As the start of the Premier League season is just a sniff away and fans eagerly awaiting new signings possibly starting a journey into club folklore, it’s only right that we dedicate this column to a man who was met with the same awe and excitement as the millionaires from far away lands who will grace our pitches for the next 10 months.
In true self-effacing fashion, ‘Who Were Ya?’ will look at the abrupt but iconic career and the even more iconic tracksuit bottoms he donned, Massimo Taibi, brought by Manchester United in the summer of 1999.
Despite his Premier League portfolio presenting just four appearances, Taibi has been immortalised and his inexplicable blunder against Southampton, which you’ve probably seen in numerous clip shows, was ultimately the point of no return for his Manchester United career.
The start of Taibi’s career was humble and had to earn his way to the top of the football pyramid, starting his career in his native Italy with Serie D club Licata, before establishing himself as the number one at Trento in the same division.
Strangely, after just one full season in the lower leagues in Italy, he was snapped up by AC Milan. However, he wouldn’t make a single first team appearance and it wasn’t until his second spell with ‘I Rossoneri’ seven years later where he made his San Siro bow.
In between his two stints at AC, Taibi again went to the lower leagues with Piacenza before their 1991/92 promotion to Serie A. With Taibi a fan favourite, Piacenza were relegated in their season in the top flight. But after bouncing back at the first attempt, the now third-tier side enjoyed an unprecedented stint in the top flight and Taibi’s heroics did not go unnoticed by his former club.
The 1996/97 season saw an incredible capitulation from the previous season’s league champions, AC Milan, who could only muster an 11thplace finish. To combat their defensive woes, they re-signed their former ‘keeper, but barely improved at all and finished 10thwith Taibi playing seventeen times in the process.
Taibi was ultimately shipped off to newly-promoted, Venezia. Following an impressive season, where Venezia finished a very respectable 11thin their inaugural Serie A season, the short-hating ‘stopper was again grabbing the attention of the big boys.
The departure of Peter Schmeichel after Man United’s 1999 treble, Alex Ferguson had a goalkeeper shaped hole to fill. Fergie brought Taibi and Mark Bosnich that summer, the former for a sizeable £4.5 million.
Making his debut against Liverpool at Old Trafford, the Italian did nothing to endear himself to the United fans, being at fault for Sami Hyppia’s opener by flapping when a cross came in.
It would only get worse for Taibi, when in a game in September 1999 a weak shot from Matt Le Tissier somehow tricked out of his hands, through his legs and into the net, made all the more comical by the Italian’s un-stereotypically unfashionable tracksuit bottoms.
One of Taibi’s only other matches for United was a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea, and needless to say it wasn’t long before he was out the door.
Four appearances after his £4.5 million arrival, Taibi returned to Italy to join Reggina and would spend the remainder of his career in his native land. Unsurprisingly Taibi would never play at the elite club level again, but his impact on Premier League history was more profound that probably he even knows.