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In the third entry in our ‘Five of the Best‘ series, David Smith revisits five of the best volleys scored by former Italian striker Roberto Mancini.
Before Mancini’s hugely successful career in the dugout, which has seen him win three Serie A titles and the Premier League, the Italian national side’s current manager was a devastating forward in his home country for Bologna, Sampdoria and Lazio.
The 1996/97 Serie A Footballer of the Year won the Italian title twice, the Supercoppa Italiana twice, the Coppa Italia six times, the UEFA Super Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup in a decorated club career.
At international level, the gifted striker scored four goals in 36 appearances for Italy.
‘Bobby Goal’s’ career yielded over 200 goals, including a multitude of special volleys.
Here are five of his most memorable.
#1: Versus Atalanta (1989)
Earlier this month, Sampdoria posted a social media video of Mancini’s three best goals for the club on their Twitter account.
The former Italy international’s wonderful bicycle kick against Atalanta in the semi-final of the 1988/89 Coppa Italia was the first goal on the list.
Having won the first leg 3-2, Sampdoria claimed a 3-1 victory in the second leg, with Mancini bagging a brace in Genova in February ’89.
Mancini opened the scoring at Luigi Ferraris Stadium with a phenomenal bicycle kick in the 18th minute.
Lurking at the back post, Mancini volleyed his unstoppable effort into the corner of the net after a great run and floated cross from his strike partner Gianluca Vialli.
Vialli doubled Sampdoria’s lead with a penalty in the second half, before Cesare Prandelli halved the deficit for the visitors.
Mancini rounded off an emphatic victory late on with an excellent low strike from 20 yards, with Vialli once again playing the role of playmaker.
Together, the duo were known as “I Gemelli del Gol” (“The Goal Twins”).
Sampdoria would go on to win the trophy, beating a Napoli side captained by Diego Maradona 4-0 at home in the second leg of the final (Mancini netted their fourth from the penalty spot) after losing the first leg 1-0 in Naples.
Mancini ended the tournament with five goals, but none could rival that sweet strike against Atalanta.
#2: Versus Parma (1999)
The second entry on the list is Mancini’s outrageous back-heeled volley for Lazio against Parma in the 1998/99 season.
Mancini is best known for his time at Sampdoria, but the fiery Italian represented Lazio 136 times across three seasons in the latter stages of his career, finding the net on 24 occasions.
Lazio won the Serie A in the 1999/2000 season, the last of Mancini’s career in Italy (he had a short but unsuccessful loan spell at Leicester City as a 36-year-old in the 2000/2001 season).
Arguably his best goal for the club came in January 1999, in a 3-1 away win over Parma at Ennio Tardini Stadium.
Lazio had taken the lead through Marcelo Salas six minutes into the second half, only for a young Hernan Crespo to draw Parma level just two minutes later.
In the 68th minute, Mancini darted to the near post to meet Sinisa Mihajlovic’s driven corner.
The silky forward met the out-swinging cross on the volley with a deft but powerful back heel, which flew into the top corner past a helpless Gianluigi Buffon.
It was a moment of magic from the striker, and the incredulous expression on an ecstatic Christian Vieri’s face as they celebrated says it all.
Vieri added a late third goal for Lazio to seal an impressive away win for Sven Goran Eriksson’s men against a home side boasting Buffon, Crespo, Juan Sebastián Verón, Enrico Chiesa, Fabio Cannavaro and Lilian Thuram.
#3: Versus Ancona (1992/93)
This volley, scored for Sampdoria against Ancona in September 1992, is made all the more ludicrous by the fact that Mancini is being hauled to the ground as he strikes it.
In the 59th minute, with 10-man Sampdoria trailing the hosts 2-1 at Conero Stadium, Mancini drew Eriksson’s men level with a divine volley.
Mancini was wrestling with an Ancona defender when a probing lofted through ball was lifted into the home side’s box.
Despite being dragged to the ground, Mancini managed to connect beautifully with the dropping ball, lifting a left-footed volley over stunned Ancona goalkeeper Alessandro Nista.
An own goal from Ancona defender Óscar Ruggeri would ultimately seal a 3-2 win for Sampdoria, but the game will be long remembered for Mancini’s unorthodox volley.
The strength, the vision, the timing, the technique.
#4: Versus Roma (1994)
A goal worthy of winning any game.
Mancini netted the only goal of the game as Sampdoria defeated Roma 1-0 at Stadio Olimpico in February 1994.
The breakthrough came in the 25th minute after an excellent move from the away side.
The Italian put the finishing touch on a well-worked passage of play, producing a lofted first-time volley over Roma shot-stopper Giovanni Cervone from Lombardo’s cushioned cross.
Mancini had to stretch to reach the cross but managed to get enough purchase on the ball to loop it over Cervone with the outside of his right foot.
The Sampdoria striker would finish the season with 12 goals as the club finished third in the Italian top flight, but Mancini missed out on Arrigo Sacchi’s 22-man Italy squad for USA ’94.
#5: Versus Napoli (1990/91)
The final goal on this list is arguably Mancini’s best ever.
Mancini and Vialli plundered two goals apiece as ‘blucerchiati’ thrashed Napoli 4-1 in the Serie A in Naples in November 1990.
Giuseppe Incocciati gave Napoli the lead from a Maradona corner in the 40th minute, only for Vialli to equalize with an excellent volley less than a minute later.
Mancini gave Sampdoria the lead in the 45th minute with a downward header from a cross.
Letting a looping ball fall over his shoulder, Vialli made it 3-1 on the hour mark with a rocket of a left-footed volley into the top corner from just inside the 18-yard box.
The best, however, was to be saved until last.
In the 90th minute, Attilo Lombardi embarked on a marauding run down the right flank, before hanging a deep, inviting cross to the back post.
Enter Roberto Mancini.
‘Bobby Goal’ peeled away to the back post, timing his run to smash the cross on the volley with the instep of his right foot.
His technique was perfect.
Napoli goalkeeper Giovanni Galli barely had time to blink before the ferocious volley crashed off the inside of the near post and across into the far corner.
Sampdoria would go on to win the Serie A title for the first and only time in their history that season, with Vialli and Mancini’s goals proving pivotal to their success.
Sampdoria picked their top 3 Roberto Mancini goals.
Every single one is a big volley THWACK. pic.twitter.com/CGDqacy97U
— MUNDIAL (H) (@MundialMag) September 7, 2018