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
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
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
"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