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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 July 2006, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Mad Materazzi

By Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Marco Materazzi holds the World Cup trophy aloft
Materazzi was a pivotal figure in Italy's World Cup triumph

Marco Materazzi's career has always had an element of car crash chaos - even during his brief spell at Everton.

And never has it been more evident than in his pivotal contribution to Italy's World Cup final win against France.

I mentioned in one of my World Cup blogs that you should keep an eye on this boy because things happen when he is around. It's safe to say he proved me right in Berlin's Olympic Stadium.

Materazzi fouled Florent Malouda for France's early penalty, headed Italy's equaliser, said or did something to cause Zinedine Zidane's mind to blow and then stroked home a penalty in the shoot-out.

Just another day at the office for a turbulent individual who is a cross between pantomime villain and consummate Italian defending elegance.

Materazzi's stay in the Premiership was brief and not so glorious after he became Walter Smith's first signing for Everton from Perugia in the summer of 1998.

This maverick with a short fuse and a flawed but expansive talent has won the biggest prize in the game

BBC Sport's Phil McNulty

Those of us who waved him farewell on his return to Perugia after a single season without giving it a second thought that our paths would cross again were convinced he would be lucky to watch a World Cup final let alone play in one.

There was always a good player inside Materazzi trying to get out - but too often it was hidden behind spats, red cards and a tendency to burst into tears.

He is the son of a famous Italian coach Giuseppe Materazzi, who managed Pisa and Lazio among others and Marco always felt he was judged more harshly because of his family background.

Materazzi's most famous moment at Everton was when he was sent off against Coventry after he was the victim of a Darren Huckerby dive.

In that single season Materazzi managed to clock up three red cards and 12 yellows.

Poor Marco slumped against an advertising hoarding on the touchline in tears, and to say sympathy was in short supply from his manager Smith, his own fans and team-mates is understatement of the year.

There were highs - such as a brilliant free-kick against Middlesbrough that sparked scenes of such joy from Marco that he may still have been celebrating now had the referee not demanded a re-start.

Materazzi had a turbulent season at Goodison Park
Materazzi tussles with Andy Cole during his turbulent spell at Everton

But it ended as it had started, in tears. Materazzi left Goodison Park with little fanfare and no regrets on either side.

Gone and presumably forgotten.

Suddenly, however, he arrived at Inter Milan years later after scoring 12 goals in the 2000-2001 season - a record then for a defender in Italy.

He was being picked for Italy by Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi - men who know a defender when they see one.

And yet the self-destruct button was still close at hand.

Materazzi was captured on camera viciously elbowing Juan Pablo Sorin of Villarreal in a Champions League clash last season, and his World Cup started in no less dramatic fashion.

Entering the fray as replacement for the injured Alessandro Nesta, Materazzi scored against the Czech Republic and was then harshly dismissed against Australia after an accident-prone incident that actually saw him foul his own player.

But this maverick with a short fuse and a flawed but expansive talent has won the biggest prize in the game - and made a massive contribution to Italy's World Cup triumph.

And those of us who dismissed him from Everton convinced we would never see or hear of him again could only watch on in a state of complete bemusement.

Marco Materazzi, World Cup winner - see how they like that down Goodison way.

  • Phil McNulty covered Everton during the 1998-99 season for the Liverpool Echo.

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