Antonio Benarrivo’s career began as every young boy dreams, playing for your home town club. The 18 year old Benarrivo’s fantasy came true when he turned out for his home town club Brindisi in Serie C1 back in 1986.
It would be the first of nearly 80 appearances in a three year spell the club close to his heart before leaving to join Serie B outfit Padova.
Benarrivo would spend just the two years at Padova, albeit a successful two years, as he caught the eye of Parma and Nevio Scala swooped to sign the defender. This was a move that would propel Benarrivo to greatness.
A marauding full-back capable of playing on either flank, Benarrivo was quick, athletic and bursting with energy. He was also so comfortable on the ball and had breathtaking technique. He was perfect for Parma and fitted well into Parma’s 5-3-2 system, bombing up and down the line all day long. He was as good going forward as he was at defending.
Success came quickly to Benarrivo at Parma, qualifying for the UEFA Cup in his debut season. The following season would see Parma lift their first of many pieces of silverware as they lifted the 1991/92 Coppa Italia.Nevio Scala’s side were being bankrolled by the Tanzi family then owners of dairy giants Parmalat. this allowed Benarrivo to play with a formidable defence, playing along side players like Lilian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluigi Buffon and Nestor Sensini.
Benarrivo was a key member of Parma’s success and the success continued lifting the 1993 UEFA Cup at Wembley defeating Antwerp of Belgium. In Scala’s last season at Parma in 1996, Benarrivo would pick up his second Coppa Italia medal, defeating Juventus in the process.
As Scala exited, Carlo Ancelotti took the Parma hot seat overhauling the team. He took them within one win of clinching the clubs first and what would have been their only Scudetto. They finished second to Juventus but this was no disgrace. Parma would debut in the Champions League the following season.
This season would be the highlight of Benarrivo’s career. The club went on to secure a historic double, winning yet another Coppa Italia defeating Fiorentina then lifting the UEFA Cup in Moscow by destroying Marseille 3-0.
Entering the new millennium things weren’t so great at the Stadio Ennio Tardini as star striker Hernan Crespo was sold to Lazio. Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram and Gianluigi Buffon were also sold leaving the club light. Benarrivo was now the captain of his beloved Parma and although not the same force, he did guide them to more success lifting the 2002 Coppa Italia.
Parma’s captain would retire in 2004 and he is to this day he hold the record number of appearances for the club with over 300 notched up. he also has the honour of claiming he played in the eight most successful seasons in the clubs history.
By Giovanni Dougall