Marco Materazzi, a formidable hothead and an unconventional goal machine, as well as being one of the biggest and most memorable characters of modern Calcio.
Marco was born in Lecce where his father Giuseppe Materazzi was currently playing for then Serie C side Lecce, but he grew up as a Lazio fan as the elder Materazzi had managed Lazio in the late eighties.
Materazzi spent the early years of his playing career in the lower league of Italian football beginning at Messina in 1990/91, then going on to join Tor di Quinto, Marsala Calcio, Trapani and Perugia before a transfer to English Premier League side Everton.
While at Everton, Materazzi was sent off four times in 27 games, which didn’t go down well with the English media and fans. After just one season in England, Marco returned back to Italy rejoining Perugia where he broke the Serie A record for most goals scored in a season by a defender, with 12 goals from 30 appearances.
Materazzi was a prolific goal scorer for a central defender with his six-feet three-inch frame used to devastating effect. Powerful accurate heading skills and unbelievable bravery meant that Materazzi was a real threat in the penalty box from set pieces.
He also had a very accurate but strong left foot making him a danger from free kicks around the box and also from the penalty spot.
After his record breaking year Inter paid €6.5 million to Perugia for his services. He stayed at Inter for the remainder of his career, making 209 appearances while scoring 18 goals in a ten-year period.
His scoring rate slowed at Inter due to falling down the pecking order for set pieces and penalties with fierce competition from specialists like Sinisa Mihajlovic, Luis Figo and Wesley Sneijder.
Materazzi became part of the furniture at Inter, and was well respected by everyone at the club with many players looking to him as a leader; this later lead to him building a strong relationship with Jose Mourinho.
Materazzi had a never say die attitude and wore his heart on his sleeve, this led him in to reportedly often confronting Inter coach Mourinho expressing not only his opinions, but those of his team mates as well.
Reaching the latter stages of his career, Materazzi was left to only making cameo substitute appearances with only 28 games from his final three years at the club before his contract expired at the end of the 2010/11 season.
During his time with Inter, Materazzi collected 41 international caps for his county and was a key figure in Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning team, coming off the bench to replace injured Alessandro Nesta in Italy’s third group game of the tournament.
He went on to score one of his trademark towering headers, helping Italy record a 2-0 win over the Czech Republic and securing first place in the group at the same time.
Materazzi started the second round match but received a straight red card ensuring he would miss Italy’s 3-0 quarter-final victory over Ukraine, but he was back in the side for the semi-final showdown against host nation Germany where he played the full game in Italy’s 2-0 extra-time victory.
The final didn’t start well for Italy or Materazzi as he conceded the penalty that saw Zinedine Zidane convert, to put France in the lead after just seven minutes gone. However, Materazzi soon made up for his error by getting on the end of an Andrea Pirlo corner with yet another trademark header to equalise for Italy.
The game ended 1-1 after extra-time with Marco scoring the second of Italy’s penalties as they went on to win the shoot-out 5-3. Materazzi was also involved in an altercation with Zidane that ended with the Frenchman being shown a red card after head-butting the defender in the chest.
What was said to provoke such a reaction remains shrouded in mystery, though the incident was immortalised in a statue by French artist Adel Abdessemed.
Materazzi picked up a phenomenal 16 trophies throughout his career including the World Cup, Club World Cup, Champions League, Supercoppa Italiana on four occasions, as well as the Coppa Italia and Serie A titles another four times each.