Andrea Barzagli is an Italian professional footballer who plays as a centre-back for Italian club Juventus and the Italian national team. A four-time member of the Serie A Team of the Year, Barzagli is regarded as one of the best and most consistent defenders of his generation. After playing for several smaller Italian clubs in his early career, he eventually came to prominence while playing for Palermo, and later won six consecutive Serie A titles with Juventus between 2012 and 2017, as well as a Bundesliga title in 2009, during his time with German club VfL Wolfsburg. At international level, he represented the Italian national football team at the 2004 Summer Olympic Games winning a bronze medal, two FIFA World Cups (2006 and 2014), three UEFA European Championships (2008, 2012 and 2016), and at the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup where he also won a bronze medal. He was a member of the Italian 2006 World Cup winning squad, as well as a starting member of the Italian squad that reached the UEFA Euro 2012 final.
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U.S. Città di Palermo played the season 2004-05 in the Serie A league. It was the first time Palermo entered the top division since 1973. Palermo returned to Serie A in 2004 as Serie B champions. Francesco Guidolin was confirmed at the helm of the rosanero and a number of valuable signings were made in the summer market: among them, Andrea Barzagli, Cristian Zaccardo, Simone Barone (all three then part of the Italian squad that won the 2006 FIFA World Cup) and Argentines Mariano González and Ernesto Farías. The team was widely expected to be a candidate for a mid-table place because of the high quality of its roster. All these events provoked a notable excitement among the local fanbase, leading to a sale of over 30,000 season tickets which caused each Stadio Renzo Barbera seat to be assigned to a season ticket holder. Palermo enjoyed a great start and quickly entered into the race for a UEFA Cup spot, ending the first half of the season in fifth place, only three points behind fourth-placed Inter. For a while the team appeared also capable to fight for a place in the next Champions’ League, but failed in do so and Udinese eventually gained the last of the four available spots. Palermo ended in sixth place with 53 points, nine behind Udinese and eight behind fifth-placed Sampdoria. After the final match, Guidolin tended his resignations, and Luigi Delneri was quickly appointed at his place.
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Regarded as one of the best defenders of his generation, Barzagli is known for his strong, commanding and powerful physical build as a centre-back, and for being “strong in terms of anticipation, concentration and positional sense.” Considered a “late-bloomer”, he has stood out in Italy and in Europe in recent years, due to his marking, aerial prowess, and tackling ability, as well as his correct behaviour, capacity to read the game, and his adeptness in one on one situations; these attributes have enabled him to be voted to the Serie A Team of the Year for three consecutive seasons, also making him an important member of both his club and national sides. His calm composure, tactical awareness, pace, consistency, technique, vision, and ball playing ability have recently enabled him to be regarded as one of the best and most complete defenders in the world. Although he is usually deployed as a centre-back in a three or four-man defence, he is also capable of playing as a full-back on the right flank. Due to his consistent defensive performances in recent years, he has been given the nicknames “The Wall” and “La Roccia” (the rock) by fans. In addition to his ability as a defender, he is also highly regarded for his work-rate, discipline, and dedication in training, as well as his longevity.
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During the 2012–13 season, Barzagli made a total of 45 appearances in all competitions for Juventus, his highest personal tally since his first season at Wolfsburg. Most of these were made alongside Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini in Antonio Conte’s now typical three-man backline and 3–5–2 formation, as the club again prevailed in Serie A, winning their second consecutive title, and made their way to the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the semi-finals of the Coppa Italia; due to their performances together, the three-man defence earned the nickname BBC, a reference to the players’ initials, and soon the trio established themselves as one of the best defences in world football during the following seasons. Although Barzagli did not score during the 2012–13 season, he impressed, however, in the home fixture against Roma in September 2012, when he won the ball in his own half, ran past an opponent with a “sombrero”, and made a lung-bursting run that culminated in a through-ball assist for Sebastian Giovinco, as Juventus won the match 4–1.
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Barzagli was a member of the Italian under-21 side that conquered the 2004 UEFA European Under-21 Championship under the guidance of manager Claudio Gentile, and he also appeared at the Summer Olympics in Athens that year, winning a bronze medal. He won his first senior international cap for Italy on 17 November 2004, in 1–0 friendly home win against Finland under Italian coach Marcello Lippi. He was called up for the 2006 FIFA World Cup and, while not expecting to play at all, was deployed as a substitute in the second round match against Australia, and he subsequently appeared again, starting in the quarter-final match against Ukraine due to the suspension of Marco Materazzi, and Alessandro Nesta’s injury, appearing for the full 90 minutes, and keeping clean sheets in both matches. Italy went on to win the World Cup final that year.
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Barzagli retained his place in the starting lineup throughout the 2014 World Cup Qualifying campaign, as Italy qualified for the tournament undefeated, with two matches to spare. On 16 May 2013, Barzagli was named to Prandelli’s 31-man short-list for Italy’s 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup squad; he was eventually called up to the final 23-man Italy squad for the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil on 3 June, and he went on to appear in three of Italy’s five matches throughout the tournament, starting in Italy’s two opening group wins against Mexico and Japan, whilst he was rested in Italy’s defeat to hosts and eventual champions Brazil; after picking up an injury in the semi-final penalty shoot-out defeat against Spain, he missed Italy’s penalty shoot-out victory over Uruguay in the bronze medal match, which allowed them to finish the tournament in third place, their best ever finish in the Confederations Cup. Barzagli was also named to Prandelli’s 30-man short-list for the 2014 World Cup on 13 May 2014, and he was also later called up as one of Italy’s starting centrebacks for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil on 1 June. He appeared in all three of Italy’s group matches throughout the World Cup, also making his 50th cap in the final group match defeat against Uruguay, as they were knocked out in the first round of the tournament with three points.