Guglielmo Vicario: My nightclub parties in Italy and why I would sign for Tottenham in blood

Guglielmo Vicario celebrates after team-mate Richarlison scores
Guglielmo Vicario has been a revelation since arriving to Tottenham - Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

The journey that took Guglielmo Vicario to the Premier League can be traced back to Fontanafredda. Or more precisely to the nightclubs of the small town in north-east Italy, which were as much part of the pre-match routine for the semi-professional club as set-pieces and tactics.

Vicario was not getting a game in Udinese’s academy so he moved 100km away to play with bankers and builders in Serie D, which turned out to be the making of him. There was a battle against relegation, seeing his team-mates juggle their jobs, and then maximising their Friday nights on the town even though they played on Sunday.

From an early age, Vicario has been used to adapting quickly, as he did at Fontanafredda as a teenager when he was a world away from the gilded life of academy football. It takes a big character to fit in immediately at Tottenham like Vicario has. He has filled the gloves of Hugo Lloris this season and, remarkably, has yet to make an error leading to a goal. Yet almost exactly nine years ago he was playing against Union Arzignano Chiampo in front a few hundred fans.

“Someone worked in a bank,” he said. “Someone else was a construction worker. Normal jobs, not professional footballers, so big respect to what they did and what they are still doing because they are still playing football and working. It’s a massive commitment for them because also they have wives and children. So it’s not easy to try to do both at the same time.

“We trained four times during the week and then we played on Sundays, so on a Friday we would have a dinner, all together, every Friday night, and then go clubbing all together. Some lads on Saturday, they didn’t work so we were off on Saturday so we had dinner and clubbing all together and then we play on Sunday.

“It was a big moment to be together and we had a big season. It was the first season for the club in Serie D. And we achieved our goal because we didn’t get relegated. It was a big achievement for us and a very important experience for my life.”

There is a genuineness to Vicario, rooted in how he started out in football. He also played in the fourth tier for Venezia where he was nicknamed “Tegoina” – The Green Bean. “I arrived when I was 18. I was very tall and very skinny. I wore a green kit. So they called me a green bean because I looked like one from far away,” he said.

From there he played at Cagliari and Empoli before he arrived on Spurs’ radar and a recruitment team monitoring Italian football as part of Fabio Paratici’s regime as sporting director. A relative unknown when he arrived in the summer, Spurs had done their homework on a goalkeeper with the character and skill for the Premier League.

He cares. That much was shown when he had it out with Ryan Sessegnon at the final whistle of the FA Cup win against Burnley. But there is a human side to him too. His family invited a Ukrainian mother, Hanna, and son Milan into their home in Udine after they fled the Russian invasion, with Milan’s father staying behind to fight.

“Maybe it was not the best thing to do in that moment because when you speak after winning, the best way is to celebrate,” he said of the Sessegnon incident. “And if you have to say something, the right way is to do it in the dressing room. It was just about the structure we had in the set-pieces, we were not set well. And it was the last chance they had to score, I was angry about that because it was the last ball and they had a good chance.”

Guglielmo Vicario makes his feelings clear to Ryan Sessegnon
Vicario makes his feelings clear to Ryan Sessegnon - Bradley Collyer/PA

Spurs have certainly won the summer battle over goalkeepers. Manchester United also turned to Italy for Andre Onana, yet the Cameroon goalkeeper has made a series of high-profile errors leading to goals. Vicario, nicknamed Venom but known as Vic to his team-mates, has impressed.

He hashtags “Living The Dream” on his social media posts and he says he would have signed in blood to make his Spurs move happen.

“I would have walked here if needed,” he said. “And yes, sign in my own blood. It was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss. So I was ready to come from Italy to the UK, walking. Or running! And if I had no pen or anything, I would have signed in blood, cutting myself and signing with my own blood.

“This is my dream. I said since day one, I want to live this dream day by day and make it real and it’s real now. But I have to keep working and doing what I did until now and just focus in on myself and what the gaffer wants by the team and just go through that.”

Next will be Italy recognition after his progress at Spurs. He has received a call-up to the squad already, during Roberto Mancini’s reign, and wants to emulate his hero Dino Zoff, who is from the same area of Italy, or Gianluigi Buffon, whose shirt hung over his bed as a child.

“Zoff is from a small town in the countryside of the Udine area. He’s an iconic figure for Italy and for my region. I had the pleasure to meet him once. He said to me: ‘I follow you all the time. I watch all the games. I’m very proud of you because you started at the bottom and now you are playing in the top league.’ I was playing for Empoli last season,” Vicario said.

“I [also] called him when he turned 81, on the phone. He was very surprised about that and a little bit emotional from that call. It was a big moment [previously] to have the opportunity to meet an important star like him who lifted the World Cup for Italy. Of course he is a huge person.”

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