Quick Reads

Fabrizio Miccoli – The Flawed Goalscoring Hero of Palermo

In purely footballing terms, Fabrizio Miccoli was a successful striker appearing for a number of Serie A clubs including Juventus and Fiorentina, scoring 211 goals in almost 600 games. For many though, it was his time with Sicilian club Palermo that will define how history remembers him – for events both on and off the field.

After playing his way to the big time with lower league clubs Casarano and Ternana, young Miccoli built a reputation as a potential star in the making, with some of the rapacious Italian press dubbing him as the new Del Piero. Such labels are seldom helpful for any young player seeking to make their own name in the game, and Miccoli was just one more who inevitably fell short of such feverishly elevated expectations.

Regardless of that, it was Raffaello’s club Juventus who acquired Miccoli’s signature in 2002, but deeming him not ready for first team action, immediately loaned him out to Perugia for the new season. If it was an opportunity to impress Turin’s ‘Old Lady’ it was one that the forward seized upon with relish. An exceptional season with a less than outstanding team – Perugia would finish in mid-table – only leant further strength to a growing reputation. His pacey style and ability were well suited to the Italian game. Scoring almost a quarter of the club’s entire total of league goals was sufficient to induce La Vecchia Signora to welcome him back with open arms for the upcoming season.

Relationships can be an important factor in any player’s progression. Unfortunately for Miccoli, less than amicable dealings with Juve manager, Fabio Capello, obstructed any genuine development. Miccoli would still play 25 Serie A games in Bianconeri’s famous shorts, netting eight times in his first season back in Turin. Inevitably, the die was already cast. The following term saw Juve strike a deal with Fiorentina to sell 50% of the player’s registration rights, and Miccoli moved to Florence, swapping black and white for purple in what would become an increasingly colourful career.

If the time with Perugia had been a mid-table struggle, things were even tougher for Miccoli with Fiorentina. The striker, however, was the one shining light of their season. A dozen goals in just 35 league outings was an outstanding return, and his strike against Brescia in the final game of the season preserved Fiorentina’s status. Juve had fared much better, topping the Serie A table, but a match-fixing scandal would see them stripped of the title. In what to many seemed a strange affair at the end of the season, an ‘auction’ between the clubs resulted in Miccoli being sent back to Turin, and then immediately loaned out to Benfica.

Miccoli would later fondly recall his time with the Primeira Liga club as being the happiest of his career, and it’s certainly the case that he found the Portuguese game to his taste. In his second term in Lisbon, he would score ten goals in just 22 appearances. Back home in Italy, clubs were taking notice again of the striker who had fallen from the Old Lady’s embrace.

In July 2007, came the move back to Italy; to the island of Sicily and for many fans, Miccoli’s time with Palermo would be the period that defined his career. Although injuries blighted his first term in pink and black, he would still net eight goals. From there, his standing would rise as he became a club legend. He would appear in 165 Serie A games for Palermo, more than any other player in the club’s history, and also score a total of 82 goals, making him the club’s all-time record goalscorer.

Palermo had never been one of the country’s truly top-flight clubs, but with Miccoli rattling in the goals, their league standing progressed from tenth to eighth. In the 2009-10 season, Miccoli’s most prolific league term bringing 19 goals, took the Sicilians to fifth place, tying their best ever league performance. It gave the club Europa League qualification. It also brought attention to Miccoli’s exploits and despite a serious injury that curtailed a sizeable portion of the following season’s games, Palermo were compelled to fend off a number of approaches although he was now the wrong side of thirty.

The following term, despite being limited to just 21 appearances in Serie A, his eight goals still fired the club to another European qualification. For both club and player, however, the zenith of their time together had passed. Despite 16 goals the following term, Palermo’s form slumped to just sixteenth in Serie A, and the following season, eight goals from 29 appearances mirrored a continuing drop in fortunes for the club. Eighteenth place and relegation after the 2012-13 season suggested that perhaps the club should have cashed in on the striker a few years previously. At 33 years of age, there would be far fewer takers. A deal was agreed for Miccoli to move to Lecce, a club he had supported as a boy, and then on to Birkirkara in the Maltese league as his career drifted into retirement.

A year after leaving Palermo, news broke of some perhaps less than judicious links between the player and people allegedly involved with the Mafia. Talk of investigations into extortion and methods deployed for debt repayments. The investigations continued for a number of years, with further potential allegations arising. In October 2017, La Repubblica reported that a court in Palermo had sentenced Miccoli to three years and six months in prison. The Italian’s appeal was unsuccessful in January 2020 and will be taking his case to the Supreme Court to avoid jail time.

It’s often forgotten that footballers are merely people with the same frailties. They pray to the same temptations as others with far less celebrity, with the inherent indiscretions such situations may bring. Whilst others may successfully wrap an all-encompassing cloak of integrity around such misdemeanour, others especially those who fall to greater depths of misdeed will inevitably fail to do so. There should perhaps be little compassion to anyone who willingly flouts the law so flagrantly. It remains a little sad that a player with such a formidable goalscoring record with lesser clubs, may eventually be remembered for the wrong reasons.

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About the author

Gary Thacker

Now living in Spain, Gary is the author of two books about football and writes for a number of high profile magazines and websites. He also appears regularly on podcast and had worked for BBC Radio and talkSPORT. In 2017, he was shortlisted for the FSF 'Blogger of the year' award.