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Cristian Zaccardo: “Being a World Champion? Only a few can”

Cristian Zaccardo is an inevitable name in Italian football, having won the 2006 FIFA World Cup and a UEFA European Under-21 Championship for the national team. During his career, he represented several clubs in his native country such as AC Milan, Parma, Bologna, Palermo, Spezia, Carpi and Vicenza Calcio. Additionally, Zaccardo has won the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg and played for Hamrun Spartans (Malta) and Ter Fiori (San Marino). Find out more about his post-career steps in this conversation led by Nuno Milheiro.

The former centre-back closed his fascinating chapter as a football player two years ago and became a football agent recently.

“I thought this job was easier! I have been working for a year now, trying to sign solid players from Germany and other countries for Italy. I hope to do this as well as I did when I was a football player. All jobs – coach, sports director, agent and even player – are quite difficult, but I am passionate about football. Football is my life!”, he started saying.

To achieve success, he seeks to provide himself with as much data as possible about players and transparently advise them. “For me, football is simple, but it is necessary to work a lot: doing courses, watching videos every day, using Wyscout to watch players, going to stadiums to observe them live and contacting them by phone. The more information we get, the less likely we are to make mistakes. Since I have empirical know-how, I can talk to 17 or 18-year-olds and tell them what they have to do to become a professional player. I have played for 20 years in Serie A, so I can advise them properly, but the players must think for their heads. I will never tell a player «go to that team because I can get more money». I simply offer them options and then the players decide the future for their careers”.

Zaccardo feels extremely proud of having lifted the 2006 FIFA World Cup trophy and fondly remembers that moment of his career.“The first time I played for the Italian national team, I felt a lot of tension. When I was in the dressing room with names such as Totti, Cannavaro, Gattuso, Nesta, etc, I remained speechless and just listened. It was an excellent experience. Being a world champion is extraordinary for any player. Only a few can. Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi are the best players in the world, they have won practically everything, but they were not world champions”.

“In 2006, there were many top players with tremendous charisma and personality. Italy has a good team now. They won the UEFA Euro 2020, but they do not have as many top players as we did. I think it would be more difficult to play in that national team than in the current one”, he added.

In his perspective, just as happened when he won the 2004 UEFA European Under-21 Championship and the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the Italian Football Federation should constantly keep an eye out for quality players who represent smaller clubs. “Quality players, whether they play in bigger or smaller teams, should be always called up by Roberto Mancini. In the particular case of Italy, it seems that the door is open for all players. In my experience, Marcelo Lippi has created a group of 23 players with a perfect mindset. We were a family! He created a group like Mancini: great players, with a spectacular mentality. Good players without that mentality can be dangerous”

The current football agent reinforces that being permanently up-to-date to face the challenges of his new profession is of utmost importance. “It is essential to work step-by-step and improve continuously. Every day it is important that players, coaches and agents learn new skills. Let us imagine: I close a deal, earn money and it is done? No way. There is a lot to improve. I think it is with this mentality that sport directors, coaches, agents, players and any other professionals should face life”, he concluded.

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