Cristiano Lucarelli returned to his hometown club Livorno this season after two years away, and Neil Sherwin looks at the player who wears his heart firmly on his sleeve.
With the club logo tattooed on his left forearm and his squad number chosen in honour of his side’s biggest group of Ultras, Cristiano Lucarelli is not a man to hide his feelings.
After eight clubs in a decade, he finally pulled on the shirt of his boyhood heroes Livorno in 2003, and he was the catalyst for the club’s ninth place finish in his second season.
Lucarelli banged in 29 goals in 38 matches during Livorno’s return to the top flight in 2003/04, and followed that up with 24 goals in 35 games during the next campaign to pick up the league’s Top Goalscorer award.
“Some football players pay a billion for a Ferrari or a yacht; with that money I bought myself Livorno’s shirt,” he said.
His good form resulted in a call up to the Italian national team for whom he scored three times in six games.
Lucarelli had his suitors from big European clubs, but rejected their advances in order to stay at Livorno.
He had previously spent some time in Spain with Valencia but that spell ended rather unhappily after just 13 games and one goal during the 1998/99 season.
However in 2006, Livorno accepted an offer of £6 million from Shakhtar Donetsk and Lucarelli agreed to the move, becoming the first Italian player to play in the the Ukraine.
He stayed at Donetsk, in typical Lucarelli fashion, for one season, averaging just under a goal a game, before returning to Serie A with Parma, though he was used sparingly as the club was relegated from Serie A.
In July of last year Lucarelli completed a loan move back to his spiritual home, the Stadio Armando Picchi.
His passion for the club has never been in doubt. While playing for Torino, Lucarelli attended a game which saw Livorno promoted from Serie B and he was amongst a crowd of fans that celebrated on the pitch afterwards.
As a youngster he demonstrated his allegiances during an under 21 international when he took off his shirt to reveal a Che Guevara t-shirt (Livorno is notorious for its left wing politics).
“My Che Guevara t-shirt became a national scandal,” he said.
“I tried to explain that Che Guevara is the symbol of Livorno supporters and that was my way of saying thank you, but all my attempts were useless.
“However, since that day I became a sort of ‘hero’ for the people in Livorno and this is exactly what I wanted.”
Lucarelli has also set up a successful business in the city with the launch of the Corriere di Livorno newspaper in 2007.
“Our newspaper is mainly focused on local and regional issues but we do have pages about national and international politics, the economy and, of course, sport,” he told FourFourTwo magazine.
Now the club captain, Lucarelli put in a typically passionate performance and played a starring role in last week’s 3-3 draw with Roma as he helped himself to a hattrick.
However with the end of the season fast approaching,the club are firmly in the relegation zone and the now 34 year old striker won’t be able to drag them out of danger all by himself.
Even if the worst happens and Livorno return to Serie B, you can be sure that none of the blame will be placed at the feet of Lucarelli.
In the words of coach Serse Cosmi after the Roma game, “Lucarelli IS Livorno”.