THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

He shares a birthday with the club whose fortunes he turned around. Filipo Ricci gets beneath the tanned skin of Lazio chairman SergioCragnotti 

Distinguishing features Sven-Goran Eriksson lookalike. Same hair dye, same artificial sun tan 365 days a year. Cragnotti is not as familiar with the Italian language, however. He has taken ages to build up a stand-offish, reserved image, but now avoids any contact with microphones and notebooks.

Habitat Born in Rome, lived in Brazil for 12 years, then in Paris. Back to Rome in 1987. Made his money working under Raul Gardini, the controversial boss of the Ferruzzi group who was deeply inplicated by Italy’s anti-corruption “clean hands” inquiry then killed himself in 1993. Cragnotti, too, ended up in court but managed to negotiate and escaped jail. Until the arrival of Gabriel Batistuta, Roma fans’ most frequent prayer was that Cragnotti might yet be arrested over some murky investments.

What use is he? Took over at Lazio in 1992, and managed to succeed where many others have failed: transforming an unlucky, inferiority-complex afflicted team into one of the top clubs in Europe. Before Cragnotti Lazio had won one championship (1974) and one Italian cup (1958). With him, the former second team of Rome has won one title, two Italian cups, one Supercup, a Cup-Winners Cup, and a European Super Cup. Made Lazio the first Italian club to be quoted on the stock exchange .

Who remembers his birthday? Before 2000, probably just his family. Then someone told him that his birthday was the same as Lazio’s foundation date, 40 years later. So, this year he organised a big party: 100 years of Lazio, 60 years of Cragnotti, emperor of Rome. That was in January, and he invited all his friends to the Stadio Olimpico to see him playing in a Lazio shirt with the No 100 on his back. He missed a penalty.

Quote unquote
“I had thought about giving up, leaving everything and going abroad, but I fought back, and here I am,” when accused in the Italian High Court at the time of  the “clean hands” investigation.
“My wife buys her presents herself,” when asked which was the last present he bought her.
“There’s only one presidente” – the chant of Curva Nord supporters when the emperor arrives in the stadium.
“I live in an incredibly cruel and materialistic world, so I need a moment to look inside myself, to reflect and to think about me. That’s on Sunday, when I go to church with all my family.”

Other offences to be taken into consideration
His wife is named Flora, the wine he produces is called Corte alla Flora, the Italian word corte meaning court (in an agricultural-medieval sense), but also “to fancy”. His dog is named Bobo, after Christian “Bobo” Vieri. This is why he tried to get Vieri back from Inter this summer.

From WSC 163 September 2000. What was happening this month

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