It goes without saying that soccer is probably the biggest sport to follow in Italy. As a result, Serie A is one of the world’s premier soccer leagues and Italy has produced some of the best players ever in the sport’s history.
Of course, the popularity of soccer is not confined to Italy. Over time, it has spread all over the world and is well-loved in many countries. North America is now a hotbed of soccer action for example, and this is due to the vibrant MLS competition which serves up great action for fans to enjoy.
Why has the MLS grown so much in recent years?
The development of the MLS has been stunning and helped along by a few factors. The popularity of soccer to bet on is a prime example and this has drawn many people to the MLS to wager on games. This is not just internationally either – now that many US states have legalized sports betting, many people in the US access the best MLS predictions and odds to bet on games with.
In addition, the MLS has benefited from attracting some big-name players over recent times. This has helped the league gain more global attention from fans, more media attention and enjoy a huge credibility boost. Italian players figure highly here – although their links to major soccer scandals might have made MLS teams think twice about signing them initially!
But who have been the best Italian players in the MLS and what scandals might they have been linked with?
What a player Andrea Pirlo was! A creative playmaker, his close control and passing were things of beauty. For all these reasons, the MLS team New York City FC signed him in 2015. Enjoying a decent couple of seasons there before retiring in 2017, he certainly ranks as one of the best Italian players to have graced the MLS.
But what about drama involving this player?! In 2006, a major match fixing scandal known as Calciopoli broke in Italian soccer. At the time, AC Milan was one team implicated in alleged match fixing and Pirlo was a member of this team. Although Pirlo was never investigated or found guilty of any offense, it was a scandal which stuck with him due his Milan links. As the latest Serie A table shows, Milan have bounced back from this since, but it was a big deal at the time.
Marco Di Vaio
Powerhouse Italian forward Di Vaio joined Montreal Impact in 2012. Able to play anywhere along the frontline, he had pace, decent heading ability and lethal finishing. All this made the time he spent at the Impact before retiring in 2014 a real joy for fans there.
As he shows up on our list, it is no surprise to see him caught up in a scandal over alleged match fixing when he first arrived in Montreal though. This resulted in him heading back to Italy for hearings into an alleged failure to report a fraud from a 2011 Bologna game he was involved in. Although he was eventually cleared, it was a scandal he got caught up in unfortunately.
Another top Italian player to have spent some time showcasing his skills in the MLS is iconic defender Alessandro Nesta. He really did have it all in his prime – great reading of the game combined with superb awareness, accurate passing and tough tackling to awesome effect. His time in North America was spent at Montreal Impact from 2012 to 2014. During this time, he helped them reach the Canadian Championship in 2013 and made a real impact.
In terms of scandals, it is much the same story as Pirlo and Di Vaio. Although he was never accused of or found guilty of any wrongdoing, Nesta was at AC Milan when the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal broke in 2006. As Milan were one of the teams implicated in this at the time, it naturally drew Nesta into the circus around it.
Italian players have lit up the MLS
While there have been lots of other Italian players to have lit up the MLS over time, including Matteo Ferrari, none have been linked with scandals like those shown above. Of course, plenty of other top Italian players were caught up in things like 2006’s Calciopoli and 2011’s Scommessopoli scandal but none of these ever plied their trade in North America. While it must be said that Nesta, Di Vaio and Pirlo were never found guilty of any wrongdoing, they all have links to scandals in their pasts.
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