|Full name||Walter Zenga|
|Date of birth||28 April 1960|
|Place of birth||Milan, Italy|
|Height||1.88 m (6 ft 2 in)|
|Sampdoria (head coach)|
|1978–1979||→ Salernitana (loan)||3||(0)|
|1979–1980||→ Savona (loan)||23||(0)|
|1980–1982||→ Sambenedettese (loan)||67||(0)|
|1997–1999||New England Revolution||47||(0)|
|1998–1999||New England Revolution|
|2005–2006||Red Star Belgrade|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
Walter Zenga (Italian pronunciation: [ˈvalter ˈdzeŋɡa]; born 28 April 1960) is a retired Italian footballer and current manager of Sampdoria. He is a long-time goalkeeper for the Italian national team and Internazionale. He also holds Romanian citizenship.
During his playing career, Zenga was part of the Italian squad that finished fourth at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, United States and was starting goalkeeper for the Azzurri team that finished third in the 1990 FIFA World Cup tournament held in Italy, keeping a World Cup record unbeaten streak. A three time winner of the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper Award, Zenga is regarded by pundits as one of the best goalkeepers of all time, and in 2013 was voted the eighth best goalkeeper of the past quarter-century by IFFHS. In 2000, he also placed 20th in the World Keeper of the Century Elections by the same organisation.
Zenga joined Internazionale in 1982, after starting his professional career in 1978 in the lower divisions of Italian football (his first team was Salernitana in Serie C1, and he also played for Savona and Sambenedettese). Initially (in the 1982–83 season) he was the substitute of Ivano Bordon, who was one of the top Italian goalkeepers of his era, as he had been Dino Zoff's reserve in the 1982 FIFA World Cup. However, Zenga played Inter's matches in the Coppa Italia, impressing enough that the club decided not to buy another goalkeeper after Bordon's decision to move to Sampdoria during the summer of 1983. Zenga became Inter's starting goalkeeper in the 1983–84 season, where he conceded only 23 goals, better than any other goalkeeper in that season.
The next season would prove to be bittersweet for Zenga: although he continued to play excellently, he didn't manage to win any trophy. In Italy, Inter was the main rival of Hellas Verona who won the first (and to these days only) Scudetto of its history in 1985, while in Europe he had to suffer two bitter and quite controversial defeats at the hands of Spanish giants Real Madrid, both times in the UEFA Cup semi-finals. However, personal success was growing: he became a fan favourite due to his qualities and his love for the team, his fame was now nationwide thanks to his larger than life personality and he quickly established himself as one of the premier goalkeepers of the country. He was included in Enzo Bearzot's 22-man Italy squad for the 1986 World Cup. Initially the third goalkeeper behind Fiorentina's Giovanni Galli and Roma's Franco Tancredi, his name was taken in consideration by Bearzot before the match against the Michel Platini-led France due to the poor performances of Galli (who, in the end, played also against France).
Apart from enjoying the selection for a World Cup, the summer of 1986 proved to be important for Zenga also at club level. In fact, Inter signed Giovanni Trapattoni, who left Juventus after a highly successful 10-year stint, to manage the team. Meanwhile, the trio formed by Zenga, Giuseppe Bergomi and Riccardo Ferri (goalkeeper-right full back-stopper) was becoming the cornerstone of the team and of the Italian team also. In the 1986–87 season. Inter closely fought Napoli for the Scudetto, finishing third despite a series of injuries which plagued the team in the final weeks of the season (among others, Marco Tardelli, Alessandro Altobelli and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had to watch the final matches from the bench). However, Zenga imposed himself as the best goalkeeper in Italy, finishing the 30 matches-long season conceding only 17 goals and by being picked by new Italy's manager Azeglio Vicini as the starter in the goalkeeping position.
The next season would prove to be disappointing for Inter and Zenga: the team struggled all the season, due to lack of compatibility between the two main forwards (team's captain Altobelli and the newly acquired Aldo Serena) and between the two offensive midfielders Gianfranco Matteoli and the Belgian Vincenzo Scifo. Plus Zenga, dissatisfied with the way the club was managed, decided to leave Inter and join the then dominant Napoli. However, the move didn't materialize and Zenga remained with Inter. The highlight of the season for Zenga was the participation in the 1988 UEFA European Championships, where he played all four of Italy's matches (a 1-1 draw against West Germany, a 1-0 victory over Spain, and a 2-0 win over Denmark in the group stage matches, and a 0-2 loss against the Soviet Union in the semi-final). Here again Zenga was at the centre of controversy: in the first match against West Germany he conceded a free kick inside the penalty area due to having made too many steps while carrying the ball in his hands (an infringement rarely penalised). Andreas Brehme, who would become Zenga's teammate at Inter only a few months later, scored from the resulting free kick to tie the game for West Germany.
However, the next season would prove to be one of the best for Inter and Zenga. The team, reinvigorated by the acquisitions of the young Italians Alessandro Bianchi and Nicola Berti, the Germans Andreas Brehme and Lothar Matthäus from Bayern Munich and the Argentine Ramón Díaz dominated the season, winning the league title with a record haul of 58 points and breaking several other records during the year. Such a performance is even more impressive if the whole quality of the tournament is taken in consideration: in second position there was the Diego Maradona-led Napoli and in third position the star-studded and future European champion Milan. Zenga ended the season conceding only 19 goals, the best goalkeeper again in that respect.
The 1989–90 and 1990–91 seasons proved to be bittersweet for Inter: although the team remained a title contender, it didn't manage to take another success on home soil, except for the victory in the Supercoppa Italiana played in November 1989 against Sampdoria. The 1991 season turned up to be a close fight between Inter and Sampdoria, with the title decided in a match played in Milan, which Inter would lose 0-2 allowing Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini to win the league title. However, Inter won the UEFA Cup that year, defeating, among the others, Aston Villa, Atalanta and Sporting Clube de Portugal on the road to the final against A.S. Roma. Inter won the first match 2–0 and lost only 1–0 in Rome, achieving the first European success since the 1960s. After that match, manager Giovanni Trapattoni left the team, as he decided to return as coach of Juventus.
On a personal scale, Zenga experienced in these seasons the peak of his career. For three consecutive years (1989–1991) he was nominated by IFFHS the best goalkeeper in the world, ahead of goalkeepers like Michel Preud'homme, Rinat Dasaev and Andoni Zubizarreta. Zenga was at his best between the posts, as his great explosiveness and sharp reflexes enabled him to make great and spectacular saves. Not known for being a great penalty saver (frequently dropping down to the ground in the middle of the goal), in his career he has however saved penalty kicks from Roberto Baggio, Michel Platini and Paul Merson.
In 1994, Zenga transferred to Sampdoria, and then to Padova two years later. He then moved on to New England Revolution and Major League Soccer. Zenga played in goal for them in the league's second season in 1997, then left to pursue an acting career (he and his girlfriend starred in an Italian soap opera). During a game versus the Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1997, he celebrated a goal by running to the sidelines and making out with his girlfriend, as the Mutiny barely missed the open net straight from the kickoff. Zenga came back to the Revs in 1999, as a player-manager, but only lasted a year in both those positions.
During his playing career, Zenga was nicknamed Uomo Ragno (Spider-Man) due to his goalkeeping skills, especially his agility.
Zenga was capped 58 times for the Italy national football team. After featuring in the country's squads at the 1984 Olympics and the 1986 FIFA World Cup, Zenga became the starter during the 1988 UEFA European Championships. Zenga remained first choice goalkeeper when Italy hosted the World Cup in 1990, and led the team to a third-place finish during which he set a record of five consecutive clean sheets, and a total of 518 minutes without conceding a goal, a record still standing.
After he left New England Revolution, Zenga retired from active football, choosing to pursue a coaching career.
After a short stint with Milan amateurs Brera Calcio, Zenga moved to Romania in 2002, first managing Naţional Bucureşti and then Steaua Bucureşti where he won the domestic title and reached the Round of 16 of the 2004–05 UEFA Cup after eliminating UEFA Cup winners Valencia from the competition.
In the summer 2005, after being fired from Steaua before the end of the season, Zenga joined Crvena zvezda, leading the Serbian team to a double (national league and national cup in Serbia and Montenegro).
In the summer 2006, Zenga was called to coach Turkish side Gaziantepspor; however, after a poor beginning (five wins in 17 league matches), he resigned in January 2007 in order to accept an offer from United Arab Emirates club Al-Ain.
After just five months in charge, Al-Ain sacked Zenga, who was announced in September 2007 as new Dinamo Bucureşti coach, replacing Mircea Rednic, but resigning only two months later following a 1–0 loss in a local derby lost to Steaua. He then accepted a job as football commentator and pundit for Italian public broadcasting service RAI.
On 1 April 2008, he agreed to replace resigning boss Silvio Baldini as manager of Catania. He made his Serie A debut on 6 April with a crush 3–0 home win to Napoli, leading them to a dramatic relegation escape during the final minutes of the league, after a 1–1 home draw against Roma.
Confirmed at the helm of Catania for the 2008–09 season, Zenga proved to be fit for the Italian top flight, leading the rossoazzurri to impressive results in the early part of the season, and agreeing a one-year contract extension with the Sicilian club.
Catania's playing style under Walter Zenga was notable for the coach's care for free kick schemes; his assistant manager Gianni Vio is known to work exclusively on this particular side of football tactics during the weekly training sessions. He guided Catania to a mid-table finish and the Serie A points record for the Eastern Sicilian side; on the final home game of the season he announced he was parting company with his club by mutual consent.
On 5 June, after being linked with the managerial job at Lazio it was revealed that Zenga had agreed a three-year contract with Palermo to replace outgoing manager Davide Ballardini; the move was hailed as a massive surprise due to the rosanero club being rumoured to be interested in several other managers and the bitter rivalry between Palermo and Zenga's former team Catania, which were also the only two Sicilian teams playing in the Italian top flight. He debuted with a 4–2 Coppa Italia win to SPAL 1907, and a 2–1 home win to Napoli in the first week of the Serie A season. However, a number of disappointing results followed, ending in an unimpressive 1–1 home tie to Catania that led Palermo chairman Maurizio Zamparini to remove Zenga from his managerial duties on 23 November, after only thirteen league games in charge of the rosanero. On 13 January 2010, the coach terminated his contract with Palermo.
On 11 May 2010, he was announced new head coach of Saudi Arabian football club Al-Nassr. He was removed from his position on 24 December 2010 after a string of poor results led Al-Nasr to be overthrown from the top of the league table.
Return to Italy
Zenga has three children from his first two marriages. He has a son, Jacopo (who later became a footballer himself, and is currently playing in amateur Serie D after spending time with Inter and Genoa at youth level), from his marriage to Marche Elvira Carfagna. From his second marriage, to TV personality Roberta Termali, he has two more sons, Nicolò and Andrea. In 2005, he married 23-year-old Romanian woman Raluca Rebedea. On 19 November 2009, she gave birth to their daughter Samira Valentina.
In April 2010, Zenga said that he wants to take Romanian citizenship.
- MLS Player of the Month (1): 1997
- Serie A Footballer of the Year (1): 1987
- IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper (3): 1989, 1990, 1991
- UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year (1): 1990
- Steaua Bucureşti
- Red Star Belgrade
- "Zenga a povestit peripeţiile din România!" (in Romanian). Click.ro. 3 April 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
- "Internazionale: Serie A alternative club guide". The Guardian. 5 June 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- "Legend of Calcio: Walter Zenga". Retrieved 12 November 2014.
- "Iffhs, Buffon miglior n.1 ultimi 25 anni" (in Italian). Il Corriere della Sera. 17 January 2013. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- Karel Stokkermans (30 January 2000). "IFFHS' Century Elections: World - Keeper of the Century". RSSSF. Retrieved 13 August 2015.
- "UFFICIALE: Walter Zenga si dimette dalla Dinamo Bucarest" (in Italian). TuttoMercatoWeb. 25 November 2007. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
- "Zenga to rally Catania troops". UEFA. 1 April 2008. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
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- "Buona la prima di Zenga a Catania, sonoro 3–0 a un Napoli svagato" (in Italian). La Repubblica. 6 April 2008. Retrieved 11 April 2008.
- "Gianni Vio, lo stratega dei calci piazziati" (in Italian). SiciliaSport. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2008.
- "Zenga, l'uomo nuovo per un EuroPalermo" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. 5 June 2009. Retrieved 5 June 2009.
- "Walter Zenga sollevato dall’incarico" (in Italian). US Città di Palermo. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 23 November 2009.
- "Ha firmato un biennale con l'Al-Nasr" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. 11 May 2010. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
- "Walter Zenga fired as Al-Nasr coach". Yahoo! News. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 24 December 2010.
- "Zenga sbarca a Genova: «Quanta emozione, finalmente sono tornato!»" (in Italian). U.C. Sampdoria. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
- "La nuova sfida di Zenga: a Bucarest per rinascere" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. 25 July 2002. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
- "Zenga cuore diviso in due" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. 22 April 2008. Retrieved 8 June 2009.
- "Raluca si Walter Zenga au devenit parinti" (in Romanian). Time4News.
- "Gigi a fost eclipsat de Zenga" (in Romanian). Gazeta Sporturilor.
- "Onoreficenze". http://www.quirinale.it (in Italian). 30 September 1991. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
- Media related to Walter Zenga at Wikimedia Commons