He was at the centre of the Giallorossi team that won their second Serie A and was only a penalty shoot-out away from the European Cup. He is best remembered for his key role in winning the World Cup for Italy in 1982 in Spain. However he was not an instant hit.
He was born in Nettuno just outside Rome on 13 March 1955 and joined Roma at the tender age of 18 making his first team debut a year later away at Torino.
However Conti struggled to gain at permanent starting place at Roma, many argued it was down to his small size (5ft 61/2 in) and so was loaned out to Genoa twice in three years and was able to play consistently in Serie B.
When he came back to the capital things changed. Roma had recently appointed Nils Liedholm as their manager and Conti was able cement a place in that starting XI and he never looked back.
In the same year he made his debut for the national side and went on to make four appearances in 1980 scoring one goal. In the same year he won his first Coppa Italia. It was truly the year when Bruno Conti made a name for himself.
Roma won the Cup the following year and Conti was becoming one of the best Italian players of his generation. 1982 was to be the year where he introduced himself to the world.
Conti had been a star at Roma for three consecutive years and was rewarded by a place in Enzo Bearzot’s World Cup squad that headed to Spain as rank outsiders as the domestic game had been rocked by a betting scandals involving Paolo Rossi among others.
Italy scrapped past the first group stage of the World Cup thanks to three rather unconvincing draws against Poland,Peru and Cameroon. Conti did not escape the huge criticism placed on the team from the national media.
Bearzot took the unprecedented step to enforce a press black out meaning that only himself and Captain Dino Zoff were appointed to speak to the media.
Italy’s World Cup dream seemed to be over when they were drawn in a group of death which included the holders Argentina and the favourites Brazil.
In the first game, they beat Diego Maradona’s Argentina 2-1, however Conti once again failed to make his mark in the game which was an ill-tempered affair in which the Italian defence proved their skills in the rougher side of the game. The next game against Brazil would be the game which changed everything.
Going into the game, Italy were rank outsiders and knew they needed a win to go through to the semi-finals. In their way was the team of the tournament and one was the best teams ever Brazil.
Italy twice led thanks to Rossi, only to be pegged back, on the second occasion by Conti’s teammate at Roma Falcao. It was to be Rossi’s day and he finished his hat-trick with 18 minutes to go. Italy were through to their 5th World Cup Semi –Final and Conti’s pace and skill on the flank had played a key role.
The first half at the Santiago Bernabeu ended goalless despite Conti winning a penalty, however it was missed by Antonio Cabrini.
Italy started the second half superbly and thanks to that the man Rossi went 1-0 up. Conti was at the heart of everything and played a vital role when Marco Tardelli made it two.
For Italy’s third goal Conti passed defender after defender before laying the ball off to substitute Alessandro Altobelli who did the rest. Germany scored a late consolation but Italy were champions of the world for the 3rd time.
The following year Conti played his part in another amazing story. He was Roma’s key man in them winning their second ever scudetto. In a team with the likes of Falcao, Agostino Di Bartolomei and Ruberto Puzzo, Conti shinned, creating numerous goals and was the link between attack and defence.
In their next season, Roma had even more success. They finished runners up in the league and won the Coppa Italia again, but it was to be their amazing European run that would steal all the headlines.
Roma found them self with the chance of a lifetime, a European cup final at their home the Stadio Olimpico. Liverpool who had been the team in Europe over the last 10 years were in their way. The Match finished 1-1 with Pruzzo scoring the Roma goal and so the game went to the dreaded penalty shoot-out.
Thanks the heroics of Bruce Grobbelaar and a miss from Conti himself, Roma’s chance had come and gone. It is still a night that haunts Roma fans.
After that final there was period of relatively failure for Roma with only the Copa Italia win over Sampdoria in 1986 to show for their efforts.
It was to same year that Bruno Conti played his last game for the Azzurri. It was in a 2-0 World Cup warm game against the French.
In the last few years of his career he started to play less and less, averaging just 20 games a season and so he decided to retire from the game in 1991 at the age of 36.
Conti then became a coach at Roma’s academy winning two youth league titles. Then he once again made headlines in the 2004-05 season when following the departure of Luigi Del Neri he became head coach.
He led the team to a Coppa Italia final and a Uefa Cup Berth. His short time as head coach finished when Luciano Spalletti was named the manager. His current role at the club is Director of football and he can often be seen at the side of the pitch cheering on the team.
His 304 league appearances for the Giallorossi makes him 5th in the all-time list of appearances for the club. His skill and flair saw him captivate fans across the globe.
A model professional Bruno Conti will never be forgotten.
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