It seems incredible to think that Bruno Conti was on several occasions overlooked at trials organised by professional football clubs.
Indeed, before becoming one of the brightest stars in world football, Conti – the man who prompted Sir Bobby Robson to declare, “If I was the coach of any national team in the world, I would want Bruno Conti with me” and who was chosen to represent Europe alongside the likes of Michel Platini and Franz Beckenbauer against the Rest of the World XI in New York on 7 August, 1982 – was very nearly discarded by the beautiful game altogether.
Even Roma – on the indications of Helenio Herrera – were initially unwilling to take on the player. While recognising his obvious class, the legendary coach believed that Conti’s physique would hold him back from succeeding in the professional game. Yet there would be a reprieve for Conti.
Tonino Trebiciani – a long-time member of the Giallorossi coaching set-up – saw him at work during a local amateur tournament and decided that a player of his calibre simply had to be wearing the Roma shirt.
Conti was initially brought into the first team under Manlio Scopigno, but his real break came when Nils Liedholm, after seeing him play in a De Martino championship match, asked Trebiciani to send the elusive winger round to the Tre Fontane training centre. It was the beginning of an infinite journey for a player who never stopped improving and honing his skills under Liedholm.
As the years went by, Conti continued to stun us all with his progress. In December 1980, after a match against Perugia, Fulvio Bernardini declared himself simply bowled over by Conti’s talent, writing: “A ball forward – I think from Spinosi – found Bruno Conti on the run. The Giallorossi man pulled off a wonderful move, like a tightrope walker braving the high wire without any safety net – all that was missing was the drum roll. He knocked the ball ahead of him, held off the jostle of an opponent and surged on with his head up, before lifting the ball over the goalkeeper’s head for the onrushing Scarnecchia to score his second goal of the season.”
Part of the 1982-83 Scudetto-winning Roma side, Conti’s crowning achievement was his central role in helping Italy win the 1982 FIFA World Cup, sealing his status as an immortal legend of the game.
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