Padraig Whelan Date: 4th November 2011 at 5:07pm
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Marco Delvecchio was one of a rare breed of strikers in football. For so often in games he may not be seen and has a few fleeting touches of the ball but one who can always be relied on to hit the back of the net when needed (sometimes in specatacular fashion) and in the case of Marco Delvecchio, he so often did this in important games when his side deserately needed him in.

The bigger the occasion, the more Marco seemed to lift his game and Roma fans still fondly remember the forward to this day for crucial goals in massive games for them.  In fact, it would not be an understatement to say that without the player in the forward line for the 2000/01 season then the Giallorossi may not have secured the Scudetto that season.

Delvecchio was born in Milan in April 1973 and by the 80s had signed up with his hometown club Internazionale where the senior side enjoyed relative success towards the end of the decade. Unfortunately, the start of the 90s was to be a tough time for the Nerazzurri as they had to endure watching neighbours Milan storm to successes both at home and on the continent as Inter themselves began to struggle and the young Marco was forced to find a new club due to a distinct lack of opportunities and joined Venezia in 1992 without having scored a goal for the club.

He flourished in the north after being given regular chances in the team despite still being just 19 but the tall, gangly striker did well for his side putting in some performances that belied his young age. However, it was obvious even that he would not be the kind of striker who would score 20 goals a season but rather he impressed more for his undeniable work ethic and constant desire to do his best for the team rather than himself.

He was a curious and not too common breed of striker, one who was unselfish and put the team’s needs above his own. It worked for the forward though and after just one season in Venice, Brescia swooped for his services although things didn’t work out for him there and after just one year he left to rejoin boyhood club Inter. In fact, things worked out better for him this time around under the management of Giampiero Marini and Delvecchio hit five goals for the club during an extremely successful campaign for the youngster. So successful was it that Roma pounced and bought the striker in the summer of 1995. It was here that he was to enjoy the greatest years of his career.

He enjoyed a successful opening season for the club where he featured in sporadic appearances and the following summer enjoyed a fruitful European Under 21 Championship campaign with Italy. He eventually made the step up to the senior side and would in total make 22 appearances for his country, scoring three goals. This is an excellent achievement when you consider the forwards that Italy had at their disposal at this time.

With players like clubmates Francesco Totti and Vincenzo Montella, Alessandro del Piero, Roberto Baggio, Christian Vieri, Marco Di Vaio and Pippo Inzaghi all vying for a place in the international set up, such a high number of appearances says a great deal about how greatly managers valued a player like Delvecchio in their team.

Without doubt the most important of the attacker’s goals for Italy came in the Euro 2000 Final against France and is yet more proof that on the big occasions, Marco Delvecchio stepped up to the plate. His opportunistic strike was just 15 seconds away from being the goal and he was so close to being a hero across his homeland for being the man who won the Azzurri the trophy but Sylvain Wiltord’s cruel last-gasp strike was followed up by an extra time volley from Davud Trezeguet to win Les Bleus the cup.

Delvecchio was to bounce back from the crushing disappointment in superb style though as the season following the European Championships, Fabio Capello had his side ready and waiting to challenge for the Serie A title that belonged to Lazio.

If there was one who would prove to be a thorn in the side of Roma’s city rivals it would be Marco Delvecchio. To this day he remains the joint top scorer in the Derby della Capitale with 9 goals and one of those goals came that season and it would prove to be a crucial strike as it ensured Roma emerged with a creditable 2-2 draw despite a late Lazio fightback. His goals return in the fixture ensures he still remains a fond figure for the fans in the Curva Sud even today.

He may not have been prolific in his ten years at the Stadio Olimpico, although a return of 77 goals remains a very respectable amount , but these goals in the biggest games of the season for Roma will forever ensure his iconic status in the red half of Rome.

After a 3-1 win over Parma in May secured the club’s only third ever Scudetto title and Delvecchio certainly played his part, more so during the first half of the campaign. Despite calls for him to be dropped in place of Vincenzo Montella, Fabio Capello continued to play the striker saying “the defence starts with Delvecchio. The players need him in the team, he works hard for them.”

Eventually though Montella’s goal-scoring even when coming off the bench became too much for Capello to ignore and he partnered Totti and Gabriel Batistuta and helped his side to the Championship which was secured by two points from Juventus sparking scenes of wild celebrations across the city of Roma for the second consecutive season although on this occasion it was the Giallorossi followers who took to the streets of the capital.

Delvecchio not only scored important goals for his side that season on the way to the title but also proved his prowess to those across Europe during his time in Rome where he would hit 13 goals for the side in European competition, the most impressive of these strikes being goals against AEK Athens and Anderlecht which rescued draws in the Champions League and a hatrick against Gorica in the UEFA Cup to show that he was a striker capable of scoring in such prestigious competitions.

Unfortunately, his time at Roma could not last forever and the continued impressive form of the club’s strikers along with the emergence of the talented young Antonio Cassano spelled the end of his time at the Olimpico and he left in 2005 to join Brescia.

An unsuccessful spell in Lombardy was followed by a transfer to Parma but a return of just one goal at the Ennio Tardini in the 2005/06 season resulted in him being forced to find yet another new club that summer. He joined Ascoli in their quest to stay in Serie A and performed slightly better as he scored two goals in ten games for the Bianconeri but it was not enough to keep the club in the top tier and with the Picchio’s relegation, Delvecchio decided to call time on his illustrious professional career which had earned him a Serie A winners medal, a European Championship silver medal and 22 caps for his country.

After staying away from football for a year, he joined Pescatori Ostia of the regional league in Lazio and proved he still had his goalscoring touch by netting 34 goals in his 35 games. At any level, that is impressive. Today, Delvecchio can be found giving his opinions on all things calcio on Roman radio but will go down in the history of the game as one of the hardest working strikers in the game and one who was always ready for the big occasions.

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