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Steve Mitchell On February - 17 - 2011

Player Profile - Nicola Ventola

Last week saw the sad farewell to calcio of Nicola Ventola. The 32-year-old striker, who was plying his trade with Serie B pacesetters Novara, decided to call time on a playing  career wrecked by a series of debilitating injuries which prevented him from going on to be one of the best striking talents the peninsula has ever produced.

Born in Bari, Ventola first came to prominence playing for his hometown club in 1994. He hit the Serie A big time on November 6 of that year making his debut as a 16 -year-old against Fiorentina. Over the next four seasons, Ventola amassed 44 appearances for I Galletti before being recruited by Italian giants Inter in 1998.

It seemed as though the youngster was about to become the next big thing in the peninsula after catching the eye with some scintillating performances both domestically and in Europe, where he netted a famous Champions League goal against Manchester United. But joy turned to despair for the man from Bari when the Milan club acquired the services of Christian Vieri from Lazio in a then world record fee of 32 million pounds, a deal which saw Ventola shipped out to Bologna in a co-ownership deal.

After a season in Emilia-Romagna, Ventola returned to Milan but was then loaned out almost immediately to Atalanta on a season long loan deal. On his return to the Nerazzurri in 2001, Ventola suffered a debilitating set of injuries which saw him make only sporadic appearances during the next two seasons before he was loaned out once again, this time to Siena, where he enjoyed a consistent run in the side making 28 appearances and netting on four occasions.

In another twist in his nomadic career, Ventola returned to Inter to be loaned out yet again, his new destination was South-East London, with Crystal Palace acquiring his services. Football fans in the UK hardly saw anything of the Italian striker however, as his  injury jinx struck again ensuring he only made 3 appearances for the Eagles during the season.

In the summer of 2005, Ventola signed a two year deal with Atalanta and with his injury nightmare seemingly behind him, gave Italian audiences a glimpse of his true potential, netting 23 goals during the next two campaigns as he enjoyed his most consistent run in any team for almost two years. In 2007, Ventola signed for Torino but failed to continue the form he had showed in Bergamo, scoring just six times in two season’s as the Turin giants dropped into the second tier of Italian football.

In 2009, after celebrating his 31st birthday, Ventola joined up with Lega Pro side Novara and was influential in their promotion to Serie B at the end of the season - the first time the club had played in Italy’s second tier for 33 years. At the start of the current campaign, injuries yet again took their toll which led to last weeks decision to call it a day once and for all.

Ventola will always be remembered as the nearly man of Italian football who never lost heart despite a career spent fighting against injury. Many fans who were fortunate enough to see him play at his full potential will wish the man from Bari all the best in his retirement.

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