Rampulla is a name long-time Juventus followers will remember fondly, while more recent converts might not recognize him. Non-Juventus fans may also remember him well, as he was the first goalkeeper ever to score in Serie A. Rampulla was the long-time backup keeper for our beloved Old Lady, for a decade straight [1992-2002] he was cover for Angelo Peruzzi, Edwin Van Der Sar, and later, Gianluigi Buffon. After retiring in 2002, he stayed on with the club in a variety of organizational functions, like coordinating DOC clubs, before being hired as the goalkeepers coach in 2006 for Serie B. When Ranieri arrived, he brought his own coaches and Rampulla joined his old friend Ciro Ferrara in the youth sector, he was the Primavera goalkeeping coach from 2007-2009. When Ranieri left, and Ciro became head coach, he brought Rampulla back with him, to serve his 2nd stint as goalkeepers coach, though he left this summer as Gigi Delneri brought in his own.
Rampulla was a special kind of player, like Angelo Peruzzi in World Cup 2006, he was not a starting player, but a vital component of the team nonetheless, a real strong locker room influence. Though Rampulla surely could have spent the last decade of his career at a smaller club, playing as a starter or more often, he chose to play at the club he supported as a child. Born in Sicily to a diehard Juve fan, he was raised as a member of the Bianconero faithful very young. At age 5, his father took him on a trip to watch Palermo-Juventus, and clearly, it stuck. Climbing his way through various clubs, he eventually got his dream move to Juventus, and remained there until his retirement. This October, his contract was rescinded due to the inability to find a suitable position, and it's rumored that this decision angered Gigi Buffon, who was also good friends with Nonno Chimenti. Rampulla, ever the Juve fan, has no regrets, and confirmed as such in a radio interview for Tutti Pazzi Per La Juve, which I have translated below. This week's podcast (without me) is also now online, check it out here. [I missed this week, alas]
Michelangelo, on and off the pitch, you have always honored the Bianconero shirt. Lately, however, you've been discussed for some of the comments you made on Calciopoli. Would you clarify them?
"I thank you for granting me the opportunity. For me, it was always easy to defend the colors because Juventus is the team that I've always supported, since as a child. I travelled everywhere just to go see the matches for Juventus. I often read the Juventus fan sites, and I am sorry for some of the things I have read against me, it's easy to talk when you do not know the situation. Some people say that I did not defend the Juve during Calciopoli, but I only said that if someone was guilty it was right that they be punished. But I never did blamed us or said names, I just said "IF someone is guilty, they must pay." You can say a lot about me, except that I didn't defend Juventus. I've been here for 18 years, I've seen a lot of Juventus.
Are you're following the criminal trial in Naples on Calciopoli?
"Marginally, but yes, I am following. I've been in football for 30 years, what is coming out is nothing new. All the teams were doing those things, so what is there to say? There is nothing new for me what came out. I am certain that Juve were made to pay for sins of others. Calciopoli had to be done in a month, to hit the biggest teams in Italy, they had to do hastily composed trial because the media mounted an incredible campaign and someone needed to pay. They made Juventus pay, because if they made Lazio pay, with all rispect, no one would be interested aside from the Roma fans. Instead, they fulfilled a populist demand by making Juve pay for everything, and thus, the anti-Juventini in Italy were happy."
To do this, they didn't respect the principles of the Constitution, or those of sporting justice, with violations that Italian citizens would be horrified by, with insane wiretaps considered "not relevant."
"If you kill a man in Italy, it takes 10 years to reach a conviction, for Juventus, they did the entire process in a month, that says it all. A referee can screw up in good faith, but they always so he favored someone. If a referee makes a mistake, he messed up and that's it. It wasn't Juventus always being favored. Juve paid for everyone, because it was the strongest team and the one that continued to win for years in a row, annoying those who lost to them. The most serious wiretaps are from other teams. The Juve fans who thought I didn't defend our colors, said it was because I wanted to stay in the new Juventus, but it's not sure. I always said what I thought, now that I'm not part of the Juventus team, stories begin and end, but the love for the colors will forever remain. I awlays was a Juventino, my father and I used to go to games traveling everywhere, I was a subscriber to Hurra Juventus as a child. When I read the allegations about me on the Internet, I was blown away, as if I didn't defend Juventus. As Andrea Agnelli also says, people need to earn respect, but the Juventus colors always deserve it."
But does your separation from Juventus this summer tell us something more?
"Nothing particular happened, I would have stayed at Juve even longer. I spoke with Marotta and Andrea Agnelli to see if there was a spot in the club, but not in the coaching staff, but there wasn't, so I couldn't stay. Remember, a small anecdote, that I was the first player ever bought by Marotta, back when he was at Varese. I spoke with him, I stayed 3 months in stand-by until September, but we didn't find a good role for me, so I couldn't stay only to earn a salary. So we decided together to rescind my contract."
Michele, why do you think Juventus failed last year? Think about the fact that last year's Juve at this point had more points than Delneri's.
"We started off very well, then we beat Inter at the Stadio Olimpico December 5th, and we were in 2nd place, and well in track to qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League. We were unfortunate between injuries and never having a complete squad, maybe we could have done something more, as far as medical protection and with the fans being more present. Now I see a strong start for this Juve, with the fans always at the game, it's beautiful. Last year, though we won and were just a small step behind Inter, there were even whistles then. The club wasn't as strong as this years. We also had some errors lacking in experience, which normally are no issue, but it didn't help that we had an inexperienced coach. I was part of the club in Serie B, and I can say it's normal in those kind of situations that there are errors from inexperience from the coach."
About Serie B, Deschamps now regrets leaving Juventus. What happened back then?
"What happened with Didier was a big surprise for me too, we were in ritiro, and we had to play the next day with Mantova at home. Del Piero told me that he saw on TV that Deschamps had resigned. I immediately went to see him to ask him, and I was blown away. He wanted other players that they weren't signing, I told them that we could play with some of the players we had in the team, and others that we could buy, even if they weren't amazing names because they cost too much. I told him that we'd build a competitive team regardless of how, but he didn't believe it and he had very different opinions with the club about signings. For me, with a bit of good sense and calm, we could have built a good team together. He wanted players that Juventus couldn't get, at that moment we couldn't spend big money, we had to first get into the Champion's League, and we did that with Ranieri. I think he was too instinctive, and now he regrets it.
Returning to last year, was it really complicated between Del Piero and Ferrara?
"Between Del Piero and Ferrara the relationship is good, of friendship. Ciro only said that everyone always wanted to play. I had the strongest keeper in the world ahead of me [which one?], and even for me, when I didn't play, it annoyed me a bit."
What was your best game as a player?
"All of them, I played 99. Last year, they didn't make me play the 100th one! (Laughs) The game in Paris, UEFA Cup semifinal, that was beautiful. As a Juventus fan, it was incredible, I almost always watched the games only on TV as a fan, I found myself playing in that historic moment when it was a really important trophy. To play in the semifinal, and to think that 2 years ago I was playing at Cremona! I did very well in that game, and I remember a game in the Champions League against Rosenborg where 10 minutes from the end, I saved a decisive penalty from their captain."
How did Alessio Secco make errors in these years?
"He wasn't given enough forgiveness for inexperienced mistakes, because even if you're behind Moggi, you'll make errors. But later he made too many mistakes, he chose all the wrong players, even if Moggi messed up occasionally. But Secco, he was never forgiven for having sold certain players after Calciopoli, but in Serie B, I was there, he did what he could. I tried to convince people too, certain ones we were able to get to stay, others no. For example, I tried to get Ibrahimovic to stay, I spoke a lot with his agent Raiola. Also Buffon, another small anecdote most don't know, he was ready to leave. But he's a very instinctive person, he changes ideas instantly sometimes. In ritiro, one night, it was 1am and I was in Didier's room at Acqui Terme. Gigi sent me a text message, he wrote "prepare me a good training program so this year, we'll do well." That year in Serie B, we continued to speak a lot, and he ended up staying. Originally he thought he'd finish the year in Serie B out of respect and gratitude to Juventus, and then move on. Ibra arrived at Pinzolo, we spoke at dinner in a cabin, and he said he could not stay in Serie B. He said he would have always stayed at Juventus [ha], he was tied to the directors and everyone, but repeated that he could not manage to play in Serie B. At the end, myself, who was always a Juventus fan could easily stay, but he's Swedish and he had many offers of a lot of money..."
How about Poulsen, who wanted him?
"In that moment, I was with Ciro Ferrara in the youth sector, so I can only say what I know. I can tell you that to this day, it really bothers Secco. I know Alessio well, I was on the bench when his father was at Juventus, I spent time on the bench with two generations of Secco's. I advised him to get Xabi Alonso, and when he told me it was a possibility, I told him that there was no reason to think about it or make comparisons. I don't think Secco made the decision. Here, the discussion gets complicated, I do not sincerely know how it went, everyone will give you a different story. When Alessio asked me, I calmly said "Every day of every month, go Xabi." Do you want another anecdote? Mascherano was practically signed by Juventus. Alessio spoke about him everyday, and even if he cost a sackload of money, after Serie B Mascherano wanted to come at all costs. Secco was doing well at the time, but unfortunately it went how it did."
What do you think of this years transfers? What about Amauri's dark period?
"In a league race this mediocre and balanced, the only one to rise above has been Ibrahimovic, I say that the league and teams are revolving around him. If Milan didn't have Ibra, they'd have at least 7-8 points less, but if we had Ibra, and he stayed at Juve, who knows how it'd go. Amauri's performances are hard to explain, sometimes it's complicated to give a judgement when you see this kind of regression from a player. It happens often when one no longer has "hunger" of victory, and you're no longer who you used to be, I know that this isn't his case, but in my time we had a lot of hunger, even if we won everything." [Maybe he got to a big club and a big paycheck, and now he's satisfied?]
Any other anecdotes on your old Juventus?
"When I played at Cremonese, my motto was "it doesn't matter who we're playing, we are 11, and so are they" and I always told this to the team so we could win. This always brought me ready for games, also at Juventus it had to be greater for obvious reasons, I always wanted to win. During Lippi's era, we won everything the 1st year, and the Champions the 2nd, I will always remember at the beginning of every season in ritiro, we already spoke about who we might face in the final, that was the only "problem", but think about that kind of mentality! In '97 and '98, when we won everything and only lost in the Champions, in ritiro, we already knew that we'd be in the final." [FIGC Editors Note: Clearly, this is evidence indicating Juventus were fixing the Champions League. They will now be relegated to Serie C2, and we will complain about our UEFA coefficient dropping further]
The UEFA Supercup won in 1997 was the last Juventus victory in Europe, it's been almost 14 years. Do you think Juventus this year isn't trying hard in the Europa League?
"I don't think people act like that, because even we got annoyed when we lost in the Coppa Italia. It was always a problem when the first 3 games were draws. As Paolo Montero said, "you do not leave the pitch alive!" because on the field, you had to give everything."
What can you tell us about Vinovo? The fans don't understand, it's a hospital on the pitch! Moggi denied that Capello didn't want to go there, but since we've been there, there have been so many muscular injuries. Where is the truth?
"We opened Vinovo the year of Serie B, and Deschamps always said that the pitches were too soft, I hope it's only a coincidence, these injuries recently. Certainly, with respect to Torino, Vinovo is much more humid. Already in September, there's a lot of due on the pitch and the fields get soaked, softer, and the muscle is affected. However, I don't know if anything has been done to the pitches. [Andrea Agnelli had the drainage system completely ripped out and repaired this summer.] If you quickly change direction on soft pitch, your leg can give a little, and your muscle hurts. It's a combination of things, I think."
For us, Juventus was stronger last year, it had the Scudetto and Champions as objectives, whereas this year has 4th place. What do you think?
"We had a coach in his first job, who was given too much responsibility, the club wasn't strong enough to back him either. They couldn't let Ciro go, we wanted the best for the team, but perhaps we didn't give him enough assistance. We made too many errors in thinking there was something greater going on, we weren't helped by the media that's for sure. After the first defeat to Palermo [who else], they were already screaming Hiddink's name."
Thank you, Michelangelo, a Juventino in every pore, we are very happy you were on the show and above all, that you could clarify your position on Calciopoli.
"Thanks to you, I was disappointed about what happened, I repeat- for a Juventino who followed his team since he was 5, it wasn't easy to hear some things. I don't know who thought them, but 40 years with this team, I think I can say I'm a true Juventino."