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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Fulvio Bernardini

Updated: Aug 24, 2023

Fulvio Bernardini was born in Rome on December 28, 1905.

Source Wikipedia

He started playing football in the Lazio youth sector as a goalkeeper. He made his debut on October 19, 1919 in a tournament against Audace. He then made his official debut in the national championship on November 23, 1919 against Pro-Roma, he was not yet 14 years old.


In 1921 he changed position from goalkeeper to forward. There are two versions of the reason that led him to this decision. One is he was demoralized after conceding four goals against Naples while another is he fainted after a bad knock and decided, advised by his family, to play in a "safer" role.


He was a good goalkeeper but he was an even better forward. He became Lazio captain and in 1922-23, with his 24 goals, Lazio reached the Scudetto final, then lost to Genoa. He played 101 league games for Lazio with an impressive 73 goals.


In 1926 he left his boyhood club and joined Inter. The Nerazzurri gave him a bank job and the chance to study Economics at the prestigious Bocconi University. He stayed two seasons, under Hungarian Árpád Weisz, and played 59 league games with 27 goals. In his time with "Il Biscione" he is also attributed to have "discovered" the legendary Giuseppe Meazza, after seeing him training with the youth team and then convincing the Inter manager Weisz to bring him up to the first team.


In 1928 he came back to Rome but joined newly formed Roma (a merger between Alba Roma, Pro Roma and Roman). He stayed with the Giallorossi eleven long years as a midfielder. He played 294 games with 47 goals. The "Lupi" reached one Coppa Italia final in 1937 but lost 1-0 to Genova 1893.


In 1939 he joined Mater, a Roman team that existed in the 1930's and 40's. Bernardini acted as player manager. In 1942 the Rossoverdi were promoted to Serie B. In their first season they finished 12th but then World War II interrupted all national sport. Mater then took part in the Roman League along with Lazio, Roma and other local clubs. In 1945 Mater reached the final but lost 4-1 to Roma. Bernardini played 117 games in six years and scored 23 goals.


Bernardini then retired in 1945.


At international level he played 26 games for Italy with 3 goals (Switzerland, Spain and Czechoslovakia). He was the first player from the Southern League to get a call up. He won a bronze medal at the Amsterdam Olympics of 1928. He was surprisingly excluded by Vittorio Pozzo for the World Cup campaigns of 1934 and 1938. In his autobiography Bernardini claimed Pozzo had left him out saying he was too good thus making the other players uneasy...


In 1949 he became manager of Roma. He resigned after 35 matches (out of 38) and Roma only reached safety in the penultimate match (Novara 2-1) thanks to an extremely "friendly" referee, the infamous Pera from Florence.


In 1950-51 he spent a year with Reggina in Serie C. The "Amaranto" came 12th.


In 1951 he joined Vicenza in Serie B. He stayed two years with the "Berici" and finished 10th and 12th.


In 1953 he moved to Florence and joined Fiorentina. Here his successes started. He stayed five years with 3rd, 5th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd places. So in 1956 the "Viola" won the Scudetto while in 1957 they reached the European Cup final but lost 2-0 to Real Madrid (Di Stefano, Gento) in Madrid.

Source Lazio Wiki

In the summer of 1958 Bernardini returned to Lazio. He immediately won the Coppa Italia, for Lazio's first historic win, ironically against Fiorentina.


His stay at Lazio was characterised by the lack of Arne Selmosson, their star player who was sold to Roma in the transfer window of 1958. As a consequence the team lacked real quality and with very limited financial possibilities they could not do better than two 11th and 12th finishes. In 1960-61, with the Biancocelesti last, he was sacked after nine matches and replaced by Enrique Flamini who was later helped by Jess Carver, but neither could save the Biancocelesti from their first relegation.


In 1961 he joined Bologna. He stayed four years. In 1962 he won the Mitropa Cup but in 1964 the Rossoblu won the biggest prize of all, the Scudetto. After an accusation of doping and a point docking Bologna proved their innocence and finished joint top with Inter. The "Felsinei" then won the first ever, and never repeated since, Scudetto playoff, 2-0. Bernardini became the first Italian manager to win the title with two different clubs (since emulated by Giovanni Trapattoni, Massimiliano Allegri and Giuseppe Conte but with the big three…).


In 1965 he became DT (Technical Director) at Sampdoria in Serie A with Giuseppe Baldini as manager. The Blucerchiati were relegated in 16th place. The following year, with Gino Poggi as manager, Bernardini led "Il Doria" to promotion, winning the Serie B tournament. In 1967 he took on the official title of manager and over the next four seasons Sampdoria finished 10th, 12th, 13th and 12th.


Between 1971 and 1973 he was Sporting Director at Brescia. One of his discoveries was a young Alessandro "Spillo" Altobelli who would become World Champion in "España '82".


In 1974 he was called to be Italy manager. It was a difficult task, picking up the pieces after the failure of the 1974 campaign. He stayed three years and started to rebuild the team which would later, under Enzo Bearzot finish 4th in '78 and winners in '82.


In 1977 he returned to Sampdoria for two years as General Director.


So, a long, diverse and successful career. As a player he started as a goalkeeper then turned striker and ended up as a midfielder. He grew up with Lazio but then became a Roma legend (their training ground in Trigoria near Rome bears his name) only to return to Lazio and win their first historic silverware. "Fuffo", "Professore" or "Dottore" (he had a degree in Economic Sciences) has the unique and enviable claim to fame of being loved and respected on both sides of the Tiber.


As a coach he won two Scudetti with Fiorentina and Bologna so probably an unrepeatable feat. He was astute tactically (at Bologna he famously placed full-back Bruno Capra on the wing in the Scudetto final thus practically playing Mario Corso out of the game). He however also believed in "piedi buoni" (literally good feet, so skilful players who could play the ball). In fact his winning teams played in an entertaining style.


Bernardini was tactically ahead of his time. In Florence he invented a more elastic WM system than the classic one, with players changing position depending on who had the ball. Furthermore, they were told to pass the ball not directly to their teammates but in a free space so that the latter could reach the ball before their opponents. A more modern approach.


A great player and a great coach. He died in Rome on January 13, 1984, at 79.


Lazio Career

Season

First Category/First Division appearances

Goals

1919-20

12

-

1920-21

18

-

1921-22

9

6

1922-23

20

21

1923-24

17

17

1924-25

15

15

1925-26

10

14

Total

102

73

Sources


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