The angel with
the dirty face

Antonio Valentìn Angelillo SCROLL TO READ STORIA N.73 / 110

There’s a notable record that is directly linked to the Nerazzurri colours and it’s one that has amazingly been held for almost 60 years in Italian football. Occasionally threatened by various players, this long-standing and coveted landmark has yet to be broken… The record itself is the 33 goals scored by Valentin Angelillo – ‘the angel with a dirty face’ – during a Serie A season that was made up of 18 teams. Born in Argentina, he obtained Italian citizenship thanks to his grandfather’s Lucanian ancestry. His nickname, which was given to him by the Argentina National Team’s masseur during a training session conducted in the mud, tells a lot, if not everything, about Angelillo and who he was. It represented a boy who had a calm expression, growing a small moustache to help compensate for his tender age.

In fact, he came to the city of Milan in 1957 at just 20-years-old, joining Inter from Boca Juniors. His nickname also revealed his huge passion for football, demonstrating that he was unafraid to get stuck in when playing in the mud. As for further details about Angelillo, what he did on the pitch speaks for itself. He scored 16 goals in his first season at Inter, although, it was the following Serie A campaign that made him a true legend. This was thanks to his 33 goals scored in 34 encounters, five of which came in a game against Spal. It was a record that could have been just the start of a fantastic fairy tale, however, Helenio Herrera’s arrival at the Nerazzurri soon put an abrupt end to any possibility of this.

The ‘Wizard’, who undoubtedly had a formidable bond with football, saw Angelillo as a player who was far too distracted by ‘la dolce vita’. This was largely because his private life was often a point of media gossip. The tabloids of the time were always reporting about Angelillo’s relationship with the dancer Ilya Lopez, whose real name was Attilia Tironi. His performances certainly did not meet up with the expectations of his potential, however, as often happens, truth has many facets. The city of Milan was most probably unable to contain two personalities that were as big as both Herrera and Angelillo at the same time. The forward would be sold to Roma two years later, but Angelillo’s and Inter’s paths would cross again later on in life. The Argentinean would, in fact, become a scout for Inter in South America and it was he who made Inter aware of another legendary angel with a dirty face: Javier Zanetti.

Antonio Valentìn Angelillo

Antonio Valentín Angelillo (Buenos Aires, 5th September 1937 – Siena, 5th January 2018) was born in Argentina but was later granted Italian citizenship. He joined Inter from Boca Juniors in 1957, going on to make 127 appearances for the club and scoring 77 goals. He moved to Roma in 1961. He collected 11 caps and scored 11 goals for the Argentina National Team, also making two appearances and scoring one goal for the Italy National Team. Angelillo passed away at the age of 80 in Siena on 5th January 2018.