“He is born to be a Goalkeeper. He knows he must keep his feet on the ground because in football you are always under scrutiny.”
Carlo Zotti is not a name remembered by most calcio fans.
Yet in the very early years of the new millennium, he was part of a triple threat of young Italian goalkeepers making their breakthrough in the capital city with AS Roma.
Each of these three young men were tipped for great things, the new Buffon, Zoff and Zenga. Like so many wonder kids before them though, the weight of expectation lay heavily upon their shoulders and potential never became reality.
Two would carve out average enough careers, enough to still be recalled by any run of the mill calcio fan (Ivan Pelizzoli and Gianluca Curci). The third however, who today still remains only 32-years-old, is long forgotten to even some of the most anorak of Italian football followers. That man is Carlo Zotti.
Born on the 3rd September in Foglianise just outside Benevento in the southern region of Campania, Zotti started out his career as a striker, but a quirk of fate saw him one day end up between the posts. It was there, as the quote above by future Roma goalkeeping coach Franco Tancredi suggests, that Zotti discovered that he had a natural ability for the position.
Signing for Roma he steadily made progress through the Lupi youth system and as such gained recognition internationally, representing the Azzurri at under 17 and 18 level. After years of hard work, Carlo’s big breakthrough finally came on the 10th May 2003. Injuries to Roma’s first and second choice keepers meant he was handed his debut against Torino, where according to all reports, he performed admirably.
He would not make another appearance in the league that season, but would play five times in the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia. His displays caught the eye of then Roma coach Fabio Capello. After a particularly excellent performance that saw the capital club overcome Palermo in the cup, Capello spoke highly of Zotti to the press, “We played badly, but at least we found we have a good keeper.”
Things were on the up for the young Portiere. The next year, in 2004, he would play three times in the league solidifying his status as promising up and comer. Roma were certainly convinced and in May, the club handed him a new five year contract to keep him on their books until 2009.
That same summer he provided back-up to Marco Amelia as Italy went on to win the under-21 European championships. It was proving to be a meteoric rise for the Beneventani, who only three years before was all set to walk away from the game for good.
Frustrated at what he perceived to be his slow ascent through the Trigoria youth academy, Zotti had reached breaking point and was seriously contemplating hanging up his gloves. However thanks to the efforts of Bruno Conti and Franco Tancredi he was convinced otherwise.
The following season things started well as he further established himself within in first team. After 10 league appearances though he picked up an injury leaving another prospect, Gianluca Curci, to slip into the team. Curci would hold the position for the rest of the campaign relegating Zotti to a role on the bench.
In an attempt to get more game time under his belt, Zotti agreed to be loaned out the following season. His destination was fellow Serie A club Ascoli. Unfortunately Zotti was unable to dislodge Ferdinando Coppola from the starting line-up and didn’t make a single league appearance all season.
Back at Roma again for the start of the following year he found himself slipping further and further down the pecking order to third even fourth choice. When the January transfer window came, he was offered the chance to jump ship on loan to Sampdoria. It was a chance he welcomed.
It would not prove to be his saving grace however, and over the course of the second part of the campaign he made just one appearance. With things turning slightly sour on the pitch, Zotti turned to his other great love in life, music. A big fan of Rock in particular, the keeper turned musician managed to teach himself how to play the guitar.
Back with his first love though things continued to slide. The 2007-08 season would prove a total write off as he languished in the lower reaches of the Roman set-up, playing matches with the primavera team just to keep some sense of match sharpness. It was a worrying decline for Zotti, who, barley three years before, seemed on the verge break into the world of top Italian keepers.
Knowing that he could ill afford another lost year he dropped down to Serie B, on loan with Cittadella. As is so often the case with Zotti’s career, things started well before tailing off. He started off the season as first choice making 12 league appearances, but soon found himself ousted from the first team by Citta legend Andrea Pierobon.
With his prospects of game time now greatly diminished, Zotti decided to cancel his loan with the club. Soon afterword’s came the news that he had also terminated his contract with Roma by mutual consent.
The question that now arose was where next for Zotti? The answer would be north and across the Alps into Switzerland where he signed for Fc Bellinzona in the Swiss top flight in January 2009. It was the fresh break that he needed. Quickly establishing himself in the first team he played 13 times over the remainder of the season.
The next year, his first full one with the club, he made a career record number of appearances in one season. Eighteen was the lucky number. Still nothing special but a start.
It should come as no surprise though that it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. After seemingly establishing himself, Zotti went on to play only seven times the next year. This is when things began to get really gloomy in the career of Carlo Zotti.
Depending on which source you are willing to believe, Zotti either spent the entire 2011-12 season at Losone Sportiva in the Swiss fourth tier or half the season with Losone and the other half with a Romanian club called Vaslui. While the truth is hard to decipher, what is for certain is that the following year he signed as back-up for FC Will in the Swiss 2nd tier.
After two years at FC Will Carlo began the 2014-15 campaign as a free agent. It wasn’t until March that he was finally picked up on a short term contract by Fc Locarno in the Swiss 3rd division. The deal expired in June of this year and sadly for Zotti he was not kept on and once more finds himself without a club.
11 years since he won the Euro Championships with Italy, 11 years since his last match in Serie A, 11 years since he was tipped for stardom, Carlo Zotti has seemingly reached his end. Back in Rome, while a certain Francesco T-O-T-T-I is revered, Carlo Z-O-T-T-I is remembered no more.
Follow Kevin Nolan on Twitter: @KevinNolan11