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Francesco Coco was born in Paternò (Catania) on January 8th, 1977. At the age of 3, he moves to Legnano, located in the Province of Milano, and here comes the development of his bright career as a footballer. Initially he played for Como, afterwards, noticed by the scouts of Milan, ends up playing with the young rossonere.
.He debuted in Serie A on August 27th, 1995 in the Padova 1: Milan 2 match. In this match, Francesco is also fond of another memory. Franco Baresi in that occasion scored the goal of the victory and dedicated this goal to Coco, as an omen for the new career.
By the end of that season Coco had made his mark with Milan as the replacement for the injured Paolo Maldini but, as well as he performed, it was the impossible task to displace the great Italian captain once he had regained his fitness and so Francesco went on loan to Vicenza Calcio and Torino Calcio.
In 1997 he goes to Vicenza, stage he considers obligatory. He was 19 years old and still had to improve himself. Furthermore he suffered a knee injury, but also he had struggles with the coach. "In that moment - he says - I was afraid and not going back to Milanello to show my strength, and then I wouldn't have another card for playing my chances".
Fortunately for him, the Under 21 European Championship came and gave him the right motivation.
Shortly after that he returned once again to Milan for the 1998/99 season, where he obtains a place in the starting lineup. He was a highly recognized member of the rossoneri squad that won the scudetto in 1999.
Coco made a surprise move to FC Barcelona in August 2001 when Milan suddenly decided he was surplus to requirements.
Sections of AC Milan fans were left furious when they allowed one of their best players to leave for Barcelona at the start of the new season.
A dispute with former-manager Fatih Terim was blamed for the talented midfielder's departure to Spain. In doing so he became the first Italian player to join the Catalan giants. He appeared to have bad luck while he played for other teams except with Milan, but Barcelona were impressed by the way he cut them apart in their 2000/01 UEFA Champions League home defeat by Milan. In this match Francesco scored one goal and gave a great assist to, the German International, Oliver Bierhoff who scored.
However, on arrival at Nou Camp, he failed to hold down a regular first-team spot. He had his ups and downs with coach Carles Rexach and intermittent performances, sharing his spot with Sergi on the starting eleven. In addition to that Barcelona had an unsatisfactory campaign, not even being able to qualify for the Champions League for the following season.
Nevertheless, Italy's manager Giovanni Trapattoni insisted he already knew enough about Coco's qualities to include him in the squad. As early as March this year, Trapattoni hinted at his intentions to take Francesco to the Far East.
"Coco is not playing at Barcelona - he said - but I know that after 20 days with us he will be in top condition".
And he kept his word; surprisingly his name appeared on the final list of 23 players that would participate in the World Cup representing Italy. Coco arrived to the retreat having played fewer minutes than many of his teammates. It was a double edge knife. His lack of practice contrasting with his freshness due to inactivity. He had impressed with his past performances with the azzurri during the qualifying round and friendly matches. As a matter of fact he caught everybody's attention when he earned his first call-up to join the main team for the match against Romania.
"During the days of training - he recalls his debut with the National Team - everything seemed normal, then when I had to arrange all the tickets for my relatives and friends, I began to feel the tension of the match. It was a great satisfaction for me, to think that all those people had believed in me. Then the fear arrived. I couldn't show my courage, but now thinking it through, it has been a fervent emotion, I would say right and proper".
Francesco made it to Asia finally. It was no surprise that having changed his defensive strategy, Trapattoni sacrificed Coco's place in the midfield to apply a four-man defense. He only saw action until the last match of the group stage.
Italy was down in the scoreboard against Mexico. Coco brought life to the tired midfield, and combined with the entrance of Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Montella in attack, he was vital in giving the appropriate boost to the team and to help Italy equalize the match and therefore qualifying to the next round. His good performance during the few minutes he played gave him a place in the lineup for the next match against Korea. Being Nesta and Cannavaro out, one for injury and the other for suspension respectively, Coco had a big chance to win a place as a key player of the team.
Even though his performance was highly rated by the Italian press, Italy failed to advance to the next round leaving Coco with the bittersweet experience that his first game, as a starter in the World Cup, also be his last during the tournament.
In spite of the disappointing outcome of his World Cup aspirations, Francesco already had a new contract in his pocket. The former milanista had now joined his former local rivals Inter FC. He couldn't' stay with Barcelona and he wouldn't go back to AC Milan. At last he had to leave the team that gave him the recognition he has nowadays.
"It's never nice - he expresses his thoughts about the transfer - to leave a club where you have spent many years".
The upcoming season will be the season of the return for Francesco. He is likely to have a place in the main team from day one and, fitness permitting, Coco could turn out to be a major figure at the Guisseppe Meazza.