Your questions answered by football's biggest legends
You auditioned for a part in a Zorro TV programme when you were a boy. Had you got the part, would you have become an actor?
Stuart McParland, via e-mail
I got the part! But we had to pay 50,000 lire for a photo shoot which was a lot to us, and my mother chose not to pay. I would’ve been a great actor because when I do something I give my life to it, but nature would have won in the end. I’m a born footballer. Besides, managers had to be patient with me because they knew I had talent even though I could break their balls. As an actor, with my personality, who would have stood by me? I don’t think I’ll be another Eric Cantona, but never say never...
You stole your brother’s bicycle and sold it when you were 12. Have you ever bought him a new one?
Dennis Johnson, Bristol
What I got that day was priceless. I help my brothers now, but I could never match the joy of the 12,000 lire I got for his bike. I mean, that would be like 200 euros now. I spent it with my friends, kids that never had anything, all day long. I still remember where we bought the ice creams and sweets, where we played video games... I was Robin Hood for the day. And for that, I’ll never be able to pay him back, not even with 10,000 bicycles.
You were named among FourFourTwo’s ‘100 Biggest Nutters’. Who’s the craziest person you’ve come across in football?
Seanny Bhoy, St Petersburg
If you mean literally mad, I don’t know. If you mean to be a bit of a nutcase, I guess Razor Ruddock – his antics during training were absurd! But thinking about it, John Moncur would win easily. Once, in winter, in temperatures below freezing, he appeared on the training field completely naked, his dick dancing here and there, and then splash-landed in the water. He came into the dressing room trembling.
Who’s the best player you’ve played alongside?
Robbie Garner, via e-mail
I’d pick the best in all senses and that’s Vialli, a natural-born champion. Van Basten, Gullit and Baresi, who was the emblem of charisma, were great, but Vialli was above them all. We’re talking about someone who came from a rich family. He had a 40-room mansion in Cremona but he made sacrfices and never complained. Seeing that helped me develop as a player. He’d stay behind for 40 minutes after training practising his shooting. I’d look at him and say, “Fuck! He could be living in Monaco and he’s shooting at an empty goal in the rain!”
Why did you leave Celtic after just one season?
Aneurin Shearan, Celtic fan
Because the chairman didn’t want to talk about my contract, which he’d promised to do if I played well. I’d been voted Player of the Year, something objective, it’s not just that four people believe you’ve played decently. But he said I didn’t deserve it. Well, I go, it’s that easy; I don’t play for liars and traitors.
With hindsight, how do you view the Paul Alcott incident?
Robin Byles, via e-mail
I still wonder how the hell he managed to fall like that from such a soft push. But I’ve got no excuses. Pushing the referee is not something I’d recommend, even if all the decisions go against you. Kids are watching and that’s an awful example to set, even if he deserved more than a push. It would have been better to say, “piece of shit” or something just between us.
After you pushed Alcott, you made Nigel Winterburn shit himself. Why didn't you just hit him? You'd already been sent off...
Steve Henderson, Glasgow
You really wanted me to get a 100-match ban, didn’t you?! The truth is, I was very annoyed and he approached and started bullying me. I pretended to hit him and he ran away like a sissy. What could I do? Chase him all over the pitch and end it like a bar fight? And I’m sure he was quicker. But today we’re close friends!
You've had altercations with Frank Lampard and Simone Inzaghi over taking penalties. Who was supposed to take the penalty?
Joe Taylor, via e-mail
I’ve always accepted orders because I’m a comrade, but if I think that by doing something different a better result can be achieved, I’ll do it. But there were no managerial orders. With Lampard, I’d missed a penalty a week earlier and perhaps he thought he should take it. Wrong. I’ve never shirked my responsibilities. With Inzaghi, it was my first game after 16 years away from Lazio, my Lazio, with the score 0-0 and a penalty awarded – you need a brain the size of a peanut to think that I wouldn’t take it. Inzaghi is selfish. He prefers to lose 4-3 and score a hat-trick than win 3-0 without scoring – the complete opposite of me. Inzaghi had missed a penalty a year before because he’d tried to chip the ball and he thought he had the right to break my balls at my Lazio. Do you know what he told me in the dressing room? Nothing. He had no guts.
You’ve pushed Trapattoni, come to blows with Capello, and fallen out with several other successful managers. Did you ever think it might be you?
Russ Clarke, via e-mail
Of course! Because in this world those who speak up are seen as a problem. But if I’m part of a team, why can’t I say things I feel will benefit us all? There are people who still say to me that had I been quieter I could have played for Italy. My answer is this: had I been calmer, I wouldn’t even have made it as a footballer. I give my best when I’m pissed off and when I argue with the entire world.
Why did you wear your shorts backwards for one Charlton home game?
Tony Campbell, via e-mail
Charlton? No, it was West Ham versus Arsenal. The reason? Simple. If you notice that you’ve accidentally put something on backwards, you should leave it that way because it is a symbol of good luck. That day, when I was warming up, someone told me that my shorts were on backwards. I hadn’t noticed. Before the game, the manager said: “Come on Paolo, put them right.” “No way!” I told him. “Are you crazy?” he said. But I knew it was a sign. We won 2-1 at Upton Park, I scored both and we beat Arsenal for the first time in 14 years.
In your autobiography, you talk about making the ultimate tiramisu. What’s the secret?
Jamie, North London
Grab a pen and start writing, but I want full credit every time you’re congratulated for it. You’ll need fresh eggs, which aren’t easy to find, a good mascarpone, and freshly made coffee, hot. For the biscotti (ladyfingers), pick the Savoiardi type, which come as a sponge, not the smaller crushed Pavesini – they don’t absorb as much. Another secret: egg whites go in the dough and the yolks with the cream, not together. And don’t be lazy – a mixer doesn’t whip as good as oneself. Use a fork for half an hour and you’ll make a unique cream. And be patient – it needs at least five hours in the fridge. Then, write down the compliments and send them to me!
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