Enrico Chiesa is back in form and looking to fire S.S. Lazio to UEFA Cup glory against Besiktas JK.
By Jonathan Wilson
Enrico Chiesa's career has been dotted with dark moments: barren spells, injuries, times when his managers have lost faith in him. But after each trough has come another peak, as the quiet man from Genoa has battled through adversity to prove himself again.
When the 32-year-old S.S. Lazio striker volleyed a majestic winner against Wisla Kraków in the UEFA Cup last week, it was the sign of yet another comeback. Still struggling with a knee injury at the beginning of the season, he found himself behind Bernardo Corradi and Simone Inzaghi in the pecking order. But Chiesa has emerged once again, scoring in both legs against Wisla to silence the doubters who point to his record of two goals in eleven Serie A games this season.
That goal in Poland was crucial not only for Chiesa, but also for the club. "I scored an important goal and I want to dedicate it to the club and to our fans," he said. "We have gone through a difficult period in recent weeks. We haven't achieved the results we wanted but qualification for the UEFA Cup quarter-finals is a great result." There they face Turkish side Besiktas JK, a stern test, as Chiesa's team-mate Fernando Couto acknowledges. "It will be difficult for us, especially when we play in Istanbul," he said. Chiesa, you suspect, will be unfazed by the atmosphere in the Inönü, however.
He is a man who prides himself on his phlegmatic approach to life, and speaks of the need for footballers to have the "right spirit", which he defines as "the ability to believe in what you are doing, to have faith in your own ability, and, most of all, to have a lot of patience". Patience is something he has in abundance, perhaps because his fame came so late. He made his debut for home-town club Sampdoria UC in 1988/89 when Vujadin Boskov gave him one game, before deciding to loan him out to Teramo Calcio in Serie C.
Success at Parma AC followed, before he joined AC Fiorentina. Things looked bleak again as Fatih Terim froze him out after replacing Giovanni Trapattoni as coach, but, after half a season spent kicking his heels, he struck 22 goals in an extraordinary 27-game spell. It was there that he met Roberto Mancini, who was quick to take him to Lazio as Fiorentina went bankrupt.
Clean bill of health
UEFA Cup glory would be a fitting way for Chiesa to wind down his career, and that bid was boosted when Sinisa Mihajlovic, Giuseppe Pancaro and Angelo Peruzzi were all declared fit. Besiktas are missing Tümer Metin, Bayram Bektas, Ibrahim Üzülmez and Zago and coach Mircea Lucescu admits his first priority in the away leg has to be to frustrate Lazio. "We will pack midfield," he said. "Our first target is not to concede any goals." To do that, they must stop Chiesa.