Albano Bizarri joined Real Madrid in 1999, and 14 years later the fans are still asking why the club bothered with the transfer of the Argentinean goalkeeper, given the fact that he had failed to do anything of note at the club from which he was signed – Racing de Avellaneda.
Madrid paid just under two million euros for the keeper. Things did not get off to a good start for him at the Santiago Bernabeu, as Lorenzo Sanz, president of the club at the time, admitted he did not know much about Bizarri.
In theory, the Argentine arrived to be the understudy to Bodo Illgner. But the German keeper suffered numerous injuries in the 1999/00 season meaning Bizarri would soon make his debut for Real Madrid.
The goalie first appeared for Los Blancos in a league match against Malaga at La Rosaleda on September 25, 1999, which ended 1-1. However, his nervous performances did not inspire much confidence, and he conceded plenty of goals thanks to poor shot stopping.
In fact, so bad were the keeper’s performances that then manager John Toshack, had some fairly damning criticism of Bizarri. “Every time the ball enters our area I close my eyes. I feel like crying. The goalkeeper issue is a problem,” he said.
The sacking of the Welsh manager hardly helped things get easier for Bizarri, as Vicente del Bosque, replacement for Toshack, blocked his path to regular first team football. It happened after Madrid had lost 5-1 against Zaragoza in December 1999.
From that moment on, the Spanish manager decided to go with a young Iker Casillas in goal, who exploded onto the scene like no other Madrid keeper had done in the past. Bizarri admitted the form of Casillas closed the door to his opportunity in Madrid in an interview with El Pais. He said: “Things went badly for me, and to make things worse, I never had the opportunity to put it right because Casillas came in and played superbly. It became apparent that at Madrid things were not going to work out, so I went to speak to the Real hierarchy and told them I wanted to leave.”
Albano Bizarri’s best years
The Argentine left the club for Valladolid in the summer of 2000 having played only once more since that dreadful night in Zaragoza – against Necaxa in the World Club Championships.
Away from Madrid, Bizarri became more at ease and less nervous. So much so that he would eventually replace Jose Zorrilla and remain in the side until 2006. He became the undisputed number one at the club and didn’t miss a league match between 2002 and 2004 – even though he was unable to help the team avoid relegation to the Segunda Division in that year.
From Valladolid he switched to Tarragona, where he was also unable to help Gimnastic lose their place in the league in 2007 after their historic return to La Liga. At that point, Bizarri opted for a change of scene, and moved to Catania, in Italy.
Whilst at the club he showed just why Madrid had decided to sign him in the first place, as he was named as the best keeper in Seria A in the 2008/09 season by the Italian press. His form at Catania paid off and he earned himself a move to Lazio in 2009.
The Argentinean only left the club this summer having won the Italian Cup with them, although he didn’t play as much as he would have liked in his time with the biancocelesti – just 12 games in all.
He’s now at Genoa, once again as an understudy. Bizarri said he will never forget his time in Madrid. “I matured as a person at the club. I am proud to have been able to have proved myself as a football after everything that happened there.”