Alessandro: The other Lucarelli

“I have always been framed as the brother of Lucarelli (Cristiano). But I have always been Alessandro Lucarelli another player”

Alessandro Lucarelli has always had to cede the limelight to his elder brother Cristiano, even today he admits that people confuse him for his more famous sibling. Now at the grand old age of 37, Alessandro is entering into the twilight of his career, a career that has brought him the length and breadth of the Italian Peninsula.Having represented no fewer than eight clubs at nearly all levels of the professional game, it has been a solid career that many a professional would kill for. Yet for all of a career that spans just shy of 20-years, it will be the 2014/15 season for which he will be remembered.

A season in which he would become the voice of reason, a general to his troops and a hero to thousands of beleaguered fans.

Alessandro Lucarelli was born on the 22nd July 1977, 20 months after Cristiano, in the costal Tuscan town of Livorno. The brothers grew up in a tough neighbourhood known locally as Shanghai, a district that had been built under Mussolini’s Fascist government.

The sons of a trade unionist, it was a hard upbringing. As children, however, they always showed a passion for calcio. On that passion, Cristiano said “I always spent my childhood in the street with my brother Alessandro, to play football from morning to night. Went home always out of breath with torn clothes and shoes completely destroyed”.

The two boys would soon develop a deep affection for the cities local football team, AS Livorno. While Cristiano will always be the one who is forever intrinsically linked with the Amaranto, Alessandro’s love for his hometown team is no less passionate, if more understated.

I am a fan of Livorno as much as him [Cristiano], but there is no comparison in the way of expressing it. I too would have given up a billion to wear the shirt Amaranto (A Billion Lire is reportedly the wage cut Cristiano took to sign for the club), in my small way I have made sacrifices to play in the team of my city.

In perhaps a quirk of fate Alessandro started his professional career at Piacenza, a city less than an hour’s drive from Parma. While never star material, the younger Lucarelli proved a solid addition to many a mid-table outfit.

In 2004 after spells with Palermo and Fiorentina, Alessandro teamed up with his brother for the first time and what better place to do it then at their boyhood club. However he only remained for a single season and with his brother basking in the glory of finishing as Capocannoniere, he moved to Reggio Calabria to sign for Reggina.

In his two year spell with the Calabrian outfit Alessandro became somewhat of a hero to the supporters. This was helped by the fact that he was part of the Reggina team that managed to achieve survival in Serie A despite beginning the season with an 11 point deduction as a result of the Calciopoli scandal.

Come 2008 the brothers reunited, this time at Parma. The Crociati had just been relegated from Serie A the previous season after 18 consecutive years in the top flight of the Italian game. With Cristiano up front, fans were confident of a swift return.

However the campaign did not start as planned with the team struggling under the guidance of veteran manager Gigi Cagni. Cagni was soon given his marching orders and replaced by Francesco Guidolin, a man who would go onto lead Udinese to Champions League qualification. Guidolin achieved his goal of returning the Ducali to the top flight after only one year.

Cristiano though would not be there to experience it, and after what can only be described as a less than inspiring season in Serie B for someone of his talent, he returned to his beloved Livorno.

Alessandro however was in for the long haul. Now in his eighth season with the club he has become a symbol of all that is good about the Emiliani. He became club vice-captain in the 2011/12 season and graduated into the leader’s role during his sixth campaign, taking over from another Parma stalwart Stefano Morrone.

In truth however Lucarelli had been the side’s spiritual leader on the pitch for some time before receiving the mantle, with Morrone finding games time hard to come by. In the 2013/14 campaign he drove the Gialloblu to a remarkable sixth place finish in Serie A and Europa League football. He belied his 36-years of age to feature an impressive 34 times in the league scoring four, the pick of which was an audacious backheel flick at the front post against Torino. The goal was so good that Alessandro admitted that many thought it was his brother who scored it.

Off the pitch his hero status grew exponentially with the clubs ultras, the “Boys” welcoming him onto the Curva Nord Matteo Bagnaresi with open arms. With tongue in cheek, although laced with plenty of expectancy, Parma fans called for him to be given a place in the Italy squad for that summer’s World Cup in Brazil so good were his performances in Serie A.

Heading into the current campaign it looked as if the feel good factor surrounding the club was set to continue. Then broke the news that Parma had been denied a licence to participate in this season’s Europa League.

It should have set alarm bells ringing, but club president Tommaso Ghirardi assured everyone all would be okay. However the penalty stood and in a huff Ghirardi vowed to sell the club and abandon football altogether.

The saga then took a bizarre turn when it emerged that the Parma players had not been paid in months. How could this be? From the outside looking in the club looked healthy, underneath though it was a web of lies, deceit and corruption.

Owner upon owner emerged as the astronomical scale of Parma’s debt became known. With the club looking like it was to be abandoned to its faith, one man in particular stood forward and said no, one man stepped forward in an effort to save the club he had come to love. Alessandro Lucarelli.

With the club falling to rack and ruin, Lucarelli stood tall and made his voice heard. He called on the FIGC to intervene and for fit and proper ownership schemes to be put in place. He made sure to state that this was not just about Parma, but all other clubs who were going through something similar, like Brescia, Aversa Normanna and many more.

He made clear that this was not about money grabbing footballers wanting there wages but that to quote the man himself “The failure of Parma means sending home 200 families who depend on jobs in the club. We feel the responsibility on our shoulders.”

As if his stock could not rise any higher among Ducali fans, his repeated declarations that he would stay with the club no matter what, “I will play in Serie D for Parma if necessary,” sent the fans love for him off the charts.

Yes others have been vocal raising awareness of Parma’s plight, though none have done as much to save the club as Alessandro Lucarelli.

It is said a good captain goes down with his ship yet none have gone down with as much dignity and respect as Lucarelli.

As the Curva Nord so boisterously chant:

“C’é solo un Capitano”

Words by Kevin Nolan: @KevinNolan11