Paulo di Canio

Paolo Di Canio
Template:Infobox medal templates
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Paolo Di Canio (born 9 July 1968) is an Italian former professional footballer. He made over 500 league appearances and scored over one hundred goals in the course of his playing career before moving into management.

Di Canio began his career in the Italian Serie A, playing for Lazio, Juventus, Napoli and A.C. Milan, before a brief spell with the Scottish club Celtic. He subsequently spent seven years in the English Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic. He returned to Italy in 2004, playing for Lazio and Cisco Roma before retiring in 2008. He played for the Italian under-21s but was never capped for the senior team.

Among the individual awards he received as a player, Di Canio was named SPFA Players' Player of the Year in 1997 and West Ham's player of the season in 2000. However, his career was at times characterised by controversy: he received an eleven-match ban in 1998 for pushing a referee and attracted negative publicity over his self-proclaimed allegiance to fascism.

In 2011, Di Canio entered football management in England with Swindon Town, guiding them in his first full season as manager to promotion to League One. He was appointed as the Sunderland manager at the end of March 2013. His controversial appointment lasted 13 games and was terminated on 22 September after Sunderland had won only three games under his managership.


Di Canio was born in Rome, in the district of Quarticciolo, a working-class area populated mainly by Roma fans. However, Di Canio was drawn to their local rivals Lazio. As a young boy, he was addicted to cola and similar drinks and called Pallocca, a slang term meaning lard-ball. He was fat, and knock-kneed, and needed to wear orthopedic shoes – "But I never hid. My response was to exercise; to try to become the kind of person I am."[1]

He signed for Lazio in 1985 and remained there until 1990. Lazio won promotion to Serie A in 1988, having narrowly escaped relegation to Serie C1 the year before. During 1988-89, Di Canio scored the winner in the first Rome derby of the season, a goal which contributed to Lazio's survival in Serie A that season and earning him hero status. In 1990, he was sold to another of Italy's biggest clubs, Juventus. He left Juventus "after an animated exchange with then manager Giovanni Trapattoni" and spent the 1993–94 season with Napoli. Two seasons followed at A.C. Milan, culminating in a row with Fabio Capello. In 1996 he joined Celtic in Scotland, and his successful season in Glasgow (scoring 15 goals in 37 appearances) saw him make a move to the English Premiership as he joined Sheffield Wednesday for a sum of around £4.2 million. Whilst in Sheffield, Di Canio was the club's leading goal scorer for the 1997–98 season with 14 goals and he became a favourite of the fans.

In England, Di Canio is infamous for an incident on the pitch in September 1998, when he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after being sent off while playing for Sheffield Wednesday against Arsenal at Hillsborough, which resulted in an extended ban of 11 matches[2] and him being fined £10,000.[3]

In January 1999, Di Canio signed for West Ham United for £1.7 million and helped them to achieve a high league position (5th) and qualify for the UEFA Cup through the Intertoto Cup. He was also the OPTA player of the season 1998–99. He scored the BBC Goal of the Season in March 2000 with a volley against Wimbledon,[4] which is still considered among the best goals in Premiership history[5] and was named as the Premiership's goal of the decade in a December 2009 Sky Sports News viewers' poll, scoring 30% of votes.[6] In this season he was also voted Hammer of the Year by the club's fans.

In 2001, he won the FIFA Fair Play Award. The previous December, in a match against Everton, in a noteworthy display of sportsmanship, Di Canio shunned a goal scoring opportunity and caught the ball from a cross instead as the Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying injured on the ground after he twisted his knee attempting a clearance on the edge of the box. FIFA described the act as "a special act of good sportsmanship".[7]

Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign him for Manchester United halfway through the 2001–02 season, but his attempts were unsuccessful and Di Canio remained in East London for another season and a half.[8]

He remained a key figure at West Ham until 2003 when, with the Hammers struggling at the bottom of the league, he had a very public row with manager Glenn Roeder and was dropped from the first team. However, he returned at the end of the season (after Roeder, stricken by a brain tumour, was replaced by Trevor Brooking) and scored a winner against Chelsea in the penultimate game of the season that appeared to have preserved West Ham's Premiership status.[9] However, it proved to be irrelevant and they were relegated on the final day of the season after a 2–2 draw away to Birmingham City, where he scored an 89th minute equaliser.[10] He was released on a free transfer and signed a contract with Charlton Athletic for the start of 2003–04. Whilst at The Valley he helped the club secure its highest league finish since the 1950s. However, he only scored four goals for the Addicks, all of them from the penalty spot (one of them scored from a rebound).

Even though he had already signed an extension to his Charlton contract, in August 2004 he returned to his home team of Lazio taking a massive paycut in order to return to the economically stretched Roman team. Lazio fans were happy to have a Rome-bred Lazio supporter in the team again, something missing since the departure of Alessandro Nesta in 2002. He scored in the Rome derby, just as he had in 1989, leading the team to a 3–1 victory over A.S. Roma in January (6 January 2005). However the negative publicity that Di Canio generated for Lazio, including his intimate relationship with club's ultras and their increased influence thanks to his presence in the team, coupled with problems with some teammates and coaches, exasperated club president and majority shareholder, Claudio Lotito, with whom he already had a difficult relationship. As a result, Di Canio's contract was not renewed in the summer of 2006. During several of his games for Lazio, Di Canio made a fascist salute to their right-wing fans. He subsequently signed with Cisco Roma of Serie C2 on a free transfer. In his first season with Cisco Roma, his team failed promotion to playoffs, despite a runners-up position in the regular season. He subsequently agreed to stay with Cisco for another season, in a second attempt to win promotion to Serie C1 with the Roman side.

On 10 March 2008, Di Canio announced his retirement from football, ending his 23-year playing career before the end of the season due to physical issues. It was his intention to begin coaching lessons at Coverciano to gain a coaching position.[11] In an interview he revealed that his dream would be to manage former club West Ham, and applied for the position after the resignation of Alan Curbishley in September 2008.[12] Di Canio played in Tony Carr's testimonial game at Upton Park on 5 May 2010, which featured a West Ham team against West Ham Academy old boys. He played for both sides during the match. The West Ham team won 5–1.[13] In July 2010, in honour of Di Canio, West Ham announced the opening of the Paolo Di Canio Lounge, within the West Stand, at their Upton Park ground,[14] which was formally launched by the unveiling of a plaque by Di Canio himself, on 11 September 2010.[15]

Managerial career

Swindon Town

On 20 May 2011, Di Canio was appointed manager of Swindon Town, following the club's relegation to League Two. Di Canio began his career as a manager with an emphatic 3–0 win over Crewe Alexandra on 6 August 2011.[16] On 30 August 2011, Di Canio was involved in a pitch-side altercation with Swindon striker Leon Clarke after their defeat in the League Cup to Southampton.[17] In January 2012, Swindon caused a FA Cup shock by defeating Premier League club Wigan Athletic 2–1. Di Canio stated that he believed his players deserved to have their names put on the stadium and dedicated the victory to his father, who died late in 2011.[18] He was sent to the stands later in the month in a league game against Macclesfield Town for vociferously venting his frustration at his side not being awarded a free-kick. Swindon won the match 1–0 and with over half the season gone, his team were fighting for promotion to League One.[19]

Under Di Canio, Swindon reached the 2012 Football League Trophy Final, where they were defeated 2–0 by Chesterfield

On 21 April 2012, Swindon were promoted to the League One after Crawley Town's 1–1 draw with Dagenham & Redbridge and Torquay United's 2–0 loss to AFC Wimbledon, despite Di Canio's side having lost 3–1 to Gillingham on the same day. He dedicated the promotion to his parents, his mother having passed away shortly after his father in April of that year.[20] One week later, Swindon won the Football League Two thanks to an emphatic 5–0 victory over Port Vale.[21] Swindon finished the season on 93 points.[22]

Although in the 2012/13 season, Swindon were knocked out of the FA Cup and the Football League Trophy in their first game against opposition from lower leagues, they did have a solid run in the League Cup in which they won against three teams from higher leagues. They beat Brighton & Hove Albion 3–0, won against Stoke City 3–4 after extra time, and beat Burnley 3–1 before narrowly missing out against Aston Villa 3–2 at home.

In January 2013, with Swindon under a transfer embargo and in financial difficulty, Di Canio offered to pay £30,000 of his own money to keep loan players John Bostock, Chris Martin, and Danny Hollands at the club.[23]

On 18 January 2013, ahead of Swindon's Saturday clash with Shrewsbury Town, Di Canio worked into the night alongside approximately 200 volunteers to clear a snow-covered pitch at the County Ground, thus allowing the game to go ahead. He showed his appreciation by ordering everyone pizza. Swindon won the match 2–0, which Di Canio publicly deemed a present to the volunteers.[24][25][26]

In January 2013, the Swindon Town chairman announced that due to financial difficulties, no money would be made available for future signings. Di Canio offered to pay £30,000 of his own money to keep loan players at the club. With the possibility of the club entering administration, a new buyer was found, subject to Football League approval, and without the knowledge of Di Canio, player Matt Ritchie was sold to Bournemouth. Further attempts to sign players by Di Canio were rejected by the Football League due to the club's financial situation with Di Canio "considering his future" at Swindon due to off-field financial problems. In February, Di Canio offered his resignation but said he would withdraw this if approval for the new owners, by the Football League, was received by 18 February. This did not happen and he resigned as manager of Swindon Town.[27]


On 31 March 2013, Sunderland announced the appointment of Di Canio on a two-and-a-half-year contract, following the dismissal of Martin O'Neill the previous day. The appointment prompted the immediate resignation of club vice-chairman David Miliband due to Di Canio's "past political statements".[28] The appointment of Di Canio also sparked opposition from the Durham Miners' Association,[29] which decided to remove one of its mining banners from Sunderland's Stadium of Light, which is built on the former site of the Wearmouth Colliery, as a symbol of its anger over the appointment.[30][31] The background to the opposition was past statements made by Di Canio supporting fascism.[29][32]

Di Canio was tasked with keeping Sunderland in the Premier League, following a run of only three points from a possible 24. His first game as manager of Sunderland resulted in a 2–1 away defeat to Chelsea.[33] Di Canio's second game in charge was the Tyne-Wear derby against Newcastle United at St James' Park on 14 April. Sunderland defeated their fierce rivals 3–0, their first away victory in the fixture in over a decade. Each goal sparked wild celebrations from Di Canio and the Sunderland bench.[34] Di Canio then got his first win at the Stadium of Light against Everton.[35]

Although the team did not win the next three matches, including drawing the final two home games and a heavy 6–1 defeat to Aston Villa, Sunderland secured their Premier League survival when Wigan Athletic were defeated at Arsenal and relegated, trailing then-17th placed Sunderland by four points with only one game to play.[36]

For the 2013–14 season, Di Canio signed fourteen new players and sold experienced players such as Simon Mignolet,[37] James McClean[38] and Stéphane Sessègnon.[39] After five league games, Sunderland had gained only a single point, from an away draw with Southampton.[40] Di Canio was sacked on 22 September 2013, the day after the fifth game of the season, a 3–0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion, and only his thirteenth game in charge.[41] Sunderland chief executive officer Margaret Byrne stated that Di Canio had been sacked after senior players had approached her and that his situation became untenable due to his "brutal and vitriolic" criticism of the squad.[42] Di Canio denies this.[43]

Political views

Di Canio is a self-proclaimed Fascist. In 2005, he characterised his political views by declaring that he was "a fascist, not a racist".[44]

His use of the Roman salute toward Lazio supporters, a gesture adopted by Italian fascists in the 20th century, has created controversy. Documented uses of the salute include in matches against arch-rivals Roma and Livorno, clubs inclined to left-wing politics.[45] Di Canio received a one-match ban after the second event and was fined €7,000.[46] He was later quoted as saying, "I will always salute as I did because it gives me a sense of belonging to my people ... I saluted my people with what for me is a sign of belonging to a group that holds true values, values of civility against the standardisation that this society imposes upon us."[47] His salute has been featured on unofficial merchandise sold outside Stadio Olimpico after the ban.[45]

He has also expressed admiration for the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. In his autobiography, he praised Mussolini as "basically a very principled, ethical individual" who was "deeply misunderstood".[48][49][50]

Also in 2010, Di Canio attended the funeral of senior fascist Paolo Signorelli, where mourners were photographed making mass fascist salutes towards Signorelli's coffin.[51][52][53][54] Signorelli had been convicted of involvement in the Bologna massacre, a neo-fascist terrorist attack which killed 85 people and wounded more than 200.

Di Canio's political orientation has been a source of controversy in the course of his managerial career. When Di Canio was appointed as the manager of Swindon Town in 2011, the trade union GMB terminated its sponsorship agreement with the club, worth around £4,000 per season, due to Di Canio's fascist views.[55]

He was appointed as manager of Sunderland on 31 March 2013. The club's vice-chairman David Miliband, a Labour politician and former foreign secretary, subsequently stepped down and it was alleged that he had taken the decision to resign "in the light of the new manager's past political statements".[28]

In a profile piece in 2011, an unnamed source asserted that Di Canio was not "an ideological fascist", attributing his behaviour to "his psychological history, particularly his former compulsive tendencies and pronounced mood swings". In the same article, Di Canio said that he was not politically active: "I don't vote, I haven't voted for 14 years. Italian politicians — all of them — think only about themselves, and making money."[48]

Personal life

Di Canio has several body modifications, including on his right biceps the Latin word "DUX", meaning "leader" or, in Italian, Il Duce—an antonomasia for Benito Mussolini.[56] His back is covered with a tattoo of fascist imagery, including an eagle, fasces and a portrait of Mussolini.[57] He also has a West Ham United tattoo on his left upper arm[58] and a tattoo of his father on his chest.[59]

Di Canio has spoken also of the growing influence in his life of Samurai culture, and of the "Japanese spiritual mentality" from reading Mishima, and the teachings in the traditions of Hagakure and Bushido.[1]


As a player

A.C. Milan
West Ham United

As a manager

Swindon Town

Career statistics


Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
1985–86 Lazio Serie B 0 0
1986–87 Ternana Serie C2 27 2
1987–88 Lazio Serie B 0 0
1988–89 Serie A 30 1
1989–90 24 3
1990–91 Juventus Serie A 23 3
1991–92 24 0
1992–93 31 3
1993–94 Napoli 26 5
1994–95 A.C. Milan 15 1
1995–96 22 5
Scotland League Scottish Cup League Cup Europe Total
1996–97 Celtic Premier Division 24 12 6 3 1 0 31 15
England League FA Cup League Cup Europe Total
1997–98 Sheffield Wednesday Premier League 35 12 3 0 2 2 40 14
1998–99 6 3 0 0 2 0 8 3
1998–99 West Ham United 13 5 0 0 0 0 13 5
1999–00 30 16 1 0 4 1 10 1 45 18
2000–01 31 9 3 1 3 1 37 11
2001–02 26 9 1 0 0 0 27 9
2002–03 18 9 0 0 1 0 19 9
2003–04 Charlton Athletic 31 4 1 0 1 1 33 5
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
2004–05 Lazio Serie A 23 6
2005–06 27 5
2006–07 Cisco Roma Serie C2 28 7
2007–08 18 7
Total Italy 318 48
Scotland 24 12 6 3 1 0 31 15
England 190 67 9 1 13 5 10 1 222 74
Career total 532 127


As of 22 September 2013
Team From To Record
G W D L Win %
Swindon Town 11 May 2011 18 February 2013 95 54 18 23 56.84
Sunderland 31 March 2013 22 September 2013 13 3 3 7 23.08
Total 108 57 21 30 52.78

Notes and references

External links

  • Di Canio's playing profile (from The Ultimate Celtic Forum)
  • FootballDatabase provides Paolo Di Canio's profile and stats
  • Di Canio's playing profile (from Cisco Roma official website)
Preceded by
Lucas Radebe
FIFA Fair Play Award Winner
Succeeded by
Football communities of
Japan and Korea Republic

Template:Sheffield Wednesday F.C. Player of the Year Template:West Ham United F.C. Player of the Year

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