Date: 5th November 2011 at 9:53am
Written by:

Imagine for one minute you are playing for the not so big Italian club Torino, your 23 years old and you have just made your first appearance for the Italian national side.

Your young boy-hood dreams are starting to become true, you are really making a name for yourself in modern day football when arguably the biggest Italian club wants to sign you.

Now break away from that Imagination and skip back to reality that was once the promising situation of Gianluigi Lentini.

Lentini started his career with Torino and enjoyed a promising youth career at the club. His performances on the field delighted not only his club but his country too, as he was given his first international cap for Italy in 1991 against Belgium. To say the least, Lentini was becoming one ofItaly’s most talented youngsters.

That prompted AC Milan to make a sensational offer for the winger and that they did. Lentini became the “worlds most expensive player” in a £13m transfer that will always be remembered in football.

AC Milan were no shy-boys in football, arguably the most well known and successful Italian club they had signed many greats over the years so it was no surprise they were the team to sign the “next” big thing in Italian football.

His first season with the club ended with a Serie A title but Lentini remained largely and surprisingly unknown outside Italy, left in the dark as big names such as Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Baggio were heralded in the limelight.

However, his career had progressed. He had gone from Serie B outfit Torino to being known as the “world most expensive footballer”, being capped byItalyand winning a Serie A title.

The future was his and he embarked on a pre-season with AC Milan, however whilst driving home from a tournament in Genoa. Tragedy struck, Lentini was involved in a serious car crash that threatened not only his football career but his life too.

A fractured skull and damaged eye socket saw him spend 2 days in a light coma before being discharged from hospital under caution.

The “world’s most expensive footballer” was lucky to be alive.

His career had taken its first and biggest hit, now becoming a barely used substitute after making a recovery from his car accident; Lentini would play only 60 games for the club who signed him for £13m. However, his appearances did mean he warranted two more Scudetto’s and a Champions League winners medal in 1994.

He left the club in 1996 to join Atalanta but unfortunately his talent was lost and he would play for six more teams gradually getting lower and lower in standard. He eventually retired at the age of 40 whilst playing for amatuer club Nicese.

Imagine now for a moment, being 42-years-old, sitting in your quiet Villa in Torino, reflecting upon the career you have just had.

Enter your name “Lentini” into Google or talk to any football fan who can remember you and they will utter two statements: “transfer flop” or “car crash”.

Harsh to say the least and precisely the reason I have asked you to put yourself into his shoes.

He had everything, caps for Italy, that infamous transfer fee and without doubt the initial quality to become a star but tragically at no fault of his own had it all taken away from him.

He may never have played the same again nor been worth a fraction of the fee paid once byMilanfor him. But he kept doing what he loved, no matter whom for or how low down, and for that reason I believe Lentini is a legend.

He symbolizes what should never be forgotten in a footballer, to never give up.

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