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Cerci aims to join Italy's past leading lights in Spain

Published: Monday 1 September 2014, 18.08CET
With Club Atlético de Madrid having signed Alessio Cerci from Torino FC, UEFA.com looks at previous Italian players who excelled during their time in Spain's top flight.
by Richard Martin
from Barcelona

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Published: Monday 1 September 2014, 18.08CET

Cerci aims to join Italy's past leading lights in Spain

With Club Atlético de Madrid having signed Alessio Cerci from Torino FC, UEFA.com looks at previous Italian players who excelled during their time in Spain's top flight.

Alessio Cerci has been named as the final piece of the jigsaw for Club Atlético de Madrid, the forward joining from Torino FC on a three-year deal.

The Liga champions had already recruited nine players in preparation for their title defence, but sporting director José Luis Caminero they could not be satisfied until they had secured the 27-year-old Italian international.

"The agreement fantastic news for everyone," he told the club's website. "We've had to make a huge effort to sign him after all the work we have done this summer, but we are convinced it will be worth it because we believe Cerci is a vital piece of our team. He is an unpredictable player and will contribute speed and goals. He gives us even more options in attack."

Along with Córdoba CF's Fausto Rossi, former AS Roma and ACF Fiorentina striker Cerci is one of only two Italians plying their trade in the Spanish top flight. UEFA.com delves into the archives to look back on Cerci's compatriots who have shone in the division.

©Getty Images

Christian Vieri (Club Atlético de Madrid, 1997–98)
Vieri spent a single season in Spain, but it is one few Atlético fans will forget. The Bologna-born marksman maintained the prolific strike rate he had at Juventus and Atalanta BC, registering 24 goals in as many league appearances and finish top scorer ahead of FC Barcelona's Rivaldo.

Atlético endured a difficult campaign, finishing seventh, but Vieri's form lifted spirits. Many recall his logic-defying goal against PAOK FC, one of a hat-trick in a 5-2 triumph. His knack for getting goals in an underperforming team was emphatically demonstrated when he scored four times in a game at UD Salamanca. Atlético still lost 5-4.

©Getty Images

Fabio Cannavaro (Real Madrid CF, 2006–09)
In 2006 Madrid came to the conclusion that the best way to end their three-year Liga title drought was to shore up their defence, and who better to turn to than Cannavaro, who had just captained Italy to FIFA World Cup glory.

The centre-back – who had worked with then Madrid coach Fabio Capello at Juventus – received the Ballon d'Or in December and then won the Liga title on the final day of the season as Madrid pipped Barcelona to top spot in one of the most dramatic climaxes in recent memory. There was more room to spare as Madrid swept to the title under Bernd Schuster the following year, giving Cannavaro another league winners' medal.

©Getty Images

Christian Panucci (Real Madrid CF, 1996–99)
Panucci became the first Italian to sign for Madrid when he followed his former coach at AC Milan, Capello, to the Santiago Bernabéu in 1996. His contribution to the Rossoneri's 4-0 defeat of Barcelona in the 1994 UEFA Champions League final meant fans of the capital club were already on his side when he arrived, and his combative performances at right-back only further endeared him to them.

Madrid captured the Liga title in Panucci's first season in Spain and the following year ended an agonising 32-year wait for their seventh European Cup by defeating Juventus 1-0 in Amsterdam.

©Getty Images

Amedeo Carboni (Valencia CF, 1997–2006)
Carboni moved to Valencia at the age of 32, but his nine-year spell at the club was the most successful and eventful period of his career. Sent off on his debut, a 3-0 defeat by Barcelona, Carboni experienced his fair share of lows in Spain, including missing a penalty in the 2001 UEFA Champions League final shoot-out loss to FC Bayern München.

However, things got better for the Arezzo-born left-back and Valencia. He won the Liga title in 2002 and two years later completed a Liga-UEFA Cup double. At the grand age of 41, Carboni retired from football wearing the white of Valencia, his last game a testimonial against AS Roma, the club he had left to move to Spain.

©Getty Images

Giuseppe Rossi (Villarreal CF, 2007–13)
The New Jersey native never managed to force his way into Manchester United FC team and moved to Villarreal to resurrect his career. In Manuel Pellegrini he found a coach who truly believed in him, the Chilean trusting Rossi to fill the void left by Diego Forlán's departure to Atlético. Rossi converted a penalty on his debut, a 3-0 triumph over rivals Valencia, and his 11 goals helped the club back into the UEFA Champions League.

His best was still to come, and in 2010/11 he registered 32 goals as the Yellow Submarine reached the UEFA Europa League semi-finals and finished fourth in the Liga. However, Rossi injured the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee twice the following season, causing him to miss UEFA EURO 2012, and he eventually joined Fiorentina in January 2013.

Last updated: 02/09/14 9.44CET

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