With Australia having one of the largest Italian communities outside of Europe, it isn’t surprising to find that some players made it back there. Serie A has long provided a route into the upper echelons of European football making it a great way for players across the world to get a taste of it. In the vast decades that Serie A has been around, 9 Australian players have featured in the Italian top flight to a mixed degree of success. So just who has followed their heritage and succeeded in becoming the best Aussies in Serie A history?
Best Australian players in Serie A history
Paul Okon (Lazio, Fiorentina)
Having enjoyed excellent form as a defender for Club Brugge, Paul Okon caught the eye of several major European clubs including Lazio. The Biancocelesti pulled out all the stops to bring Okon to Rome and signed him in the summer of 1996. When Okon played for Lazio, his physical stature and calmness under pressure made him a top performer on his day even though knee injuries often ruined any type of consistency.
He still played several major roles for the club helping them win the Coppa Italia in 1998 and also help feature in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup victory in 1999. After more bad luck with injuries, Okon moved across to Fiorentina in July where he struggled to break through into the first team. After a lack of success in Florence, Okon departed Italy moving to England where he would link up with Middlesbrough in 2000. A case of what could’ve been for a top defender on his day.
Vincenzo Grella (Empoli, Parma, Torino)
For the best part of a decade, Vincenzo Grella proved to be a top midfielder in Serie A. Having broken into the limelight with struggling Empoli in 2002, his tenacity and excellent passing ability secured him a move to Parma in 2004. He became a mainstay with Parma proving to be the heart of most passing moves and also covering the defence. His excellent form kept him as a starting regular although Parma’s financial collapse saw Grella switch to Torino in 2007.
Once again, Grella proved to be a draw in Turin and once again featured heavily throughout the 2007/08 campaign helping Torino to a safe mid-table finish. A move to England followed in 2008 being snapped by then Premier League side Blackburn Rovers. It would mark the end of Grella’s time in Italian football that solidified him as an excellent defensive midfielder in any of Europe’s top leagues and certainly one of the finest Australian players in Serie A history.
Mark Bresciano (Parma, Palermo, Lazio)
With the ability to play both through the middle and on either flank, Mark Bresciano was a versatile player that could damage teams from anywhere on the pitch. His excellent passing and dribbling with Empoli in Serie B saw Bresciano move to Parma in 2002 becoming a top star for the Serie A side. His best return of 8 goals in both the 2003/04 and 2005/06 campaigns showed his class and move to rising side Palermo followed in 2006.
He continued this form for the Sicilian side scoring 6 goals in his debut season helping secure a top five finish for his club. He continued to feature for Palermo for several more seasons before switching to Lazio in 2010. His time in Rome was short failing to score in 20 appearances for the club. After over a decade at the top level in Italian football, Bresciano left Italy and moved to the UAE with Al Nasr in 2011, earning a recall to the national side as a result. An excellent career for a versatile attacking player.
John Aloisi (Cremonese)
Powerful striker John Aloisi dabbled in several of Europe top’s league and that included a short stint in Italy as well. Aloisi joined newly promoted Cremonese in 1995 after a good spell in Belgium with Antwerp. Aloisi’s strength and aerial abilities made him a handful for defences but the gulf in quality between his club and others hindered his time in the Italian top flight scoring just 2 goals in 25 games.
After another barren season in 1996/97, Aloisi left Italy for England joining second-tier side Portsmouth in the summer of 1997. His time in England and then Spain would be much more rewarding than in Italy showcasing that he still had the touch to score at the highest level. Regardless, he is one of the best Austrlian footballers to appear in Serie A.
Zeljko Kalac (Perugia, AC Milan)
Standing in at over 2m tall, Zeljko Kalac was an imposing figure in between the sticks. However, he was deceptively fast for his size earning him the nickname of “The Spider” to many in Italian football. Having shone in net for Perugia after impressing in Dutch football, AC Milan signed Kalac in 2005 to be their back up for then top star Dida. His strong performances and injuries to Dida gave Kalac the opportunity to star for Milan in the 2006/07 season and provided them with excellent performances and helping them win the Champions League in 2007 – just the second Australian to do so.
His excellent form saw him become number 1 for Milan the following season making 25 appearances that season as Milan finished fifth as well as winning the FIFA World Club Cup that season too. Kalac would only spend one more season with Milan before moving to Greece to play for Kavala ending his time in Italy as the most decorated Aussie to ever appear in Italian football history.
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