Historical Football #11 – Double Wide

Historical Football returns after a long break with a look at the only man to ever play in two World Cup finals for different countries – Luis Monti…

The Italian term “oriundi” is used for foreign players of Italian descent. The Azzurri have a rich history of fielding “oriundi” including some very prominent players both past and present. Players like 2006 World Cup winners Mauro Camoranesi (Argentinean) and Simone Perrotta (born in England) were “oriundi”  and played a prominent role in Italy’s success while current stars Giuseppe Rossi (born in the US) and Pablo Osvaldo (Argentinean) are also “oriundi”. They have all had reasonably good international careers but none have been as important or decisive as Luisito Monti.

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1901, Monti made his breakthrough at Huracan in 1921 when Argentina was still in its Amateur Era. He helped Huracan to the Argentine title in his first season but left in 1922 for Boca Juniors where he made a grand total of zero appearances before moving on to San Lorenzo months later. It was with San Lorenzo that Monti really to breakout as a star in South America as he helped the club to three league titles before leaving in 1930. It was during his time at San Lorenzo that international recognition came calling and Monti debuted for Argentina in 1924. He helped the Argentines to the 1927 South American championship and silver at the 1928 Olympics before representing his country at the inaugural World Cup in Uruguay. Monti played a key role as Argentina swept through the competition to the final against the hosts with Monti scoring twice but angering opposition fans and players with some of his tackling which injured some players. He couldn’t lead Argentina to victory in the final as they lost 4-2 to Uruguay who became the first World Cup winners. Monti’s performance in the final was quiet with some speculating that he was playing hurt but there is little doubt that a death threat he received before the game must have affected his mindset in that game.

Monti 1

He left San Lorenzo to move to Italian giants Juventus in 1930, a move made easier by his Italian citizenship. He was out of shape and lacked any kind of match fitness so spent his first month training on his own to get into shape. When he did get into shape, he became one of Juventus’ key men as they won four successive Serie A titles between 1932 and 1935. His performances at Juve has alerted then-Italy coach Vittorio Pozzo to call him up for Italy in 1932 as rules then permitted players to change nationality at any time (hence the reason the legendary Alfredo Di Stefano played for Spain, Colombia and Argentina in his career). Pozzo saw Monti as the perfect man to link the Italian side together and he was proved correct as Monti was instrumental as Italy won the 1934 World Cup with Monti starring in the final. His most notable performance during the entire World Cup run was the semi final against the great Austrian Wunderteam. He man marked the legendary “paper-man” Matthias Sindelar (profiled here) out of the game with his trademark tough tackling as Italy knocked off the favourites at the semi final stage. Monti was also notably involved in the infamous “Battle of Highbury”  (one of the most brutal games of all time) as he broke his foot after only two minutes in a clash with Ted Drake. He would only play twice for Italy after that game and retired from playing in 1939.

Monti 3Monti in the colours of Juventus

Monti’s style of play earned him the nickname “doble ancho” which literally translates as double wide. He was given the nickname because of his ability to cover a vast area of the pitch in his attacking centre half role. Similar to a defensive midfielder today, Monti man-marked the striker when his side were without the ball before becoming the key creative man in midfield when they had it. He was regarded as the best in his role in South America while in Argentina and undoubtedly was one of the finest in the world at the time. Monti was known for being a hard player and was tough in the tackle (which is actually a polite way of saying he kicked the crap out of strikers) but was also a technically excellent player. He needed to be excellent technically as he was the main service provider for the strikers. As mentioned before, Vittorio Pozzo picked Monti out specifically because he was the perfect man to link all the Italian side of the early 30s together. Monti was the foundations on which a good side was built on and he led two countries to World Cup finals. That speaks volumes about his ability.

Monti had a reasonable coaching career in Italy and Argentina after he retired from playing before he left football altogether in 1950. Luis Monti sadly passed away in September 1983 at the age of 82 years old.

Stay tuned for more content on The Long Ball including more Historical Football.

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