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Italians who became stallions in the Premier League

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30 Dec 2010 23:40:18

Italians who became stallions in the Premier League

Three and easy: Manchester City's Mario Balotelli His hat-trick against Aston Villa capped a string of impressive performances in recent weeks, and it finally appeared that Mario Balotelli was justifying his lofty price-tag. But when the Italian  welcomes a spirited Blackpool side to Eastlands on Saturday he is still unlikely to crack a smile. Even City manager Roberto Mancini has admitted his Palermo-born striker is homesick, although both the boss and the player have dismissed suggestions the 20-year-old may leave. In truth, though, there have been few stand-out Italians in the Premier League - whether it's that the game is too different from Serie A, or playing in England represents a reduced chance of a call-up to the national team... or, more likely, it is just England's inferior cuisine. There have been some exceptions. Sportsmail looks at five Italian strikers who have bucked the trend - albeit briefly for some - to be successful in the Premier League. Gianfranco ZolaZola was so popular during his seven years at Chelsea that he received an OBE in 2004. He returned to England as West Ham manager in 2008, but was sacked less than two years later. Zola, who had played with Maradona at Napoli, scored 80 goals for the Blues and was voted the greatest ever player by fans and as a result his No 25 shirt became sacred at Stamford Bridge. Legend: Gianfranco Zola was voted Chelsea's greatest ever player in a fan poll Gianluca VialliThe legendary centre-forward also made waves at Chelsea after he was signed from Juventus by the ambitious Ruud Gullit. Vialli scored twice in an 4-2 FA Cup comeback against Liverpool, and went on to lift the League Cup and UEFA Cup Winners' Cup the season after. When Gullit was fired in February 1998 Vialli took over and led the Blues to a staggering five trophies in three years, before a brief and unsuccessful period in charge at Watford. True Blue: Gianluca Vialli went onto manage Chelsea after a successful stint on the field Fabrizio RavanelliThe White Feather has in the past claimed to 'dream' of managing Middlesbrough, despite spending much of his season at the Riverside - when he was reportedly the highest-paid footballer in world - complaining. Ravanelli scored a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool and helped Boro reach the 1997 FA Cup and League Cup finals, although they were relegated. The former Juventus star then failed to save Derby from relegation in 2002 and was sacked from Dundee for being too pricey. Just Fab: Both Derby and Middlesborough were treated to the eccentricity of Fabrizio Ravanelli Paolo di Canio Volatile Di Canio started out at Lazio, the club he'd supported since his youth, before moving to England, via Scotland. His ingenuity was tarnished by accusations of fascism and violence, claims aided by certain behaviours later on. He infamously pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground in 1998 when playing for Sheffield Wednesday against Arsenal, but became a hero at West Ham, scoring the 'goal of the decade' in 2000. He left for Charlton in 2003, and soon after returned to Lazio.  Benito CarboneThe pint-sized frontman was something of a journeyman in Italy - playing one season each for Reggina, Casertana, Ascoli, Torino (where he had started his career aged 17), Napoli and finally Inter - before joining Sheffield Wednesday in 1996. Wednesday, Happy Days: Benito Carbone was at his most settled when playing for Sheffield Wednesday The move was considered quite the coup for the David Pleat's Owls, although question marks were raised. However for the first time in his career, Carbone appeared settled and it was at Hillsborough that the Italian enjoyed his most stable period. Carbone played 96 league games for Wednesday over three years, scoring 25 times and becoming something of a cult hero at the club. However his itchy feet soon got the better of him and he sparkled intermitently at Aston Villa, Bradford City, Derby County and finally Middlesbrough.  Explore more:People: Gianfranco Zola, Roberto Mancini Places: Liverpool, Scotland, Italy, United Kingdom


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