12 October 2009 ~ The town of Pavia, half an hour from Milan, is famous for several reasons. It has a 14th century university, some famous wines and extreme weather with humidity and mosquitos in the summer followed by thick fog in the winter. The local football team, AC Pavia, is much less well-known – they have never played at the top level and their most recent season in Serie B was in 1954-55. The club gets some media attention these days, however, because of a 38-year-old midfielder called Benito Carbone, widely regarded in Italy as one of the potentially great players who never quite made it.
AC Pavia play in the fourth-level Lega Pro Seconda Divisione in front of crowds of around 850. Last year Carbone played a decisive role in avoiding relegation to the amateur league. Having had five points deducted for using a player who was serving a ban from the previous year, Pavia had to win the last match against Sambonifacese, a village near Verona, to avoid relegation to the regional leagues. They did it with two astonishing goals from Carbone after their opponents had taken the lead. Yesterday "Benny" put in another fine performance at Pavia's Stadio Fortunati against a team with a name that is quite unpronounceable even for Italians, Villacidrese from Sardinia. Pavia won 2-0 and are now second in the table.
Born in Bagnara Calabra, in the very south of Italy, Carbone joined Torino in 1988 at the age of 17. Two years later he set off on a national tour, playing one season each for Reggina, Casertana, Ascoli, Torino again, Napoli and finally Internazionale, the team that the Carbone family have always supported. He stayed with the Nerazzurro for just one season too, having failed to make a good impression on coach Roy Hodgson. "When I arrived in Milan I was too young for a team like that," says Carbone today. During his wandering he managed to pick up eight caps for Italy at Under-21 level but the call to the senior squad never came. In October 1996 Carbone left Milan to join Sheffield Wednesday. Despite not knowing a word of English when he arrived he was a success in Yorkshire, making 96 appearances in three seasons. In 1999 he began to wander again, moving first to Aston Villa, then on to Bradford City, Derby County and Middlesbrough without leaving much of a mark.
Carbone scores for Villa against Leeds in the FA Cup in 2000, the second in a hat-trick
When he came back to Italy Carbone restarted another tour of the peninsula: Como in Serie A in 2002-03 with a relegation at the end of the season, Parma, Catanzaro, to be near his family, then Vicenza followed by a month with Sydney FC. He joined Pavia in August 2007. Throughout this time he showed flashes of genius in between injury spells but left observers wondering about a career that failed to take off. As his coach at Napoli, Vujadin Boskov once said: "Benito's movements wrongfoot opponents but often his team-mates too." Luca Ferrato