Enrico Chiesa was a Serie A icon throughout the ‘glory days’ of Calcio. In a career that spanned over 20-years, he played for 10 different clubs and most importantly, Chiesa found the net where ever he starred.
At 5’9” Chiesa wasn’t the tallest or most physical of strikers but he sure was exciting, with his blistering pace and thunderbolt of a shot. He was once described by Fabio Capello as a “Complete forward” and “a cross between Gianni Riva and Paolo Rossi.” Such praise from one of Italy’s most revered coaches merely emphasises how good Enrico Chiesa really was.
After spending his teenage years at amateur side Pontedecimo, in 1988 Chiesa was snapped up at just 18-years-old by local side Sampdoria. The young Chiesa struggled to make an impact during his early days with i Blucerchiati, making just one league appearance in a 1-0 to Roma. The following season, in order to kick start his career, Chiesa dropped down to play in Serie C2 with Teramo. After a frustrating debut year at Samp, Chiesa was finally getting some playing time, managing to score five goals in just over 30 appearances. A year later, the young forward was on the move again, this time signing for Serie C1 side Chieti. Again the youngster made progress, as he struck six times in close to 25 games.
After two valuable seasons in the lower leagues Chiesa, now 22, decided the time was right to return home to Sampdoria. Yet he failed to impress once again, managing just one goal all season. In the summer of 1993 the unsettled striker was on the move once again, this time joining Serie B outfit Modena. It was a make or break moment for Chiesa and one that proved to be career defining. The 1993/94 season was a success, as the Ligurian scored 15 times. He continued his fine form a year later, finding the net 14 times while playing for Cremonese in Serie A. This alerted Sampdoria who swiftly recalled the youngster. Enrico Chiesa’s career was up and running.
Chiesa had a new team mate on his return to Doria, one Roberto Mancini. The duo gelled perfectly, forming a devastating partnership in which Chiesa scored 22 goals in 27 games.
This kind of form didn’t go unnoticed, and one of his admirers was Parma coach, Carlo Ancelotti. At the time, the Ducali were being bankrolled by the Tanzi family and President Calisto Tanzi had Chiesa on his shopping list along with Hernan Crespo and Lilian Thuram. Ancelotti and Tanzi were building a squad to win Serie A and the project proved too tempting for Chiesa, who joined the Gialloblu in 1996. He would spend three years at the Stadio Tardini, easily one of his best spells as a professional footballer. In his first season he fired Parma into the Champions League and narrowly missed out on the Scudetto after Parma lost out to Juventus by two points.
But Chiesa wouldn’t have to wait long for his first taste of silverware with the Emiliani. Having played an integral part in Parma’s European run, Chiesa capped a magnificent season by scoring the third and final goal in his sides 3-0 UEFA Cup final triumph over Marseille in 1999. He also helped Parma to a Coppa Italia triumph and a Supercoppa Italiana. The Genoan was now one of the most sought after strikers on the peninsula and at the end of his most successful season to date; he was on the move again.
The opportunity to play alongside Gabriel Batistuta, one of the world’s best forwards at the time, was a deal breaker for Chiesa. Similarly to Parma, Fiorentina were looking to expand, improve, and mount a title challenge, but most importantly they wanted to keep hold of star man Batistuta and find him an effective strike partner. Initially however, things didn’t go to plan and Chiesa’s debut and only season with Batistuta was a frustrating one. In 2000 the Argentine was sold to Roma. This was probably the best thing that could have happened to Chiesa as he became the Viola’s main man in front of goal, hitting an impressive 22 goals in 30 matches.
Despite a successful spell in Tuscany, Chiesa was forced to find pastures new in 2002 due to La Viola’s financial meltdown. Chiesa had a brief spell at Lazio before joining Siena in the summer of 2003. By this time, the 33-year-old was a veteran of the Italian game and he became an instant fan favourite and focal point of the team. Chiesa continued to rattle in the goals, hitting double figures in his first three seasons with the Bianconeri. In total he amassed 32 goals in 129 appearances for La Robur and Chiesa was such a hit with the Siena faithful that there is a supporters club named in his honour -Siena Club Enrico Chiesa.
Chiesa would finish his journey with Lega Pro side Figline where he spent three years. His glittering career eventually came to an end in 2010 aged 40. His prolific goal-scoring saw him become one of Europe’s most feared forwards. It was also a career that saw him score seven goals in 22 caps for his country.
Chiesa briefly tried his hand at coaching in 2010 with Figline however the clubs expulsion from the Italian professional leagues abruptly put a halt to this venture. Who knows however, maybe one day we’ll see one of Italy’s finest become as masterful a tactician as he was a goal-scorer.
Words by Giovanni Dougall: @giovannid86