Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta, Paolo Maldini, Christian Panucci, Mauro Tassotti and Filippo Galli. These players were the competition for a 17-year-old Massimo Oddo. If the young defender wished to break into the AC Milan first team, he would have to outshine not only the best defenders in Italy, but the best in the World.
The energetic wing-back joined the Milan giants in 1993, where he would become part of the Rossoneri youth set up. It is no wonder that after just two years, Oddo was on his way out of Milanello in order to gain vital first team experience. At 20 years old, Oddo joined Fiorenzuola in Serie C for the 1995/96 season. Well aware of the youngsters talents, the Milan hierarchy were never keen to sell Oddo, shipping him out on loan over the next four seasons. He went from Monza to Prato, and Lecce back to Monza again where, in 1998, he helped them secure Serie B promotion.
One can't help but feel that, had Oddo been part of any other Serie A side, he would have soon been a first team regular. But Milan’s wealth of talent was such that, the youngster couldn’t break through and in 1999, he was on the move once again. Opting to stay in Serie B, Oddo joined Walter Novellino’s Napoli as part of a co-ownership deal, racking up 36 appearances for the Partenopei. The Italian full-back played an important role in the success of Novellino’s side, who finished fourth and gained promotion to Serie A.
As we entered a new millenium, Italy's top-flight finally got to see what this prospect had to offer. In a necessary step to further his career, Oddo cut all ties with Milan and was sold outright to Hellas Verona, where he made his Serie A debut. He enjoyed two very successful seasons in the Veneto, the first of which was spent under the guidance of Atillio Perotti. The technically gifted defender was a standout most weeks and he even scored his first Serie A goals, firstly in a 4-1 home defeat at the hands of Roma, then a week later when Hellas narrowly lost to Juventus 2-1 in Turin.
For the 2001/02 season, with Alberto Malesani at the helm, Oddo was once again an ever present. However, the Gialloblu enjoyed a less successful campaign on the field, finishing in 15th place and ultimately getting relegated to Serie B.
Despite experiencing relegation, Oddo would remain in Serie A thanks to an approach from Lazio. After a decade of unprecedented success under the ownership of food tycoon Sergio Cragnotti, the club had been plunged into financial crisis following the collapse of Cragnotti’s Cirio empire. The Biancocelesti were forced to sell their prized assets. Alessandro Nesta was offloaded to Milan, while star striker Hernan Crespo departed for Inter. Despite this, Lazio’s then coach Roberto Mancini had managed to lure Enrico Chiesa away from bankrupt Fiorentina, whilst Juan Pablo Sorin joined on loan from Cruzerio. Striker Bernardo Coradi also headed to Rome as part of the Crespo deal and Oddo completed Lazio’s shrewd transfer dealings.
It was a debut season Oddo wouldn’t forget, as the Capital club soared to the top of Serie A in the first half of the season. Unable to maintain this form after Christmas, Mancini still led his side to a commendable 4th placed finish, thus securing Champions League qualification. In the space of 12 months, Oddo had gone from tasting relegation to qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition.
Like many modern wing-backs, Oddo was highly effective in attacking areas of the field. He often surged past his wide-men to offer them an overlapping option and more often than not, he provided quality end-product for his attacking colleagues. But unlike some of the game’s modern wing-backs, he was also a competent defender and more than willing to sacrifice the glamorous elements of his game. This was perhaps helped by the fact that at Lazio, he played with the likes of Jaap Stam, Giuseppe Favalli, Paolo Negro and Fernando Couto, consummate and at times uncompromising professionals who simply loved to defend.
Silverware would finally come Oddo’s way during his third season with Lazio. The full-back was now a firm fan favourite along with fellow defender Stam, and his consistent level of performance had ensured he was one of the first names on Mancini’s team sheet. In return, Oddo helped lead his side to the 2003/04 Coppa Italia title, defeating Juventus in the final.
Oddo’s solid Serie A displays earned him a call up to Marcello Lippi’s 2006 World Cup squad heading to Germany. The Lazio man travelled as back up for Gianluca Zambrotta and would make one appearance in the tournament, the 3-0 quarter final defeat of Ukraine. Though he only played a peripheral role, watching from the bench as Italy beat France 5-4 on penalties in the final in Berlin, Oddo was now a World Champion.
This triumph acted as a springboard for his career and upon his return to Rome, head coach Delio Rossi handed him the responsibility of the Captains armband for the 2006/07 season. It was an indication of Oddo’s importance to the Capital side. However, the dependable performer would not remain with the Biancocelesti for long. In January of that season, after five years and 135 appearances, he was heading back to where it all began.
As Oddo walked through the doors at Milanello in 2007, he was no longer the 17-year-old boy who’d made the same walk in 1993. He was a man, a world champion and one of Serie A’s finest wing-backs. Oddo quickly made the right-back position his own and just 10 months after winning the World Cup, he was in Athens preparing for the Champions League final against Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool.
Carlo Ancelotti put his faith in Oddo, who played alongside Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Nesta and Marek Jankulovski at the back. Milan came out 2-1 winners, avenging the nightmare that had unfolded in Istanbul two years previous. In the space of five years, Oddo had gone from experiencing relegation at Verona, to becoming a World Cup and Champions League winner.
A season later, Ancelotti recruited right-back Gianluca Zambrotta, and with Oddo forced to battle for a starting place with one of Italy’s finest defenders at the time, he saw his game-time diminish. Consequently, Oddo took the chance to move to German giants Bayern Munich in 2008, joining his compatriot Luca Toni. But it never quite worked out for the Italian in Bavaria and Bayern opted against exercising their permanent buy-out clause.
Upon his return to Italy, Oddo was surplus to requirements at Milan. This was until injury to Luca Antonini gave him a chance to play a part in the club’s last Scudetto triumph during the 2010/11 campaign. Still owned by Milan, Oddo joined Lecce the following season in what turned out to be his final swansong as a professional. With a heavy but realistic heart, Oddo bowed out of the game at the age of 35.
Though not mentioned in the same breath as Italy’s great full-backs, Massimo Oddo enjoyed a glittering career. Along with his Coppa Italia triumph at Lazio, Oddo won the Scudetto, the Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup and of course, a World Cup winners medal in 2006. Now, Oddo draws upn all his experience, knowledge and expertise on the side-line, currently managing an exciting Pescara side in Serie A.
Words by Giovanni Dougall: @giovannid86
Giovanni has been part of the @GentlemanUltra team since 2013 and is the creator of @ClassicCalcio and @Solo_Parma. He regularly travels out to Italy to follow his beloved Parma.