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The Incredible Journey of AC Milan forward Gianluca Lapadula

12th December 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
There must have been times during Gianluca Lapadula’s journeyman career when he questioned whether he’d ever make it as a top flight professional.

Born in Turin to an Italian father and a Peruvian mother, Lapadula’s talent quickly saw him join Juventus’ academy in 1996. After developing his chosen craft for eight years with the Old Lady, the club shrewdly ac-milan-forward-gianluca-lapadula-signingdecided to release him at 14, citing issues with his academic studies.

Thereafter, his career took an extremely atypical path, with him joining a plethora of clubs on various permanent and loan deals. Following largely unfruitful stints with Treviso, Pro Vercelli and Ivrea, he was snapped up by Parma in 2009, who subsequently sent him out on a staggering seven loans. This was, of course, during that infamous period where Parma signed absurd amounts of players and subsequently sent them out on loan that served as the beginning of their downfall.

Having spent a year in Parma’s Primavera team, the loans came thick and fast. Although his first two spells at lowly Atletico Roma and Ravenna were uneventful, he showed his class with San Marino in the fourth division by bagging 24 goals in 35 matches.

Unfortunately his excellent time at San Marino would be the sandwich in between another two disappointing loans at Cesena and Frosinone, respectively. Then in a bizarre twist, he and nine other colleagues, were sent to Slovenian side Gorica, where Lapadula suitably impressed. Scoring 11 goals from an unfamiliar wide position had many singing his praises. His crusade abroad would be sadly scuppered prematurely, however, due to Parma’s inability to pay their share of his wages.

Forced to return home, the hard working attacker linked up with Serie C team, Teramo. Lapadula hit the ground running here too, in a season where he was an indispensable member of the club’s successful promotion campaign, with his 21 goals proving vital.

The club’s celebrations were short lived, though, as Teramo president, Luciano Campitellii, was found guilty of fixing the side’s penultimate league contest against Savona. The club’s promotion was devastatingly yet justifiably cancelled, leaving Lapadula, who’d also just been made aware of Parma’s bankruptcy, to find another new home.

AC Milan forward Gianluca Lapadula PescaraPescara, then of Serie B, having done their due diligence by regularly scouting him, arose as his next destination, with the Dolphins astutely capturing him on a free transfer. He quickly went about repaying Pescara’s faith in him too, for his goals would ultimately propel them to promotion. In what was a remarkable season from the instinctive forward, which saw him hit a magical 30 goals and lead the division in goals, not one came from the penalty spot. Indeed, something that perfectly illustrated his finishing abilities, crafty movement and overall resourcefulness around goal.

In addition, his strength that sees him able to hold the ball up expertly, which, in combination, with his sound technical qualities and versatility to play as a striker or as more of a number 10, ensured interest was rife in the Serie B sensation. So impressive was he, in fact, that there were even calls for him to be included in Antonio Conte’s Italy squad for Euro 2016. No one was in his corner more so than his manager, Masssimo Oddo, who won the 2006 World Cup as a player.

“With the quality and characteristics Lapadula has, he is a fantastic player who can excel in Serie A. At 1.82m, he is not very tall but he has incredible physical strength. For me, he is more than ready for Serie A, but for a great team,” Oddo stated.

“He could also go to the EURO, he has nothing to envy in all respect to the other strikers. This is a compliment towards him, I am not discrediting the others. For me, he has features different from the other attackers who are in the national team.”

Although he ultimately didn’t get selected for the Euros, his summer was still a fascinating one. Courtesy of his extraordinary form at Pescara, a long list of clubs were interested in acquiring his services, including the likes of Juventus, Barcelona, Leicester City, Sassuolo, Napoli and AC Milan.

Kac-milan-forward-gianluca-lapadula-signnowing he needed vital playing time, his decision to join AC Milan made sound sense. Costing just €7.3 million, the deal represented great value for Milan too.

“I strongly wanted to join Milan,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “The negotiations were lightning fast. I’d like to thank [Milan’s general manager Adriano] Galliani and the president [Silvio] Berlusconi for their faith.

Earning himself a move to one of the giants of Italian football was undoubtedly a fine reward for all his persistence, patience, hard work and unbelievable mental fortitude.

After a period of adjustment to life in Serie A, it’s been great to see him now find his feet in the top flight. Since opening his account in his team’s 2-1 win over Palermo, he’s gone from strength to strength. He then backed that up with a double against Empoli and then a single against Crotone, with his goal in the latter fixture being his first goal at the iconic San Siro.

The grateful striker was clearly delighted about his achievement, but wasn’t getting too carried, insisting: “San Siro has always been the most important stadium in Italy. It was my first start here and I really wanted to score. I’m happy we managed to win,” he said to Sky Sport Italia in his post match comments.

“I’m in good form, but I haven’t done anything yet. This is just the start of our important journey ac-milan-forward-gianluca-lapadula-serie-atogether.”

Lapadula then showed his humility and sense of humanity by touchingly dedicating his goal to the recently fallen members of the Chapecoense plane disaster. “I want to take this opportunity to dedicate the goal and win to Chapecoense. Forza Chape, you will remain in our memories forever,” he noted.

His rise really has been nothing short of remarkable, and his Milan manager, Vincenzo Montella, has been tremendously pleased with the qualities of his new signing. “He’s in the middle of a great fairy-tale,” mused Montella.

“Over the last month his prospects and status have changed, all of it earned with hard work and sweat. I hope this sporting determination never leaves him. Up until two months ago Lapadula hadn’t even made his Serie A debut. Now he’s proving he deserves this shirt, with or without Bacca.”

Although it’s still early days at Milan, you can guarantee Lapadula will be doing everything in his power, just as he’s done in the past, to make sure he’s a hit with the Rossoneri.

Having worked so hard to overcome so many setbacks and obstacles to get where he is today, he unquestionably deserves every success that comes his way.

More to read from Edward at Licence to Roam