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Club News

Palace's Italian Connections

7 August 2013

Lazio come to town this Saturday for Crystal Palace’s final pre-season game of the summer – but they will not be the first Italians to visit SE25.

The Eagles have had five Italian players plying their trade at Selhurst Park over the years, the most notable of who, Attilio Lombardo, played for both Palace and Lazio.

Attilio Lombardo
The flamboyant midfielder joined the club from Serie A giants Juventus in August 1997, ahead of Palace’s return to the Premier League.

He was handed the number seven shirt and made an instant impact in south London, scoring on his debut on the opening day win at Everton before repeating the feat at Elland Road two weeks later, bagging the second goal in a 2-0 victory over Leeds United. 

The Eagles were flying high in 10th place by November that season and Lombardo’s form even led to a recall to the Italian national side. 

But an injury sustained while playing for the Azzurri ruled him out of action for three months – a blow that rocked Palace, as they slid towards the relegation places.

The man affectionately known as ‘the Bald Eagle’ was made caretaker manager upon his return, but was unable to save the club from the drop.

Lombardo stayed in south London despite Palace’s relegation, but money woes eventually saw him return to Italy with Lazio. 

Nicola Ventola
Frontman Ventola was plagued by knee and ankle injuries in his brief spell in SE25, making just three substitute appearances after being signed by Iain Dowie on transfer deadline day in August 2004.

The Inter Milan loanee had hardly any impact on the Eagles’ season, but became a hero with his strike against Southampton. 

Eight minutes after coming on as a sub, he ran onto a through ball and smashed a half-volley into the back of the net in front of the Holmesdale.

It was a goal that looked to have secured Palace a vital three points against their fellow relegation strugglers, but Saints netted the cruellest of equalisers in stoppage time – resulting in a draw that effectively sent both sides down from the Premier League. 

Michele Padovano
Like Lombardo, Padovano made the switch to Palace from Juventus in November 1997, with Mark Goldberg seeing the striker as the man to fire the club to Premier League safety. 

However Padovano struggled to adapt to the Premier League, scoring just once against Leicester City in 12 appearances for the club. 

After falling out of favour at the south London club, he was sold to Metz, later returning to Palace in the 1999-2000 season to make a million-pound claim against the club's directors for lost wages. He retired in 2001.

Patrizio Billio
Billio’s stint in SE25 was a brief one. Like his fellow countryman Ventola, he made just three appearances for Palace in the Premier League in 1998 after joining from Monza.

He went back to Italy to play for Ancona, who signed him in May 1998, before returning to the UK with Dundee and Aberdeen before finishing his career in the Italian lower leagues.

Ivano Bonetti
The journeyman midfielder featured for numerous Italian sides throughout the 1980s and 1990s including Juventus and Sampdoria (where he played alongside Lombardo) but arrived in English football with Grimsby Town.

He left the Mariners having had his cheekbone fractured by a plate of chicken wings thrown by then Town manager Brian Laws, and after a short spell at Tranmere Rovers, Bonetti arrived at Selhurst Park but played just two Premier League games and left a fortnight later to return to Genoa.

He later became Dundee manager and was resposnible for bringing Julian Speroni to Britain in 2001, as well as signing Billio and former Palace midfielder Fan Zyhi.

Don't forget to buy your tickets for this Saturday's game against Lazio to see the Eagles in home action for the first time since returning to the Premier League!

Ian Holloway and his squad will be parading the Play-Off trophy ahead of the game before the likes of Miroslav Klose, Hernanes and Stefan Radu take on The Eagles.

Click here to book your tickets online now, priced at just £20 for adults, £15 for seniors and £10 for under 18s, with prices increasing by £5 on the day.

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