Football: Bergomi reaches another milestone

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The Independent Online
GIUSEPPE BERGOMI will reach another milestone in a long and successful career with Internazionale when he makes his 500th Italian League appearance against Lazio at San Siro on Sunday.

Bergomi, known to fans throughout Italy as "Zio" (Uncle), has been a commanding presence in the Italian game since he was drafted into Italy's 1982 World Cup final winning side as a raw 18-year-old defender.

Bergomi, in his 19th season as a professional, is currently sixth in the all time records for Serie A appearances. The Italian national coach, Dino Zoff, heads the list with 570 games.

In a period of great sporting change, Bergomi has swum against the tide, spending his entire professional career at Inter. It is arguable that, had he accepted offers to move, he might have won more with other clubs. His 19 seasons with Inter have yielded just one Italian title, three Uefa Cups and one Italian Cup.

Bergomi's relative freedom from injury has guaranteed him an automatic first choice place at Inter for most of his career. Last season the arrival of the new coach, Gigi Simoni, prompted speculation that Bergomi was at the end of the road. But he regained his best form, playing a vital part in a successful season which saw Inter finish second in Serie A and win the Uefa Cup.

His outstanding form won recognition from Italy's World Cup coach, Cesare Maldini, who called him into his squad for France 98. It marked a remarkable international comeback for Bergomi, who had last played for Italy in a friendly against Denmark in 1991.

He replaced the injured Lazio defender, Alessandro Nesta, after just four minutes of Italy's first-round game against Austria. Bergomi remained in the team for both of Italy's next two games, their second-round win over Norway and their quarter-final defeat by France, taking his number of caps to 81.

Looking back over his long career, Bergomi admitted that the biggest thrill was his Serie A debut as a 17-year-old in a 2-1 win over Como at San Siro in February 1981. "I came on after half an hour as a substitute for Gabriele Oriali," he said. "It's something you never forget." His worst moment in an Inter shirt? "That came in the Milan derby game in March 1985," he said. "Five minutes from the end of the match I got a pass back to the keeper wrong and they scored to equalise. If there had been a big hole in the pitch, I would have jumped right into it."