To say Italy have produced their fair share of great defenders over the years is an understatement with the philosophy Catenaccio giving rise to defenders like Tassotti, Cannavaro, Costacurta, and Nesta was well as others mentioned here. One perhaps underrated in comparison is Armando Picchi.
Born in Livorno in June 1935, Picchi joined his local club AS Livorno Calcio as a 14-year-old, making his senior debut five years later. Consistently good performances over the next few years saw him move to S.P.A.L in 1959. His one year saw the club attain their highest ever finish – fifth– in Serie A.
In 1960 Argentine coach Helenio Herrera joined Internazionale and Il Grande Inter would be born. This Inter would not just be one of the great teams, but innovative to. 1960 was significant for two other signings – Picchi and Giacinto Facchetti. With Picchi the 5-3-2 became not just a defensive formation but a counter attacking one too – from Verrou to Catenaccio. Full backs became wing backs with Facchetti the first and one of the greatest on the left. In the first season Picchi was utilised at right back, with Tarcisio Burgnich in centre. It was a limited success.
The following season the two switched and Picchi became Il Grande Capitano. With midfielders Mario Corso, Mazzola and Luisito would finish second to rivals Milan. It would be their lowest league position until 1968 – greatness was just around the corner. In 1962-63, Inter won the Scudetto and again in 64-65, 65-66. In 63-4, Inter won the European Cup beating Real Madrid 3-1 in the final, the following year they won the title in the San Siro beating Eusébio’s Benfica 1-0 – Two Intercontinental Cup triumphs followed the European Cup wins – Inter beating Independiente on both occasions.
1966-67 was beginning of the end. Second in the Serie A and a loss to Celtic in the European Cup final. The following season Inter finished fifth without Picchi – he’d been sold to Varese the previous summer. He would play for two more years before retiring in 1969. Within two years Picchi was dead, cancer having taken hold.
Is it difficult to separate Picchi from Il Grande Inter? Maybe but arguably he was the bedrock on which the success was founded. As Kevin Wolstenholme wrote:
If a player got beyond the line of four backs, either by dribbling his way there or by creating space with one-two passing movement with a colleague, he would be confronted by Picchi. Any player who ran through to pick up a long pass would be confronted by … Picchi. Any high lob or centre which was floated into the Inter Milan goalmouth would be picked off by … Picchi.
An inspirational charismatic captain, a gentleman, a winner and a great player. Amongst so many great Italian defenders Picchi arguably deserves recognition as one of the best.
GREATEST SQUAD – STARTING XI [4-3-3]
GUISEPPE BERGOMI GAETANO SCIREA
TARCISIO BURGNICH PAOLO MALDINI
GIANNI RIVERA MARCO TARDELLI
GIAMPIERO BONIPERTI BRUNO CONTI
GREATEST SQUAD – RESERVES
GK: GIANLUIGI BUFFON
GK: WALTER ZENGA
LB: GIACINTO FACCHETTI
CB: CLAUDIO GENTILE
CB: FRANCO BARESI
SWP: ARMANDO PICCHI
CDM: ROMEO BENETTI
CM: ANDREA PIRLO
CM: GIANCARLO ANTOGNONI
LW: FRANCO CAUSIO
ST: CHRISTIAN VIERI
ST: ROBERTO BETTEGA
Created by Alan Robins Images by Jorge Manuel Martins