Beppe Furino – The Timeless Water Carrier


Every team needs this player.

State side we call them defensive midfielders, or holding midfielders. Back in my U-10 parks and recreation soccer days we called them stoppers.

In Italy they’re called the Mediano, the water carrier.

John Foot describes the Italian interpretation of this player in his book Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer:

In order for the skillful players to have the space with which to work, somebody had to get the ball, and give it to them. The playmakers couldn’t be expected to do the running that was needed, the dirty work, the pressing. Every team had at least two players of this type, if not three.

Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer, John Foot. pg 146, 147

Juventus of course, had whom many consider to be the greatest mediani of all – Beppe Furino.

Beppe, to the right, in the black and white Juventus stripes

Juventus specialized in mediani, and the greatest of all was Beppe Furino in the 1970s and 1980s. Little Furino, from Palermo in Sicily, ran himself into the ground in order to get the ball to a succession of playmakers such as Franco Causio, Liam Brady and Michel Platini. Yet Furino was not a one-dimensional player. Team-mate Marco Tardelli called him ‘the most tactically intelligent player I have ever seen. He was always close to the ball.’

Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer, John Foot. pg 148

A mediano doesn’t revel in personal glory. But their trophy cabinets are flush with silver.

The life of a mediano was thus a melancholic one. They were always destined to be the supporting act, straight men, water carriers. They could never be stars and would remain forever in the shadow of their more skillful colleagues. Furino won a record eight titles with Juventus in the 1970s and 1980s, but is rarely mentioned in accounts of those years.

Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer, John Foot. pg 148

Beppe Furino and water carriers like him are tactical survivors. No matter the era, they remain relevant.

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