Traditionally a Formula One city, where its 120,000 residents are more concerned with cockpits than corner flags, Monza is gripped by football fever pitch as they prepare to embark on their first-ever Serie A campaign.
What often looked like a Sisyphean task trying to climb up the Italian ladder and infiltrate the top flight changed in 2018 after former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and ex-Milan vice chairman Adriano Galliani purchased the perennially lower league club.
In the four years since two of Italy’s most recognised faces left the San Siro and embarked on a new project in Lombardy, Monza have skyrocketed up the divisions and, for the first time in the club’s 109-year history, will now make their Serie A debut, facing Torino on Saturday night.
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Berlusconi, ever the footballing arriviste, has invested heavily this summer to bolster Giovanni Stroppa’s squad, as he’s even talked up the possibility of reaching European football in the next few seasons. Monza are clearly not here just to make up the numbers.
And while the likes of Stefano Sensi, Gianluca Caprari, Pablo Mari and Marlon have all been drafted in this summer, Monza have actually already had their fair share of top-level talent over the years, despite never previously being a top-flight club.
Here we look back at some of those names…
Monza appearances: 14
Years at Monza: 2020-2021
Mario Balotelli’s topsy-turvy career has been him go from the glittering heights of the San Siro, Anfield and the Stade Velodrome, to training with Serie D side Franciacorta in 2020, current club Adana Demirspor in Turkey, and Monza two years ago. After leaving hometown club Brescia in 2020, Berlusconi used his pulling power to bring one of Italy’s most enigmatic and mercurial forwards to the Stadio Brianteo. It would be a short-lived fling, as the 32-year-old netted six goals in 14 games, but he did help them achieve a third-placed finish in the 2020/21 Serie B season, just missing out in the play-off semi-finals.
🇫🇷 Você sabia? Patrice Evra defendeu o Monza na temporada 1999-2000. Foi comprado pelo Monza por 250 mil euros, onde registrou 3 aparições na Série B. No final da temporada, ele deixou o clube, devido às poucas aparições concedidas pelo treinador.#ACMonza 🔴⚪ pic.twitter.com/ECttPlWzpp
— Monza Brasil 🅰️🇧🇷 (@ACMonzaBrasil) May 4, 2022
Monza appearances: 3
Years at Monza: 1999-2000
Evra endured several trials in France during his embryonic years in the sport, most notably with PSG, Toulouse, Lens and Rennes, but he failed to convince any of those clubs to take him on permanently. He embarked on pastures new to find a stable home in football and enjoyed a succesful trial with Torino in Italy, but when then Serie C1 club Marsala approached him and offered him a professional contract, Evra jumped at the chance. His one season in Sicily saw him feature 27 times and score six goals, prompting Roma and Lazio to move for him. However, a potential move to the Eternal City failed to materialise and Evra ultimately moved to Monza in Serie B instead, though a lack of playing time in 1999/2000 saw him leave for Nice, where his career really took off.
Monza appearances: 25
Years at Monza: 2020-2021
Kevin-Prince Boateng has enjoyed a nomadic existence in the sport, cultivating a reputation as a bit of a globe-trotter having turned out for 14 different clubs. One of those was Monza in that famous 2020/21 season that included Balotelli. Boateng had a slightly more influential spell during that season as they club finished third, but he too left that summer, returning to Hertha Berlin after 14 years.
Monza appearances: 31
Years at Monza: 1986-1987
Costacurta epitomises Milan’s golden period, hoarding 24 trophies during a silverware-spangled two decades at the San Siro. A one-club man, the hall-of-famer actually enjoyed a brief loan spell at Monza in 1986/87, his only campaign outside of Serie A, as he honed his craft in the third tier.
Monza appearances: 6
Years at Monza: 2021-2022
The former Southampton man was actually without a club for five months after leaving Sampdoria last summer. Having taken a brief sabbatical, he returned to action with Monza in December and helped the club en route to promotion, though he only featured sporadically, predominantly taking up a position on the bench before leaving in July.
Monza appearances: 54
Years at Monza: 1994-1998
The link between fellow Lombardy clubs Monza and Milan is strong, and Christian Abbiati is another who traversed that well-trodden path, though he actually started out with the former, featuring just over 50 times for the Biancorossi in the mid-90s before the Rossoneri snapped him up.
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Monza appearances: 37
Years at Monza: 1996, 1998-1999
Another who featured for both Milan and Monza, Oddo enjoyed a glittering career that saw him win a European Cup, the Scudetto, the World Cup with Italy in 2006 and the Coppa Italia with Lazio. He famously started in the 2006/07 Champions League final triumph over Liverpool, but before scaling those illustrious heights, he was spending several loan spells away from Milan during his first stint — two of those came with Monza in 1996 and then in the 1998-1999 season.
Monza appearances: 108
Years at Monza: 1985-1989
Pierluigi Casiraghi came from humble origins and was given a brutal reality check during his first season in professional football. The Monza-born striker suffered the ignominy of relegation to Serie C in his maiden campaign for the Biancorossi but helped the club gain immediate promotion, before several consistent seasons in Serie B saw Juventus pounce for his signature in 1989. Later in his career Casiraghi led the line as Chelsea won the 1998 UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid.
Monza appearances: 66
Years at Monza: 1979-1981
Another product of Monza’s fruitful academy during the 70s and 80s, Daniele Massaro is best remembered for his time at Milan playing under Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello when the Rossoneri were dominating the continent. He rose through the ranks on the River Lambro before being snapped up by Fiorentina and eventually making his way to the San Siro.