Calcio in mourning as 'Italian George Best' Ezio Vendrame dies

Ezio Vendrame is fondly remembered in Italy as a maverick winger of the 1970s whose good looks and playboy lifestyle evoked comparisons to George Best.

Vendrame appeared largely for Vicenza in Serie A during his playing career.   -  Getty Images

Ezio Vendrame, a cult footballer who became known as the 'Italian George Best', has died at the age of 72.

Vendrame is fondly remembered in Italy as a maverick winger of the 1970s whose good looks and playboy lifestyle evoked comparisons to Manchester United and Northern Ireland great Best.

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La Gazzetta dello Sport remembered Vendrame as "a symbol of the seventies" as well as a "rebellious" player, who went on to write poetry and books.

Vendrame appeared largely for Vicenza in Serie A, and the shaggy-haired, bearded player had a short spell at Napoli, with Udinese and Padova also among his former clubs.

Accounts of his life were colourful, with Vendrame once detailing his relationship history by explaining: "How many women have I brought to bed? Hundreds, but I loved them one by one. I never made love without feeling."

Vicenza said Vendrame died on Saturday at his home in Conegliano Veneto, describing him as a "genius, icon and symbol of a football that no longer exists". A number of reports stated Vendrame had been suffering with a tumour.

He wrote a warts-and-all account of his career in a book titled 'If you send me to the stands, I'll be glad', and is said to have once stopped a match to greet his musician friend Piero Ciampi after spotting him in the stands.

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In a final interview, in October 2019, Vendrame apparently explained why he was rarely seen in public, saying: "If I have to talk to imbeciles, I'd prefer to die of loneliness."

And describing the coaching of young players that earned him an income in the 1980s, he once said: "But some parents detest me, I dream of coaching a team of orphans."

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