Of all the injustices that the 1980s inflicted, perhaps the worst was reserved for Andrew Ridgeley. He was in one of the world’s most successful bands but, beneath the shoulder pads and hairspray, the Wham star faced an inescapable reality: no matter how bouffant his hair or how skilfully he slapped the guitar strung around his waist, the plaudits were always going to go to another man.
As Andrea Barzagli takes to the pitch at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday night, he will know Ridgeley felt. The Juventus defender has made a habit of eluding the plaudits throughout his startlingly consistent career and the Champions League final will be no different. He will be in the shadows as Giorgio Chiellini, Leanardo Bonucci and Gianluigi Buffon reap praise from the adoring crowds.
Barzagli turned 36 last month and, even though he says he will “play for as long as I feel good”, this may be his last chance to win a European glory. He was born in the scenic Tuscan town of Fiesole on 8 May 1981. After impressing local scouts with his amateur displays, he moved to Ascoli in 2001 and helped them gain promotion to Serie B in his first full season. Barzagli truly made his name at Palermo under the management of Francesco Guidolin. He joined the club before the 2004-05 season as the club prepared for their first campaign in the top flight since the early 1970s. By the end of the season they had qualifier for the Uefa Cup.
Barzagli was made Palermo captain in 2007 but, as his game matured, a move to a bigger club was inevitable. Fiorentina wanted to bring him back to Tuscany but Wolfsburg blew them out of the water with an offer of €10m. Barzagli was off to the banks of the Aller River to link up with Felix Magath for what promised to be a historic year for Die Wolfe.
The Auswanderer statue in Wolfsburg was built by Italian-born sculptor Quinto Provenziani to honour migrants who have travelled beyond their own borders to find work. Thousands made the journey from Italy’s impoverished south and Wolfsburg still boasts one of the highest Italian migrant populations in Germany. Barzagli, it seemed, was just the latest worker coming to do a job.