BY MARK GODFREY
Serie A has often been the toughest of proving grounds for even the most gifted of strikers – just ask Dennis Bergkamp or Ian Rush. So for 21-year-old debutant George Rinaldi to take on the task of slimming down a fairly comprehensive list of Italian football’s greatest forwards and chronicling their goalscoring feats for his first book was admirable indeed
This, on my part, may seem a little condescending; it is not meant to be. To put the author’s age in to some kind of context, Marco van Basten – the most outrageously talented striker I’ve ever seen, and one of those to have made it into the book – was forced prematurely into retirement aged just 27 due to a debilitating ankle problem at roughly the same time George was born. Therefore, with no personal frame of reference to so many of the book’s subjects to call upon, to scour through pages and pages of Internet and written text, and old videos and YouTube uploads to come up with in depth information on players spanning several decades was no small task.
Like any book, there are plusses and negatives to be found. With any list of ‘greatest’ this or ‘top 10’ that, you can’t please everyone with the selections you make. Someone is always going to moan at a perceived glaring omission (here, as Rinaldi acknowledges in his introduction, Valentino Mazzola and John Charles are perhaps the most obvious absentees).
What we do have is a snapshot of the careers of 21 of those deemed worthy of the accolade ‘greatest’; from Giuseppe Meazza in Serie A’s early years right through to Pippo Inzaghi from the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Each chapter is dedicated to a particular legend of the Italian game and while neatly painting the picture of their achievements on the pitch in a briskly entertaining and succinct, descriptive fashion, my personal tastes would like a bit more background to their lives to flesh out the details of their footballing accomplishments. Yet, had the book been written with these embellishments, the task of compiling a really accurate list without excluding the careers of some extraordinary forwards would have been impossible. Once again, it’s a fruitless task trying to please everybody, all of the time.
Rinaldi has also called upon various Italian football experts such as James Horncastle and Andy Brassell to introduce some of the book’s protagonists, as well as Gabriele Marcotti to pen the foreword. Cleverly, he has commissioned some fine illustrations courtesy of some time Football Pink contributors Paine Proffitt and Steve Welsh – who produced the striking cover art.
Other nice touches – particularly those less au fait with the subject matter – are the glossary of the Italian football terminology and the career statistics of all these great names to be found at the back of the book
So whether you’re a Batigol disciple or simply looking to brush up on your knowledge about Gigi Riva or Roberto Boninsegna, Calcio’s Greatest Forwards is a book you simply must read.