Dia­manti fires up fans like Di Canio

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOOD WEEKEND - MATT BAR­LOW

STRIKER Alessan­dro Dia­manti is skip­ping through the cor­ri­dors in­side Up­ton Park when some­thing stops him in his tracks. It is a signed pho­to­graph of Paolo Di Canio, fists clenched, eyes to the sky, cel­e­brat­ing a goal in West Ham colours.

Dia­manti ex­am­ines it, says noth­ing, and moves on. With his Ital­ian blood, heav­ily tat­tooed skin and fire in his belly, it is easy to be se­duced by this sim­ple com­par­i­son.

When he scored from the penalty spot to equalise against Arse­nal re­cently, Dia­manti wheeled away, euphoric. Veins were bulging and his arms were pump­ing. It could have been a flash­back to when Di Canio ruled the same rec­tan­gle of east end turf.

“Di Canio has been a great player,” says Dia­manti.

“Ev­ery­body would like to have the same ca­reer. We share the same way to play foot­ball. We both give ev­ery­thing on the pitch for the team and the fans.

“I al­ways play with pas­sion. I am a pas­sion­ate man. Not just about the goals but about the foot­ball. I try to put ev­ery­thing on to the field. At the mo­ment, I am very sorry be­cause I’d like to show more.”

At a shirt-sign­ing ses­sion with Luis Jimenez last week, it was clear an in­stant bond has been struck be­tween Dia­manti and West Ham’s sup­port­ers.

“They all wanted to say con­grat­u­la­tions for the penalty and why did I shave my hair off ?” says the striker, who boasted blonde locks when he joined from Livorno in Au­gust. Now it is cropped.

“I did it two or three years ago the same. It’s eas­ier when you have a shower. The English play­ers don’t use hairdry­ers in the dress­ing room. I was the only one us­ing it and all my team-mates were mak­ing fun. So I changed my look.”

Di Canio was a fan of the clip­pers, too. Dia­manti knows the com­par­i­son is in­evitable, even though he is wary of it and re­luc­tant to fuel it. The same thing hap­pened to David di Michele last year. Tal­ented yet enig­matic and never fully ap­pre­ci­ated in Italy – just like you-know-who – Di Michele scored twice against New­cas­tle on his full de­but but it was to prove the high point of his year on loan from Torino.

Di Canio splits opin­ion in Italy and is not pop­u­lar at Livor no, where Dia­manti spent two years. A sec­tion of Livorno fans are known for their pro-Com­mu­nist sym­pa­thies and it was af­ter a game in 2005 when Di Canio un­furled a Fas­cist salute, which earned him a one-match ban.

The truth is, Dia­manti has more than enough per­son­al­ity to be his own man and he will be a hero in his own right if he finds the form which pro­duced 20 goals in 39 games last sea­son, when Livorno were pro­moted back to Serie A.

He has two for the Ham­mers, both penal­ties, and man­ager Gian­franco Zola ex­pects more when his new re­cruit fully adapts to a game which is “twice as fast” as Ital­ian foot­ball. “I’m not wor­ried by the start we’ve had, just sorry for the fans and my team-mates,” says Dia­manti.

“We train very hard and we give ev­ery­thing. The re­sults have not been good but I’m con­fi­dent we can do well.”

The 26-year-old was born and raised in Prato in Tus­cany, home of Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi, where his fa­ther, Lu­ciano, helped run a boys’ team and coached a young Chris­tian Vieri.

But why the move to Lon­don?

“The de­ci­sion to come was half pri­vate and half a ca­reer choice. My wife is an in­ter­na­tional woman. She comes from Tai­wan and I wanted to make a change in my life and have a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence. Also, I wanted to im­prove my skills as a player and im­prove on the pitch. I’m learn­ing a lot from Gian­franco Zola, he gives me a lot of ad­vice, es­pe­cially on free-kicks and shoot­ing.

“He was one of the great­est ever in Ital­ian foot­ball and it’s a great hon­our to play for him.”

Dia­manti’s wife, Sil­via Hsieh, is a tele­vi­sion pre­sen­ter, ar­guably more fa­mous than him in Italy un­til his re­cent goalscor­ing ex­ploits and the £6 mil­lion move to Eng­land. They mar­ried last year and a tat­too in the cen­tre of his right shin de­clares his love for her. Stars, flow­ers, but­ter­flies and all man­ner of other things dec­o­rate his fore­arms.

“They all have a par­tic­u­lar mean­ing,” he ex­plains and points to one, dark and in­dis­tinct on his left calf. “This was my first one. I had it when I was 15. I’m not very proud of it.”

There’s noth­ing yet etched into his skin to prove his as­so­ci­a­tion with West Ham, but give it time. He signed a fiveyear con­tract and the man who in­her­ited the No 32 shirt worn for a sea­son by Car­los Tevez plans to stick around. – Daily Mail

ITAL­IAN JOB: Alessan­dro Dia­manti ap­plauds the fans dur­ing the Premier League match be­tween West Ham and Arse­nal ear­lier this sea­son.

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