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Benito Carbone


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Great article in the Daily Mail with Carbone about his time in England...

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EXCLUSIVE: Benito Carbone reveals the incredible financial sacrifice he made just to keep Bradford alive: 'It cost me £3m but I could not kill my club'

Benito Carbone will scarcely believe his eyes when he tunes in on Tuesday night and sees Bradford City take their place in the Capital One Cup semi-final against another of his former clubs Aston Villa.

Now coach of Italian side Vallee d’Aoste, he certainly found it hard to believe his ears when Sportsmail caught up with him on Saturday night and explained the purpose of our visit to his team hotel, ahead of their game with FBC Unione Venezia.

With a look bordering on incredulity, he repeated each word, before adding one or two of his own. ‘Bradford in the semi-final? Incredible. I had no idea. When I left, I could never envisage that happening. Never in a million years.’


Recalling his time in England: Benito Carbone talks about his time at Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and Bradford City

The League Two club have caught a few people unawares with their Cup exploits, but Carbone has good cause for being more surprised than most. His last contact with anyone at Valley Parade came in the form of a phone call from the then club chairman, Geoffrey Richmond, that left him in little doubt about the implications of Bradford’s impending administration.

It was 12 and a half years ago, but he can remember every syllable. By the time he put the phone down, he was effectively £3.32million poorer.

‘He just said to me: “Benny, we’re in trouble. We can’t pay you any more”,’ Carbone recalled.

‘He explained how bad the situation was, and so I said: “Don’t worry, Mr Chairman, I am not going to kill the club.”


Split loyalties: Carbone played for both Bradford and Aston Villa during his time in England

‘I had two years left, but what could I do? I thought of all the fans who had invited me to functions and given me awards, and I couldn’t do it to them. I left without the money I was owed, but with a clear conscience.’

Richmond blamed ‘six weeks of madness’ for Bradford’s financial meltdown, in a reference to the summer of 2000, when Carbone arrived on £40,000 a week over four years, alongside the likes of former Chelsea defender Dan Petrescu and ex-Barnsley striker Ashley Ward, and a fortune was committed to expanding the main stand.

Bradford were relegated a year later and in administration a further 12 months down the line.

After securing a gesture from Carbone that at least gave them hope of survival, Richmond cleared his desk and drove away in tears.

He has not been back since, but Carbone was happy enough to revisit the scene of Bradford’s darkest hour, as we chatted at Vallee d’Aoste’s base near Venice’s Marco Polo Airport. The package Richmond put to him included a house in Leeds with seven bedrooms and five bathrooms and is forever linked with Bradford’s descent into financial ruin.

It hardly seems fair to point an accusing finger at Carbone, though, given the way negotiations unfolded. Not to mention the ultimate settlement in which he waved goodbye to 80 per cent of the £4.16m he was entitled to in unpaid wages.

‘When it was time to leave Villa, there was interest from Fiorentina in Italy but also from Coventry, Everton and Bradford,’ he said.

‘Bradford’s offer was the best, and when I spoke to the chairman, it was clear how much he wanted me. He needed a big player to take them forward in the Premier League. If some people see that as the start of their downfall, all I can say is no-one forced him.

‘I didn’t hold a pistol to his head and say I want this and that or I won’t sign. I could not foresee what was going to happen. He was happy to offer me four years, and I thought, by the end of it, we would be firmly established as a Premier League team. All I could think was: “This guy is ambitious. He wants to make things happen. I like that.”

‘To be fair to him, he tried. He spent a lot, but it was not enough. There were still a lot of players who had come up from the Championship, Dan Petrescu was nearing the end of his career and one or two he bought were not at the level needed.

‘If you have six or seven really good players, you have a chance against Manchester United or anyone else. If you have only one or two, you will lose 8-0. Another manager said at the time: “Opponents are often wrong-footed by Benny’s movement, but at Bradford his team-mates are, too.”

‘I know what he meant. As a player, I always knew what I was going to do before the ball arrived at my feet. In the Premier League, you need more players like that.

Star performer: Carbone enjoyed his time at Sheffield Wednesday playing under Ron Atkinson (below)


‘More than we had. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but that’s how it was. We had good players, but maybe not quite good enough.

‘I was devastated when we went down. Bradford had invested a lot of faith — as well as money — in me. It was a nice feeling to be the best player in the team, but there was a huge weight of responsibility.

‘I thought of all the awards the fans had given me, all the trust that had been placed in me, and it was like I had let them down. I thought back to signing my contract, and the high hopes we all had, and it hurt to think we had failed.

‘I was loaned out to Derby and Middlesbrough the next season, and finally the call came from the chairman. He said: “Benny, I know you have two years left, but if you stay, it will finish us.”

‘Normally, if a club want you out, they pay up your contract, but I knew the effect that would have.

‘I agreed to walk away, but it was some sacrifice. I don’t know if other players would have done that.

‘I hadn’t earned anything like the amounts on offer in the Premier League today, and I had a young family. But when I thought about it, there was only one choice I could make. I couldn’t be the person who put Bradford City out of business.’



Carbone has happier memories of Sheffield Wednesday and Villa, even if it took a fall-out with current England coach Roy Hodgson to trigger his move to England.

‘When Hodgson took over at Inter Milan, he decided I should play wide on the right, instead of my true position as second striker,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t happy, but he said I could continue there or leave, because he would go out and sign Youri Djorkaeff to replace me. That was the choice, so I left.

‘Wednesday was fantastic. So much so, I stayed three years. I played for 17 clubs, and the last one, Pavia, was the only other where I stayed that long.

‘I sometimes look at pictures with my headband on and hair flying in the wind, and it brings back all the memories. It was magical playing alongside Paolo Di Canio. We were mates, and our families spent a lot of time together in Sheffield, but it was on the pitch where we really clicked.

‘We spoke the same language. Not just Italian, but in football terms.

‘We were on the same wavelength, and it was one of the best spells of my career.’

The only regret was the way it finished. ‘There were problems in the dressing room in my final season. It became two Italians on one side, and the English players on the other. It was partly my fault. I should have tried harder to mix with the others.

‘The problem was they would invite me for a pint, but I didn’t drink. I have always been teetotal, so I never joined them. That’s where I went wrong. I was only 24. I’m 40 now, older and wiser, and if I could rewind, I would go with them, order a coke and laugh at any stick about being a lightweight.

‘That way, we would have got on. It’s the English mentality to go for a pint, and I should have realised.

‘I never had any problem with the managers. Ron Atkinson was my favourite. He just wanted me and Paolo to go out and play. We loved that.

‘I always thought of Villa as a big club, with history and tradition.

‘Even so, I might have missed out on the highlight of my time in England, but for John Gregory.

‘I was feeling bad and missing home, and I told him I wanted to go back to Italy. He wouldn’t have it. He told me: “You’re going nowhere, Benny. I need you here. We’ve got an FA Cup tie against Leeds tomorrow night. You’ll feel a lot better after you’ve scored a couple of goals against them.”

Talking a good game: Carbone with Sportsmail's John Edwards

'In the event, I scored a hat-trick, and we won 3-2. The trust he showed in me, and the reaction of Villa supporters, convinced me I was in the right place. Wherever I went, they would shake my hand or give me a hug.

‘Some would come up to me and start bowing. It made me feel special.’

The odd fleck of grey apart, Carbone looks as youthful as ever. Management has yet to take its toll on his appearance, though it will be given every chance to, if he has his way. Vallee d’Aoste play in the fourth tier of Italian football and a 2-2 draw at Unione Venezia was further evidence of the team’s steady revival since Carbone was appointed earlier this season. But he is already setting his sights higher.

Fanfare: Carbone with Bradford fans after signing a four-year deal in 2000

‘The ultimate aim is to manage in the Premier League,’ he said. ‘There is still work to be done here, but I would love to follow Paolo into English football as a coach. I would bring plenty of passion to the job. I stand by the side of the pitch the whole 90 minutes, but I do not scream at players. I reason with them and talk all the time. You need to get to know your players and what makes them tick.’

And what of the meeting of his two former clubs for a place at Wembley?

‘Did Bradford really beat Arsenal in the last round? That’s incredible. They’ve got nothing to lose and will give it everything. Villa have everything to lose. Going out now, to a team in the fourth division, could be a real blow to morale.

‘I wouldn’t want that to happen. I’m really pleased Bradford are on their way back, but I’ve got to side with Villa.’

One of my favourite players down the years and sounds like a great man also...

(Sorry if this has been posted elsewhere. I couldn't see it but if it is then please delete the thread) :)

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Always loved benny, that hat trick against Leeds was incredible. Great article.

People say John Gregory wasn't good at man management, seems he did okay with benny.

Not to mention Paul Merson, another who can't have been particularly easy to manage. Is it any surprise he fell out with Collymore and Ginola, in retrospect?

I loved Benni to bits. Great fun.

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I still remember his debut against Wimbledon (I think) where he was absolutely outstanding even though he didnt score. Fantastic player in his brief time at Villa Park.

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I thought it was a short term deal but doug wouldn't pay his wages on a long contract, don't blame him 40k a week was massive money in 2000 for a team outside of man utd and chelsea, I bet even arsenal didn't have many players on that wage

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Loved Carbone. Probably my favourite Villa player in my time supporting the club. He had everything. Flair, goals, unpredictability, personality. I named a dog after him. Great article. Gent

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