. It was the blow that led him to hang up his cleats for good.
On 18 September 2009 Benevento proposed to him a different and interesting job: Coach for Benevento's youngest players. This was a new and fascinating experience for Carmelo.
He understood that he would have youngsters in front of him who were used to dreaming of walking onto a Series A field, neglecting to think about the stages and work that an athlete must do first to obtain such a lofty goal.
But he was also aware that after living the life of a real soccer player, he could teach those youngsters something important. It was no coincidence that the season was full of satisfaction.
On 24 June 2010 his youth players won the regional championship, and went on to win the National Cup, defeating the Emiliani del Crociati Noceto in the finals.
He was subsequently appointed coach of the Beretti, and the season started in the best of ways. His team was in first place in the league, but the main Benevento team was going through a very rough time with coach Simonelli at the center of all the problems.
So, on 30 November Imbriani become the new coach of Benevento with his friend Jorge Martinez. The two took the team to 13th place. The first few games were exciting because of both the results and the action. But after 20 matches, 12 wins, 3 ties, and 5 losses, they missed the play offs by only 1 point.
Confirmed to play again, they went to Sila in July to start preparations and training for the season. On 20 July, Carmelo left after several days with a high fever. It was originally thought he had bronchopneumonia. The reality was much sadder: Lymphoma had spread throughout his body.
He was immediately taken to Silvestrini Hospital in Perugia and his family followed close behind. His players were anxious for their coach, and the demonstrations of his fans were not left to wait.
On 28 October 2012 fans and players went out of their way to show tremendous solidarity. Everyone on the field and in the stadiums had the same message: "Imbriani Don't Give Up". Even the most serious fans and rivals did not hold back from putting the man in front of the team.
On 15 February 2013, Carmelo Imbriani died. He was survived by his wife Valeria, his daughter Sofia, who was 2 at that time, and his boy, Fernando, born four months prior.
Napoli and loans
Born in Benevento, Campania, 50 km northeast of Naples, Imbriani started his career at S.S.C. Napoli. He played his first Serie A match on 27 February 1994, substituted Renato Buso in the 79th minutes. The match Napoli lost to Cagliari 1-2. In 1995-96 season, he started to play regularly for Napoli, scored 2 goals in 25 league appearances.
He then spent 2 seasons loaned to Serie C1 sides Pistoiese and Casarano, before returned to Napoli in 1998, after Napoli relegated from Serie A in May. He played his last match for Napoli on 5 December 1998, along with Francesco Turrini replaced Massimiliano Esposito and Gennaro Scarlato in the 55th minutes, which also his first league match of the season. That match Napoli 0-0 draw with Torino. In January 1999, he left for another Serie B side Genoa.
In 1999-2000 season, he left for Serie B struggler Cosenza. He failed to play as a regular and only played 46 league matches in 3 seasons.
In 2002-03 season Imbriani returned to hometown club Benevento and played 22 Serie C1 matches in the first season. He did not play any matches in 2003-04 season, and in January 2004 left for Foggia, also at Serie C1. In 2004-05 season, Imbriani returned to Benevento and made another 21 league appearances. In 2005, Benevento went bankrupt and a new team was re-founded in Serie C2, but Imbriani left for Serie B struggler Catanzaro on free transfer. But in January 2006, he returned to Benevento and played as a regular starter in the 2006-07 & 2007-08 season.
Illness and death
In August 2012, while still in charge of Benevento, Imbriani was discovered several lymphomas spread all over his body. Due to his condition, he was unable to fulfil his role in his final period at the club, and head coaching duties were effectively handled by his assistant Jorge Martínez, who resigned later in October; Imbriani successively tended his resignation immediately after Martínez left his role at the club.
Imbriani died of leukemia in Perugia on 15 February 2013 at the age of 37.
- "Imbriani nuovo allenatore degli Allievi Regionali". Benevento Calcio (in Italian). 17 September 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2010.[dead link]
- "Imbriani saluta il Benevento: 'Non me la sento di andare avanti senza Martinez'". ilQuaderno. 15 May 2012. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
- "Vigorito, fiducia a Imbriani allenatore con Martinez: 'Scelta ponderata, il progetto Benevento continua'". ilQuaderno. 29 February 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2013. Check date values in:
- "BENEVENTO - rivelazioni shock di Imbriani: "Ho un tumore, ma lotterò"" [BENEVENTO - choc reveleations from Imbriani: "I have cancer, but I will fight"] (in Italian). TuttoMercatoWeb. 12 October 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Tutto il calcio si stringe attorno a Carmelo Imbriani afflitto da un brutto male: da Totti fino a Zanetti l'invito a non mollare la 'battaglia'" [The whole football world for cancer-struggling Carmelo Imbriani: from Totti to Zanetti, the invite to be strong in his 'battle'] (in Italian). Goal. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Benevento: Carmelo Imbriani e la partita più difficile" [Benevento: Carmelo Imbriani and the hardest battle] (in Italian). UrbanSport Calcio. 22 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
- "Former soccer player and coach Carmelo Imbriani died of leukemia on Friday". Sud Italia News. 15 February 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2013.