“(Steve Barnes is in Sicily to try to tie up a deal for flamboyant defender, Pablo Mandini, who is part-owned by nefarious mafia bosses).
I landed in Palermo, a bustling port that was once the capital of the Roman Empire, but now the crime capital of Italy.
I was met by Luigi, a tall man in a leather jacket and dark sunglasses, and an unpleasantly strong continental cologne. I preferred the sweat of a hard defensive shift to pampered perfume.
“Ah, Stefano Barnesi! Stefano Barnesi!” he excitedly greeted me. “I hadn’t realised we were expecting such a distinguished guest. If I were Capo I’d have laid out the red carpet.”
I smiled in acknowledgment. The Italians may be known for their dirty tricks on the pitch, but they sure knew about the art of defending too.
“Don’t worry – I was overlooked too. Never played for my country”
“A tragedy” agreed Luigi. “Your partnership with Perry Gallister was, how you say, solid like rock”
“Solid as a rock” I corrected him. “Perry was capped, Pat Porker too, even Peter Penrice made a sub appearance in a qualifier. Those were some dark days in the Mulcaster changing rooms during international breaks”
Luigi, despite his criminal lifestyle, clearly had great footballing intelligence, the kind of intelligence you can’t learn from classrooms and books, the grifting intelligence of a street operator.
He led me to the parking lot and to a shiny red Ferrari Testarossa.
“Impressive motor,” I commented as we sped out through the city. Ferraris are showy cars though, unreliable, like the mercurial Pietro Di Caravaggio, who’d made his name at East Ham. Give me the reliable British engineering of a Jaguar XJ8 any day, precise like the chest control of Emile Heskey.”
Jimmy Matt via Apple Podcasts ·
Great Britain ·