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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Lionello Manfredonia

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Lionello Manfredonia played for Lazio from 1975 to 1985.


Source Wikipedia

He was born in Rome, on November 27, 1956.


Manfredonia started playing football for Boreale Don Orione, a local team in North Rome who played on the Monte Mario hill above the Stadio Olimpico. Manfredonia, a Lazio fan, would dream of playing for the Biancocelesti in that stadium. In 1971, at fifteen, he joined Lazio and went into the youth sector. He would be part of a promising generation of youngsters (including Bruno Giordano) who also won the Primavera title (Under 19's).


He made his first team debut on November 2, 1975 against Bologna. He played 5 league games and 1 in the UEFA Cup in his first year.


The following year he made his main breakthrough and played 29 Serie A games and 1 in Coppa Italia. A good year under manager Luís Vinicio with a 5th place. Manfredonia formed a solid central defensive partnership with captain Pino Wilson.


In the 1977-78 season he again played 29 Serie A games, 4 in Coppa Italia and 4 in the UEFA Cup. Lazio had a less positive year, first under Vinicio and then Bob Lovati, finishing 10th.


In 1978-79 he played regularly with 28 league appearances and 6 in Coppa Italia (scoring his first goal, a winner against L.R. Vicenza). Lazio had a decent season finishing 8th under Bob Lovati.


The following year disaster struck for Manfredonia and Lazio. First a Lazio fan, Vincenzo Paparelli, was killed at a derby match by a flare shot from the Roma end. Then they were both involved in the Totonero betting scandal. Four players, Manfredonia, Giordano, Wilson and Massimo Cacciatori were even initially arrested and jailed on March 23, 1980. The final outcome was Lazio being punished with relegation and Manfredonia banned along with Giordano for 3 and a half years. Before the nightmare Manfredonia had played 21 league games and 5 in Coppa Italia (scoring versus Brescia).


In the Autumn of 1982, following Italy’s world cup triumph in Spain, the Italian Football Federation issued an amnesty, allowing all banned players to return.


Lazio were still in Serie B, but with Manfredonia and Giordano promotion was a more realistic prospect. So, in the 1982-83 Manfredonia was back and played 36 league games with 4 goals (Sambenedettese, Perugia, Palermo, Pistoiese) and 5 in Coppa Italia. He had evolved from a classic centre back into more of a box to box midfielder. Lazio were promoted back to Serie A first under Roberto Clagluna and then (from May 15) Juan Carlos Morrone.


In Lazio's first year back in the big time the Biancocelesti avoided relegation on the last day of the season drawing 2-2 at Pisa. Manfredonia played 26 league games and scored 4 goals (Milan, Verona, Inter, Genoa) and 5 games in Coppa Italia.


The following year would be his last for Lazio and was a disaster. Lazio changed manager from Paolo Carosi, to Juan Carlos Lorenzo, to Giancarlo Oddi with Bob Lovati but were unable to avoid relegation back to Serie B. Manfredonia played 27 league games and 5 in Coppa Italia.


Lazio were down and the stars left; Giordano to Napoli, Laudrup to Juventus (end of loan) and Manfredonia too went to Turin to play for the “Old Lady”. For Lazio things were bad but they would get worse, but that's another story.


Manfredonia went to Juventus and stayed two seasons. In his first season he played 23 league games, 6 in Coppa Italia, 6 in European Cup, and the Intercontinental Cup. The 'Zebras' won the scudetto (1986) and the Intercontinental Cup (1985).


In his second year he played 28 league games with 7 goals (Udinese, Avellino, Torino, Verona, Como, Sampdoria, Verona), 9 in Coppa Italia with 2 goals (Reggiana, Cremonese) and 4 games in the European Cup. Manfredonia was happy in Turin and had performed well but the two parts were not able to find a deal on a new contract and what happened then was a real coup de theatre.


In the summer of 1987 Manfredonia took a very controversial decision and returned home to Rome but to A.S Roma. It was not a popular move either side of the Tiber. Both teams' fans were against the move. Graffiti appeared on city walls contesting the deal. The Roma Curva Sud was divided in its reaction. Some fans' view was that as he was now a Giallorosso, he should be backed while others remained permanently hostile. One set of fans went as far as setting up a new supporters group called 'Gruppo Anti-Manfredonia'.


Manfredonia has since admitted it was a mistake and it is something he regrets. He has stated he underestimated the reaction of the city and had lacked respect to both sets of fans. He has also admitted his life was not made easy in that period as it seemed everyone had it in for him.


As it is, however, Manfredonia wore the Roma jersey for two full seasons. In his first he played 28 times in the league and scored 3 goals (Empoli, Inter,Verona) and 7 in Coppa Italia with 1 goal (Triestina). In 1988-89 he made 30 league appearances with 1 goal (Como) and 2 in Coppa Italia. He did not play in the losing derby against Lazio in January but played in the return 0-0. Needless to say, he was not the most popular player on the pitch.


The following season would be his last and not only for Roma. He had made 15 league appearances by the time the Giallorossi went to an away game in Bologna. It was December 30 and a bitterly cold afternoon. The temperature was -5 degrees and soon after the kick-off Manfredonia collapsed, untouched by any opponents. It was a heart attack. The first person to assist him was his old friend and Lazio team mate Bruno Giordano who was playing for Bologna. Manfredonia 's heart stopped for 5 long minutes and he was rushed to hospital. He fortunately survived and had not suffered any permanent damage. His football career however was obviously over. Manfredonia years later attributed the event to a combination of freezing weather conditions and stress, as he had recently lost his mother.


A sad end to a fine playing career marred by a few controversies. After 410 professional games and 26 goals Manfredonia was forced to retire at 33.


At International level he won 4 caps for Italy and played 9 times for the U-21's. His poor relationship with manager Enzo Bearzot limited his games for the Azzurri.


Since retiring Manfredonia has remained in the football world. He has worked as sports director for Cosenza, Cagliari, L.R. Vicenza and Ascoli. He has also worked in youth sectors at Vicenza and Brescia, where he is currently.


Manfredonia started his career at Lazio as a man-marking centre-back. He was tenacious and athletic but also possessed good technique. This later helped him evolve into an extremely versatile midfielder. He could defend and attack, probably most modern managers' ideal player. He was an excellent ball winner and developed into a box to box midfielder, making up for his lack of speed with his physicality and determination.


He "was" one of Lazio's golden boys. Their pride and joy along with Giordano and D'Amico. His relationship with Lazio was however soured by his shock move to bitter rivals Roma. In a recent interview before a derby when asked who he would be supporting, Manfredonia just laughed. "Let’s not mix professionalism with passion, I was and always will be a Lazio fan".


Appearances and Goals for Lazio

Season

Total appearances (goals)

Serie A

Serie B

Coppa Italia

UEFA Cup

1975-76

6

5

-

-

1

1976-77

30

29

-

1

-

1977-78

37

29

-

4

4

1978-79

34 (1)

28

-

6 (1)

-

1979-80

26 (1)

21

-

5 (1)

-

1982-83

38 (4)

-

36 (4)

2

-

1983-84

31 (4)

26 (4)

-

5

-

1984-85

32

27

-

5

-

Total

234 (10)

165 (8)

36 (4)

28 (2)

5

Sources



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