When Rocky Meets Inzaghi – The Story of Gianluca Lapadula
The world loves a good underdog story.
Rocky was the story of an underdog; a tale about a fighter who never had a pro match in his life and then the big time came calling.
What if that guy who is always called a loser or told he isn’t good enough finally gets a crack at stardom?
Meet Gianluca Lapadula.
At 26 years old, Gianluca Lapadula made his debut for A.C. Milan in August. Since then, he has played in almost 20 matches and scored four goals. He has captured the hearts of Milan fans around the world and above all, proven that if you believe in yourself and want something bad enough it will happen.
Lapadula’s story isn’t an easy one and begins in 1996. The Peruvian-Italian was born in Turin and was a youth product of city’s biggest club – Juventus.
In 2004, at 12 years old he left the Juventus youth academy and went to play for local club Rivoli Collegno. By the time he was 14, he was loaned to fifth-tier Treviso.
By 2006, he found himself in Italy’s fourth division playing for Serie D side Pro Vercelli. A year later he found himself in Serie C, now Lega Pro, playing for Ireva.
The striker, who floated around the bottom of Italy’s professional leagues like a crab at the bottom of the ocean looking for food was hungry for success.
Finally in 2009, Parma came calling and signed him. However, the party was cut short as Parma, who were just promoted back to Serie A, opted never to field Lapadula and just loaned him out year after year to other smaller clubs including Lega Pro, Atletico Roma, Ravenna, and San Marino.
It was at San Marino, where he scored 24 goals in 35 games, that caught the attention of Cesena who purchased the player from Parma. Cesena, then in Serie B, was looking to bolster their attack. After a year on the team and playing in just nine games, in 2013, he was loaned to Frosione in Serie B where he saw less playing time.
For most players, it would have been best to quit while they were ahead. Clearly soccer wasn’t working for this guy and he was young enough to go back to school or learn a trade and craft a new career.
Lapadula is not most players.
Eye of the Tiger
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it… Nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done,” – Sylvester Stallone, Rocky Balboa.
He stayed the course and in 2013, Parma were promoted to Serie A again and called their former player back and signed him. While the promise of the major league looked incredible, the club pulled the same stunt on Lapadula like they did years prior.
He was loaned out to Lega Pro side Gorica where netted 11 goals in 28 games. After a year there, he went to Serie B and played with Teramo and slammed 21 goals in the net in 38 matches.
After that many goals, it was hard to ignore Lapadula any longer.
In 2015, Pescara came calling and his whole life would change forever. In one season in Serie B, he became the league’s leading goal scorer finding the back of the net 27 times.
The Pescara fans called him “Lapagola” and “Sir William” – named after William Wallace in Braveheart thanks to his strength and fight-to-the-end spirit.
Lapadula’s time had finally come.
Gianluca Lapadula : Gonna Fly Now
In the summer of 2016, Lapdula signed with A.C. Milan on a $10 million transfer for a five-year deal which will see the player taking home a million Euro a year.
He took on the No. 9, the same number once worn by club hero, icon, and fan favorite Filippo Inzaghi. Like Inzaghi, Lapadula is a box-to-box player who can create plays, make scrappy goals look easy, and can fire a rocket of a shot whenever he is around the net.
They are both a goalkeepers’ worst nightmare. They are both born “offside” and make Swiss cheese out of the defense.
Also, like Inzaghi, Gianluca Lapadula has a goal scoring celebration for the ages. After a goal, Inzaghi would proudly open his mouth, close his eyes and scream at the top of his lungs like he just won a billion dollar lotto draw. Lapadula is no different.
Lapadula struggled in the beginning of his career with the Rossoneri where it took him three months to finally score his first goal and when he did, the fans around the world rejoiced.
The usually hyper and impatient fans of A.C. Milan were unusually easygoing with Lapdula — probably because they knew the incredible ladders he climbed to get to where he was.
Since his first goal, he has scored time and time again, made plays, assisted on brilliant goals for his teammates and has become a hero in the process.
Lapadula’s career is just beginning. While other strikers usually begin to slow down, he is picking up speed.
His manager, Vincenzo Montella has said he “runs too much” and “needs to conserve his energy or else he will burnout,” but for Lapadula and the fans, that is the only constructive criticism anyone can give this humble guy.
As many fans and critics call for him to start over Carlos Bacca, Lapadula has proven his worth helping A.C. Milan lift their first trophy in five years when they beat Juventus in Supercoppa Italia just before Christmas. The game, played in the Middle East, came down to penalties and after 120 minutes in the blistering Arabian heat, where the game was played, Lapadula unfortunately missed his shot. He contributed enough to the game that no one will hold it against him.
Aside from living his dream and playing in Serie A, Lapadula’s biggest success came in the fall when he was given a call-up to the Italian national team and represented the Azzurri in World Cup qualifiers last fall.
Lapadula started from the bottom and is now in one of the most historic clubs in the world. Let this be a lesson kids, your dreams won’t come easy but when they do, win or lose, you will feel like a champion. Don’t believe me? Rocky is streaming on Netflix and Gianluca Lapadula is living proof.