An unsung hero amid the madness of Lazio’s infamous bad boy side of Scudetto winners that claimed the title in 1974, Luciano Re Cecconi is a worthy legend in the history of Italian football; even if his story is one of the saddest.
That Biancocelesti side that he played in during that time were notorious for their image as being a side with a lust for life, notorious jokers and pranksters.
Some of that side have since gone into hardcore right-wing politics while others are now outspoken pundits on Roman radio.
The majority of team were infamous for running roughshod around the training ground with guns (even allegedly destroying a kit shed due to their itchy trigger fingers), but unfortunately the man who was often the calming influence on many of the squad, both on and off the field from his position in the heart of midfield, has long passed away and this is his tragic tale.
He was born in the village of Nerviano, just outside of Milan in December 1948 and quickly graduated to Serie C football after impressing locally He joined Pro Patria where he picked up a Serie C title, but his talents had been spotted by Foggia who quickly snapped up the teenager after just two years in the lower divisions.
It was there he met up with the coach who was to have the biggest impact on his career in Tommaso Maestrelli. The two would meet up once more in the capital a short time later.
With the help of Re Cecconi’s runs and spirit at the heart of the side, being one of the finest box-to-box midfield men (or mediano as it is known in Italy) in the country, he helped lead Foggia to the promised land of Serie A, securing the Cadetti title.
Although they did not last long in the top-flight, it mattered not as l’Angelo Biondo or the Blond Angel as he was nicknamed due to his mop of bright blond hair, had been noticed for his outstanding displays.
By 1972, he had moved to the capital and once more found himself under the guidance of Maestrelli who has long received widespread praise for the way in which he coached such a potentially difficult squad of players in terms of behaviour.
His performances in Rome in the middle of the park were outstanding and he was a key component of a side where striker Giorgio Chinaglia inevitably made most of the headlines for his controversial, yet classy displays on the field and colourful personality off of it.
At the time Re Cecconi may not have received the praise that he deserved, but he was a player very much in the mold of a Daniele De Rossi (excuse the comparison to a Roma player, but it is an apt one to make) or Paul Pogba of Juventus who light up Serie A with the only difference being that a mediano perhaps enjoys more of the limelight should they do their job well in this footballing era.
It was with the help and strength of his displays that helped earn the unfancied Aquile the title two years after arriving at the club. Although he struggled at times during that campaign with a niggling knee problem, in his comeback game against AC Milan he played a star role, scoring to deliver the key win for his side.
The previous season Lazio had been pipped to the championship on the final day, but in 1974 they would not be denied. This time Re Cecconi departed the field following the last game of the season with just his underwear and one boot after being stripped of his kit by the jubilant Lazio supporters celebrating their first ever Scudetto triumph.
Sadly, they would not reach these same heights again in the years that followed. Although the Blond Angel earned a call up to the national side, for whom he made two appearances, thanks to his efforts with the Biancocelesti.
At club level though, things were not the same and only an outstanding display from the fan favourite in 1976, in a vital game against Como, prevented them from making a swift and surprise fall into Serie B.
The following year though, on a cold winter’s night in January 1977, the husband and father of two lost his life in extremely cruel circumstances. It came just six weeks after the squally sad passing of Maestrelli due to illness.
Re Cecconi, known for being something of a joker amid the squad, and teammate Pietro Ghedin decided to visit the jewellery shop in Rome of a friend. The two decided to play a practical joke on the owner of the establishment, Bruno Tabochini.
The Laziale pair ran into the shop with their faces buried in their jackets and their hands up their jumpers imitating the shape of a gun and yelling for the owner to put his hands up as it was a robbery.
The startled Tabochini, whose shop had been broken into a few weeks previously, was prepared for such a similar occurrence and pulled out a shotgun.
Although he was rushed to San Giacomo hospital nothing could be done to save him, and Re Cecconi died 30 minutes later at the age of just 28.
His final words as he lay on the floor in shock at what had happened are believed to have been “it was just a joke, it was a joke.”
Tabochini was arrested, but never convicted of any crime. Although controversial theories abound that the story may have had more to it and was not what it seemed. The above is the accepted version of events, however.
Regardless, Italian football and the peninsula lost their Blond Angel that winter night in 1977. His legend continues to grow, however, as his story is told and retold by Lazio fans and calcio followers. This is a player whose iconic status will never be forgotten.