Inter Milan goalkeeping legend Pagliuca reveals Villa love
Inter Milan legend Gianluca Pagliuca has revealed his love of Villa.
Pagliuca, one of Italy's finest goalkeepers, has followed Villa's fortunes since our title-winning campaign of 1980-81, when he was just 14.
He was captivated by the team that swept to glory under Ron Saunders and to a European Cup triumph under Tony Barton 12 months later - and his love for the club has never diminished.
Pagliuca played for Sampdoria, Inter Milan, Bologna and Ascoli during a glittering career which spanned 20 years and more than 600 league games.
He also played 39 times for his country and was the first goalkeeper to make a save in a World Cup final penalty shoot-out when Italy lost to Brazil in the USA in 1994.
Later that year, he achieved his dream of playing at Villa Park when Inter came here for a UEFA Cup-tie - only to be beaten by Phil King's thundering spot-kick in another penalty shoot-out.
There were also rumours of him joining Villa in 1999.
So when we caught up with him in his home city of Bologna, he was delighted to wear the current Villa keeper's shirt bearing his name.
Q] When did you start supporting Aston Villa?
A] I am a Bologna fan. I grew up here so it would be impossible not to support the Rossoblù!
But I began to support Villa in 1981, the season when we won the League Championship.
I remember that the first private TV channels started to broadcast English football in Italy, and I became keen on the big challenge for the title with Ipswich Town.
It was a truly memorable season, even if the results did not arrive to me in real time like they do now!
What was it about Villa that appealed to you? I fell in love with the shirt, which is both beautiful and unique.
But the history of the club also fascinated me.
Q] How did you feel when Jimmy Rimmer was injured after just nine minutes of the European Cup final against Bayern Munich?
A] I remember that moment very well, as I held Jimmy Rimmer in high esteem and he was obviously Villa's first-choice keeper.
When I saw him injured I was very frightened because I was a young fan andI had never seen Nigel Spink play - but he was brilliant.
Q] Did you have a favourite player?
A] Easy - Tony Morley. I liked his pace and he deserves credit for the winning goal in the final.
I also liked Gary Shaw, Peter White and Dennis Mortimer.
Q] Do you have any Villa memorabilia?
A] I have a lot of Villa-related stuff - shirts, scarves, tops. I am a true Villan!
Q] What was your reaction when Inter were drawn to play Villa in the 1994 UEFA Cup?
A] I was happy because it meant I was able to play at Villa Park, but it was very strange to face the team that I supported.
Q] What recollections do you have of the game?
A] The second leg in that beautiful stadium was emotional.
I remember that we were ahead in the penalty shoot-out, and I saved from Guy Wittingham.
But we missed our last two penalties before Phil King scored the decisive goal.
Q] When you left Inter, there was a possibility you might have joined Villa. What happened?
A] In 1999 I was in contact with some important European clubs, like Villa, Lazio, Deportivo La Coruna and Real Mallorca.
I eventually chose Bologna because it is my home, otherwise I'd have chosen Villa without doubt.
Q] Have you visited Villa Park since the 1994 game?
A] No, I've never been back to Villa Park, mainly because of football commitments.
But I would like one day to return as a fan rather than as an opponent!
Thanks to Stefano Armellini and Silvano Busolli of the Latin Lions for arranging the interview and translating Pagliuca's answers.