The 26-year-old striker has admitted to some low points in his career, largely based around promises made to him by coaches and clubs that weren’t kept, but at AC Milan he is hoping his suffering has come to an end.
Born to an Italian father and Peruvian mother in the city of Turin, young Gianluca shared a passion for football with his brother; who also tried his hand as a professional but with less success. His background meant he always had the option of representing either Italy or Peru at international level, a decision he still has yet to commit to despite interest from the latter. His recent exploits with Pescara have brought him to the attention of not only international selectors, but also the Italian elite including Napoli, Lazio and Juventus.
Lapadula maintains a great affection for Serie A champions Juventus, the club he began his career with back in 1996. He was released in 2004 at the tender age of 14, with the focus turning firmly to his education, however it wasn’t long before he was playing competitive football once again. Spells with Rivoli and Treviso helped to continue his youth development before making the move to Serie C2 club Pro Vercelli. Still very much a fringe player, Lapadula spent one year with Vercelli before switching to Ivrea.
A year passed and the young forward still had yet to make a mark in the Italian lower divisions. However, salvation appeared at hand when Serie A side Parma plucked the starry-eyed teenager from the depths of Italian football. While initially it may have seemed unthinkable and truly a huge slice of fortune, Lapadula would find his time at Parma to involve some of the toughest years of his life. A year in the club’s Primavera would be followed by seven loan spells away from the club.
Lapadula wouldn’t be alone in his hopeless attempts to prove his worth in never-ending loan spells. Dozens of youngsters shared the same fate as the striker in a footballer development programme that was doomed from the start. Apart from the few exceptions where the method worked, the majority of Parma players on serial loan spells failed to make progress. At times the Gialloblu would have 30 players out on loan at one time, not to mention innumerable co-ownership agreements. It would eventually lead to their downfall.
Having arrived in 2009, Lapadula would have to wait two years before a decent loan spell presented itself: San Marino. The tiny football side within the similarly small Republic would give forward his first big chance to shine. In 35 appearances he scored 24 goals, top scorer in Group A of the Lega Pro Seconda Divisione. It was enough to grab the attention of Serie B outfits and permanently improved his standing and reputation on the peninsula. However, he couldn’t replicate his form at Cesena or Frosinone.
Disappointment gave rise to further disappointment as Parma continued to loan Lapadula out. A truly farcical loan spell unfolded that saw the striker and a host of other Parma graduates join Slovenian side ND Gorica. Despite scoring regularly, the move was viewed with disdain as it did little to enhance his status in Italy; Lapadula was becoming more and more disillusioned with the Gialloblu. His seventh and final loan spell to Lega Pro side Teramo proved invaluable, as he netted 21 goals in 38 appearances.
With the final demise of Parma due to bankruptcy, Lapadula found himself without a club but with a solid season behind him at Teramo. Pescara came in and offered him a four-year contract, taking him closer to the birthplace of his father rather than the relative familiarity of Northern Italy. After years of broken promises and frustrating loan spells, Lapadula exploded with the Serie B side, scoring 30 goals in a superb season that has seen Pescara earn promotion. It was enough to tempt AC Milan into purchasing him.
The fee came close to €10 million and the contract alone was worth €1m a year, firing Lapadula to a new and unfamiliar status in his competitive career. It remains to be seen how he takes to the Italian top flight, but the vast majority have praised the Rossoneri for an astute acquisition that suits their current project. With the hard-graft he’s put in over the years and his humble beginnings, Lapadula has drawn comparisons to Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy and the Foxes were also reportedly interested in his signature.
While the story of Lapadula lacks a conclusion, Milan fans are hoping for a happy ending.