A lynchpin of an all-conquering Juventus side in the late 90s and early 21st century and a teammate of Diego Maradona at Napoli: Ciro Ferrara was one of the greatest defenders of all-time. But what made him so unique?
It is worryingly uncommon, even in the modern game, that we see a defender with considerable technical ability, so much so, that when such a player even shows signs of emerging, they’re a highly sought after commodity.
Ciro Ferrara had this ability in abundance; often seen marauding forward out of defence with players in tow, or reading and intercepting passes as they were made; he was always several steps ahead of his opponents.
Throughout his 20-year playing career, Ferrara made an impressive 500 appearances shared between Napoli and Juventus. A commanding presence at the back and a remarkable ability to turn defence into attack; Ferrara was irreplaceable on the team sheet.
Certain performances standout from Ferrara; a game between two Italian giants in Juventus and Inter in the 97/98 season saw Ferrara come up against an on fire Ronaldo. The rest is history.
Ferrara occupied an unenviable position, marking often regarded the greatest Brazilian striker of all-time behind Pele. Regardless, he managed to get forward, play key passes and outmuscle Ronaldo on several occasions, keeping the attacker relatively quiet.
This game wasn’t unique, a great performance yes, but its just another example of Ferrara’s style; confident and formidable, Ferrara didn’t shy away from big games and didn’t back out of tackles. He had a versatility that made him adaptable for any position across the back line. Combined with a manner with the ball that made him look like he belonged on any part of the field.
First, I learned by watching the best. When I got to Napoli, I played alongside Ciro Ferrara — one of the greatest defenders in the history of Italian football.
Cannavaro’s recognition of Ferrara’s talents is echoed in Italian football, playing for a national team that included defending talents such as Baresi, Bergomi and Maldini, Ferrara managed an impressive 49 caps.
At domestic level, Ferrara is one of the most decorated Italian defenders, lifting 20 trophies, including eight Serie A titles and a Champions League.
Not just an immovable object in defence, but an unstoppable force going forward. Ciro Ferrara is the epitome of strong and fearless defender, but one that possessed a unique elegance with the ball.
Often considered in a long line of great Italian defenders, but often overlooked in world football due to similar talents in Maldini and later Nesta and Cannavaro; Ferrara’s technical ability and his domineering presence, set him apart from the rest, even if the beautiful game doesn’t fully appreciate it.