Since we launched the site just over a year ago, we here at JuventiKnows have strived to bring you the very best in insight, opinion and information regarding the club we all hold so dear and would like to hope we have achieved just that over the last twelve months. However, with this season continuing where the previous campaign ended and the Bianconeri on the charge back towards the dominance we once took for granted, one man who has done so much to facilitate that has gone overlooked by almost everyone.
As we know, Antonio Conte has been handed a 10-month suspension for his alleged failure to report a fixed match whilst he was at Siena, meaning the Coach is not permitted to take his place on the Juventus bench or press conferences before and after matches. Fans, observers and journalists wondered both how the team would fare without his omnipotent presence in the dugout and who would replace him, asking repeatedly just how great an impact his absence would have on a side looking to defend their position as Champions.
Into the breach stepped Massimo Carrera, a former defender with the club and a teammate of Conte’s from Marcello Lippi’s first spell in charge of the Bianconeri. A man who (as was pointed out to us by regular JuventiKnows reader Santiago Montes) many of the Old Lady’s followers know very little about.
Ever eager to please our audience, we are glad to deliver this in-depth look at the career of “Conte’s stand-in”, an unfair title for a man who — as you will discover — holds at Juventus FC a much, much more important role. The career of Carrera (try saying that quickly a few times) is one a few members of the JuventiKnows crew, and hopefully the website’s community, should enjoy!
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Carrera bounced around Italy during the first few years of his playing days, spending time with his hometown club PRO SESTO, RUSSI, ALESSANDRIA and PESCARA before impressing over five seasons with BARI. During his spell with the Galletti, he was part of a team that won the Serie B title and earned promotion to the top-flight for the first time in fifteen years in 1989.
In the last game ever played at Stadio della Vittoria, Carrera also lifted the 1990 Mitropa Cup, one of the first really international major European football cups for club sides. Along with the player’s good form, that pan-European adventure would stand Carrera in good stead and earn him a move to JUVENTUS.
In Turin, the defender would play a role in winning far more prestigious competitions, joining the Bianconeri in 1991 as Giovanni Trapattoni was helping to rebuild a side stuck in the long shadow cast by Silvio Berlusconi’s all-conquering Milan side. Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport at the time, the player believed the move represented his final opportunity to make a name for himself in Calcio:
At one point I thought I’d end my career with Bari. I heard about possible transfers to big clubs, but in the end it did nothing. I think that Juventus represent my very last chance, but also the best chance.
Carrera wasn’t wrong and, playing at right-back (as he had during his time in Puglia) the Sesto San Giovanni-native earned a reputation as a solid and versatile defender, one who – whilst never grabbing the headlines – could be counted upon to make few errors and carry out his coaches’ instructions to the letter. The player’s dependable form would also see him given his only international cap, called up by Arrigo Sacchi for a friendly against San Marino, a few months before a certain Roberto Baggio inspired the Bianconeri to defeat Borussia Dortmund and triumph in the 1993 UEFA Cup.
Already into his thirties, Carrera was moved into central defence when Marcello Lippi replaced il Trap on the Juventus bench, with the new coach having little to no confidence in former regular CB Luca Fusi. Carrera would help that Juve side overcome the gap between themselves and Milan, going on as it did to secure the 1995 league title – Juve’s first in nine years – before adding the Italian Cup to secure the club’s double, a season which would become the launching pad for a spectacular period of dominance both at home and abroad.
The player’s role would diminish over Lippi’s second season as Pietro Vierchowod and Paolo Montero arrived at the club, but he still made 20 league appearances, adding a further 7 in that year’s ultimately victorious UEFA Champions League campaign as Juve defeated Ajax in the 1996 final. It is almost certain that his time in Turin, as a teammate of Conte, was where Carrera learned what being part of a truly great team means.
First taught by Trapattoni and then Lippi, Carrera’s mindset as a coach intrinsically improved. In a 2009 interview (a year after his retirement from playing) with club magazine Hurrà Juventus“We ran for ninety minutes and always had hunger for victories” he said. “We switched to an unconventional 4-3-3 formation which was more aggressive and allowed us to win the Scudetto, the Italian Cup and the following year the Champions League.
It was an education which would only continue, as Carrera moved on in search of playing time following that glorious night in Rome and arrived at ATALANTA, under Emiliano Mondonico. He was made Captain as made his leadership qualities quickly shine through in an exciting young team, one which — during Carrera’s 8 years in Bergamo — produced some of the brightest talent on the peninsula. From there he would spend a year at NAPOLI with Gigi Simoni on the bench before ending his career at PRO VERCELLI, retiring at the age of 42 after just a season with the historic club.
Much to the delight of our resident Marvel Zombie fanboy TeamGREASE, Carrera earned the nickname ‘la Bandiera’ during the latter days of his playing career, a moniker stemming from the Marvel character’s ability ‘to inspire action and courage in others’. Clearly testament to his leadership skills, it surprised few when he joined a plethora of former Juventini working at the club following his 2009 appointment as Technical Director. Speaking to l’Eco di Bergamo, he described the role as “a position halfway between the field and a desk” and revealed to be “excited about this new adventure working with many of [his] former teammates”.
In 2010, Carrera was confirmed in the role following the arrival of president Andrea Agnelli and director general Beppe Marotta a year later and, thanks to the efforts of the club’s new management, has become a key figure. Indeed, Marotta and right-hand man Fabio Paratici place ever-increasing importance on developing players from within the youth sector, and last season Carrera acted almost as a liaison officer, ensuring youth coaches Marco Baroni and Fabrizio Del Rosso understood Conte’s methods and demands (a task which would become key to seeing players able to make the leap from the Primavera to the first team).
That too would be of huge benefit this summer when Conte’s ban was confirmed, and Carrera admitted as much at his first press conference in his new role:
I experienced working with [Conte] every day for the past year so I do not have a problem replacing him. I’ll try to give advice to the players near the bench, but not on my own initiative, only as a consequence of what we do every day.
Carrera has done all that and more. Continuing not only the great on-field performances seen last season, but also in the way he speaks to the media and sitting at pre-match press conferences, it is hard not to view the manager as a mouthpiece for Conte, so similar are the words of the two men. With Alessandro Del Piero having gone to the outback of the Australian A-League with Sydney FC, Juventus may indeed have lost their bandiera and legend, but from his new-found bench role another (older) ‘Bandiera’ is leading the side in a way that more than one former Juventus Captain can enjoy.
PANINI stickers of Massimo Carrera at A.S. Bari and Juventus F.C. from Lars Aabjerg Pedersen‘s private collection