“He was only five foot 10 inches but the way he went up for a header was always perfect, effortless. And his positioning was fabulous. He had eyes like a hawk – all he’d need was a quick glance to see the whole field… he had a strategic mind that could predict the opposition’s every move. As far as I know, only Giuseppe Meazza, Pelé and Alfredo Di Stefano had such ability. There might be a few more, but I can say for certain. He channelled all of his talents into his deep-lying midfield role, becoming the lynchpin, the backbone of the team. Fulvio was naturally left-footed and thus preferred to strike the ball with his left. Yet with time and lots of practice, he was able to use his right too. He was no sprinter but he did have a great stride on him. Anyone who accused him of slowness was overlooking the fact that Fulvio would release the ball straight away, speeding the game up in the process.”
This portrait of Fulvio Bernardini, penned by the great writer Vittorio Finizio, provides a fascinating insight into Bernardini’s technical skill. Yet Fulvio’s greatness was so immense that a simple passage of text could never hope to properly capture it.
Bernardini embodies the true essence of what it means to be a Romanista. Not just on the field of play, where he proved himself to be one of the biggest talents in European football, but also away from the game – Bernardini was a shining example of loyalty, moral standing and sporting integrity.
For years, it has been written that Vittorio Pozzo excluded him from the national team for being “too good”. The story stems back to Italy v Hungary match of 13 December, 1931.
With Bernardini already in his kit, Pozzo took him aside and explained the situation, which ‘The Doctor’, as he was known, himself relayed many years later in an interview with Mario Sconcerti: “I’m sorry but I’m not going to play you because you’re too far ahead of the others. Your team-mates don’t have the same grasp of the game that you do. You’re too superior. I practically have to ask you to play less well.”
Fulvio Bernardini was, for Roma, a shining star that lit the club’s path towards a destiny of greatness and sporting ethics. He was a role model, never to be forgotten.
It came as no surprise that, when Dino Viola became president of Roma in 1979, one of his first thoughts was for Fulvio: “I used to chase him around Ostia trying to get his autograph. I will speak to him to hear his opinion.”
Viola – who led the club to its second Scudetto triumph – continued the tributes in 1984, when he named the Trigoria training centre after the great Bernardini, ensuring that his name would forever be linked to the club of his heart.
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