Missing in action: Massimo Paganin

MILAN – 151 games and two goals. Massimo Paganin, a defender from Vicenza born in 1970, is as much in love with his hometown now as he was during his footballing career which took him away from home, although he also left for non-footballing reasons too.

“After leaving Inter I played for Bologna and then went to Bergamo, Sampdoria and Vicenza before playing for a year in Athens. I started my coaching badges in 2007 and qualified as a football coach before pursuing a career outside the game. I’ve worked in China and Dubai, but it wasn’t football-related, so I have a different point of view on the world. My life wasn’t always easy, but as I always said, we are all responsible for our own actions, and the more you experience in life the more opportunity you have to develop as a person and the more you are able to integrate with others. I spent seven years outside football. I concentrated on helping my son grow up. He’s 17 now and has become a football player, so he’ll need my help for a little bit longer. I even coached him – perhaps the toughest task of my life! Over the past few years I’ve been coaching youngsters at Real Vicenza, the Juniores Nazionale, and I’m still living in Vicenza.”

Two memories of your Inter career, one triumphant, one dramatic.
“The 92,000 people at the 1994 UEFA Cup final against Austria Salzburg! And the final we lost in 1997 against Schalke. I still have nightmares about that, as the result didn’t go the way it should have gone. Inter are still the club that bring tears to my eyes. I can’t even find the right words to describe the emotions. The thing I regret most is that, when you are living the life of a footballer, perhaps you don’t have the time to appreciate it fully. It’s only after that you fully understand things.”

San Siro the fantastic theatre…
“I remember an Inter v Verona game. We’d just beaten Anderlecht and a journalist had written some pretty nasty things about me. At the start of the game the fans booed me every time I touched the ball. San Siro is rather particular in that sense: it helps you develop a sort of thick skin, helps you develop as a football player. Then, as the fans noticed that the boos weren’t bothering me, some started to applaud. It was fantastic. I will remember it forever. If you play and show the right spirit, fans change their opinion on you.”

And disappointments…
“Having left that year. My mistake was leaving in 1997. It was a fantastic season, with the arrival of Ronaldo, the UEFA Cup victory and second place in Serie A only because we weren’t awarded a penalty against Juventus. Other than the Inter team that won the treble, everyone remembers that Inter side. But these things happen, it’s all part of life.”

Who will win the World Cup?
“Brazil, I think. They’re playing at home, but they mustn’t take anything for granted. It won’t be easy as there are a couple of other South American sides who could give them a hard time.”