From: Arsenal - £350,000 - December 2000
Record: Played: 82(25) Scored: 3
To: Rotherham United - free transfer - May 2004
Career stats: Soccerbase
See also: Past player profiles
He was: Not part of the solution
As the saying goes, "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem"...and it's aimed fair
and square at the Paolo Vernazzas of the world. In essence, it points the finger at those who disappear
when the going gets tough, those who hedge their bets or play it safe, those who don't have the courage to
make a difference. And those who let others - the ones who volunteer to try to be part of the solution -
take the flak on their behalf.
So, there was nothing wrong with Paolo Vernazza's Watford career. He played quite a lot, although
the number of substitute appearances and lengthy absences increased as time went on, and was rarely less than
tidy, able, even elegant. A quite lovely player at his best - namely, a revelatory first couple of months,
plus one or two minor and short-lived revivals later on - he even initially showed a steel and determination
to go with the style that you'd expect from an Arsenal graduate.
For a while, he looked like the most complete midfielder that we'd ever seen, capable of snapping into a
tackle, gaining a moment to survey the situation, then spraying a glorious pass across the field...and
prompting your correspondent to get thoroughly carried away. I
wasn't alone, mind. There were mitigating circumstances to his initial loss of form - he was stabbed by an intruder at his home,
which would be a massive shock to anyone's system - and even now, so many missed opportunities later, he still has his
admirers. (I look forward to your thoughts, Len....)
But I can't be so charitable, I'm afraid. Perhaps - well, more than perhaps - Paolo Vernazza just isn't the
kind of player that I'm charitable to, preferring to spend my energy on more industrious, reliable
types. Or perhaps he just deserves a little of the harsh criticism that comes the way of more visible,
prominent players. Whatever, for such an obviously talented (and, in the post-Vialli, post-ITV climate,
expensive) individual, his time at Vicarage Road was deeply forgettable.
I mean, I've just wasted a minute or two checking my sums, because three goals in more than a hundred
appearances is, frankly, a rubbish return for a creative midfielder. There, right there, is the
proof of Ray Lewington's final summation, that he made far too little impact in the areas of the pitch that
really matter. That, most of the time, he didn't change anything. Some players are easily missed by the casual glance, such is their dedication to the basic
graft of the game, to hard work without the ball...but Paolo Vernazza was capable of true anonymity, of
disappearing altogether. And, inevitably, he did so when we needed him most, when the midfield became a
bit of a scrap and when every body mattered. We couldn't afford that.
Ultimately, we couldn't afford it in a much more literal sense. Really, it's very hard to believe that Ray
Lewington would've retained Paolo Vernazza's services in any event, given that he'd once again slipped back
onto the substitutes' bench in his last months of his contract. But the need to cut the wage bill neatly
stepped around any possible discussion, for we had to muster our meagre funds to bid to keep more valuable,
central members of the squad. Best for all concerned, perhaps...although I do wonder where and how Paolo
Vernazza's like will gain long-term employment, now that every wage must constantly be justified.
After several long years of failing to force the issue, Paolo Vernazza has finally had it forced on his
behalf. He goes out into a very different world.