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Fabio Ferraresi was signed out of the blue by then Aston Villa manager John Gregory in the summer of 1998.
Transferred on a free Bosman ruling, the 19 year old had been on the books of AC Milan as a youth player before joining Cesena (on loan) who had recently become ‘Serie C’ Champions.
Upon arriving and following the signing of a 4 year contract, the attacking midfielder stated:
“I have always admired the English game and once I became aware of Aston Villa’s interest in me, the thought of breaking through into the first team and being able to play against the many internationals who play the English game was a challenge to me.” – Fabio Ferraresi, Aston Villa. [Source]
All seemed promising, but as often occurs with Aston Villa, thereafter followed a strange set of events. Perhaps these are best labelled; “non-events”.
Early reports had suggested that this potential rising star of Italian football had been the linchpin of Cesena’s promotion push, appearing 22 times and scoring an impressive 14 goals from midfield.
Villa, so it appeared, had acted very shrewdly indeed as we looked to re-establish themselves amongst English footballs elite.
AC Milan (who had allowed his contract with them to lapse) and a host of other European clubs had allegedly sought Ferraresi – Villa had for a change beaten them all to it.
Perhaps suspicions should have been roused earlier? It should come as no surprise, therefore, that upon putting pen to paper young Fabio’s true contribution for Cesena suddenly became blurred.
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As the press sought to learn more about this unforeseen signing, league records appeared indicating that at most he had warmed their bench a mere 10 times for Cesena.
The evidence of any appearances, goals and presumed talent evaporated immediately along with the player’s and Villa’s reputation.
At the time confusion abounded; who was this player Villa had secured? Why had he been signed whilst both Chairman Doug Ellis and Manager John Gregory were both on holiday?
Overnight Ferraresi had gone from being purportedly courted by AC Milan to being regarded as a mere “talent” by Steve Stride when queried about the transfer.
Looking back, one must unfortunately add Fabio to the pile of utterly bizarre (dubious?) John Gregory dealings.
And what of Ferraresi’s performances for Aston Villa?
Well, there’s little of note to outline other than a few brief match reports and clouded distant memories. Indeed, those reports sourced do nothing other than mention that the player existed and was a part of the squad on a handful of occasions.
Ferraresi appeared just 5 times for Villa, in friendlies (Wycombe, Seville…alas no mention.) and briefly as a substitute against Stromgodset (on as a sub. 69 minutes). This being his only appearance in the first team.
For completeness; Fabio also made 12 outings in the reserve squad, yielding nothing of note. This first team career just about warrants the term “sub not used”, but that in itself is probably overselling him.
The reasoning for this lack of use is perhaps as unclear – was Fabio just an average promising talent or a bit of a trouble maker behind the scenes? The Italian is (just about) remembered more for his play acting, gesticulating and ungentlemanly conduct rather than anything he produced on the football field.
Perhaps Villa had raw talent on their hands, but also acquired a temperament they were ill equipped to manage?
On the other side of the coin, we could well have just signed a complete dud.
After just one season at Aston Villa, Ferraresi returned to Cesena. But you could be forgiven for having missed that as well.
The midfielder, now in his 30’s, still earns his crust in the lower leagues of Italian football.
After leaving Villa he had two seasons with reasonable clubs in the form of Chievo and Lecce, but beyond that has drifted amongst numerous Italian lower league minnows, appearing very much the journeyman footballer.
Ferraresi’s last club, Valle del Giovenco, formed only in 2005 and have since gone bankrupt, presumably leaving him a free agent.