What's the difference

As Chelsea Legends prepare to take on their counterparts from Inter, the Blues’ player-manager for that game, Gianluca Vialli discusses the differences between English and Italian football.

This Friday sees the return of some of Chelsea’s most beloved players of all time, as the class of 1998, along with a smattering of other heroes, return to Stamford Bridge for 80 minutes of pure nostalgia.

Vialli is among those who has signed up for the game, even returning to the dual-role of player and manager which he held during a year in which we lifted three pieces of silverware.

When it comes to football, few can match Vialli’s understanding of the beautiful game and a few years back he decided to collaborate with Italian journalist Gabriele Marcotti to write a book analysing the difference between the two countries where he enjoyed so much success.

The Italian Job: A Journey to the Heart of Two Great Footballing Cultures was incredibly well received and we asked Vialli about the book and what he found when he first came to England 22 years ago.

‘I thought I had got to the right age to do a book and to write something about football and the differences between two footballing cultures and find out the answers to some of the questions that have been in my mind was something that interested me,’ he said.

‘I spoke to Gabriele, he was up for it, and we worked for maybe 18 months and came out with the book which has been quite well received. It's more academic stuff, although I think, in my opinion, it was maybe 50 pages longer than it should have been because we were so busy explaining our ideas that we were a little too long-winded. But people seemed to enjoy it.

‘When I moved to England, I think the biggest difference was the organisation. Chelsea at that time was structured like a Third Division club in Italy. It was quite a shock for me, coming from Juventus, and what I saw at Chelsea wasn't up to standard in my opinion. From an organisation point of view, it was a massive difference.

‘I would also say that as players in Italy we were brought up in a way that we think about football 24/7. When I came to Chelsea, I realised the players don't think about football all the time; they think about it for a couple of hours and then they go home.

‘This is back in 1996, things have changed since. In England they just wanted to play football, but in Italy it was all about the strategy, like a chess game. When you win a game in England, it's a joy. When you win in Italy, it's a relief.

‘The way you approach the game, Italian players by the time the game kicks off have already played three games in their mind, they're looking tired and stressed out.

‘The other massive difference is the behaviour of the fans. In Italy, they want results, they don't want performances. In the UK they are much more understanding, they want to see you giving your very best for the shirt you are wearing. They want commitment and if they see that, whether you win or you lose, they just leave you alone.’

He’ll have a chance to be reunited with those understanding Blues fans this Friday evening for what should be a wonderful evening at Stamford Bridge.