In the latest edition of our History Makers series, we take a look back at the career of Simone Perrotta, the Italian World Cup winner that was born near Manchester but made in Rome.
Perrotta was born in Manchester’s market town of Ashton-under-Lyne in 1977, and spent five years at St Ann’s Primary School before his parents returned to Italy in 1982.
He later became one of three players born in the Tameside borough to lift the World Cup - albeit the first Italian - and Perrotta was immortalised in statue form by the local council, alongside England’s 1996 heroes Sir Geoff Hurst and Jimmy Armfield OBE.
England’s loss was very much Italy's and Roma’s gain...
PERROTTA - ROMA’S ITALIAN ENGLISHMAN
After parents Francesco and Anna Maria gave up their English pub and headed back to their homeland, little Perrotta spent his childhood in the family’s hometown of Cerisano, that lies in the province of Cosenza.
Perrotta’s first route into professional football saw him travel two hours further south as he joined the youth setup of Reggina.
He made his senior debut for the club as a 17-year-old, with an eight-minute cameo in the 1-1 draw with Chievo just a week before he turned 18.
After three seasons in the second division, Serie A side Juventus came calling in 1998 but, despite featuring in the Champions League and Intertoto Cup, Perrotta left after just two seasons with the Old Lady of Italian football.
Bari and Chievo then gave Perrotta the chance to truly shine away from the spotlight, before Roma plucked him from the latter in August 2004.
An apprehensive Perrotta was happy at Chievo, but the draw of representing Roma was too much to resist and he immediately fell in love with the Giallorossi.
Nothing could dampen his spirits, not even the fact that his luggage didn’t make it to the capital with him.
“Everything was very nice, from presentation to arrival, although when I arrived they lost my bags,” he later recalled.
“Let's say that the first impact was not beautiful from this point of view, but arriving in Rome and wearing the Roma shirt was so beautiful that the fact that I had lost my luggage took a back seat.”
Perrotta remembers his first season as “not positive”, but the arrival of Luciano Spalletti changed everything.
Pushed further forward, at the tip of Roma’s midfield, Perrotta blossomed and he puts the turning point of his Roma career down to December 2005’s 1-1 draw at Sampdoria.
“Before the match in Genoa with Sampdoria the coach called me and told me that I would play attacking midfielder and I immediately asked where Totti was playing, and he replied that he would play in front.
“It went well right away, I found a feeling with Totti, he dropped a lot deeper than a classic striker and I could fit into the spaces he created. In Genoa we drew playing well, then we won in Europe and passed the round and then the following Sunday at home with Chievo we won.
"I also scored, and from there we won 11 consecutive games and the Roma of that period was born.”
So too was Perrotta’s Roma career, and he went on to lift two Coppa Italia titles and a Supercoppa Italia trophy across 325 appearances for the club.
He scored 49 times in yellow and red, earned 48 caps for his country and became a world champion with the Azzurri - as a Roma player - in 2006.
Perrotta’s all-action style and relentless engine endeared him to Roma fans over the course of a remarkable career at the Stadio Olimpico that ended in 2013 when he hung up his boots at the age of 35.
“I’d prefer to end my career as an ex-Roma player rather than the ex of another club,” he said at the time.
“I wanted to finish my playing days with this jersey and I feel it’s the right thing to do. It is possible my story with Roma could continue in a different way.
“As I arrived at Roma quietly, it’s only right that I leave quietly too.”
Here are five of his best goals for the Giallorossi…
1. The stylish finish
vs. PARMA (a)
24 September 2006
Clipped through wide on the right by Totti, Perrotta raced beyond his marker before lifting the ball over Matteo Guardalben and into the far corner.
It is a deft moment of quality; carried out on the run, at full tilt, and is a perfect example of how Perrotta played the game.
2. The cup clincher
vs. Inter Milan (a)
17 May 2007
The first of Perrotta’s two cup wins with Roma saw him score in each leg of the final as Inter were swept aside 7-3 on aggregate.
After scoring the third in the 6-1 first-leg victory, Perrotta artfully turned home Totti’s firm cross with six minutes to play - confirming the win for his side.
Perrotta’s joy was etched all across his face as he leapt onto the sponsors’ boardings and revelled in the moment with Roma’s delirious supporters.
3. The derby delight...
vs. LAZIO (h)
31 October 2007
Perrotta had that ever so handy habit of scoring important goals, be it match winners or strikes that salvaged late draws for his club.
And few get bigger than finding the back of the net in the Derby della Capitale, especially when it helps Roma to all three points.
He did that in October 2007, with Perrotta superbly lifting Mirko Vucinic’s knockdown over a hapless Marco Ballotta’s head before tapping home on the other side of the Lazio goalkeeper to make it 3-1.
4. The European impact
vs. Dynamo Kiev (h)
19 September 2007
Dinamo must have seen but a blur of yellow and red as the Giallorossi’s one touch passing and movement left the Kiev defence chasing shadows.
A wonderful team move was then finished off by the head of Perrotta, who nodded home Max Tonetto’s cross to make it 1-0 after just nine minutes.
5. The cog in the machine
vs. Cagliari (h)
14 December 2008
Rounding off Perrotta’s top five is a stunner from 2008 against Cagliari, who he scored past six times - making it the most productive opposition of his career.
This one is the pick of that six: as the ball loops into the Cagliari area, Perrotta has his back to goal, and reaches the ball ahead of the visitors’ keeper before arrowing a bicycle kick into the far corner.
What happened next for Perrotta?
Since retiring, Perrotta has focused on youth development in Italy and is, typically, a leading figure in the area.
Perrotta currently holds two roles at the top of the youth sector of Italian football.
The first is that of junior manager for Italian Footballers’ Association, where Perrotta is a guiding hand for the association’s young players.
Perrotta is also vice president of the FIGC Youth and School Sector that organises the competition and training of youth football all over the country.