Diamanti fires up fans like Di Canio
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.