He came to West Ham in 1999 from Sheffield Wednesday and stayed until 2003. I think it’s fair to say the man is a legend, and not just in the eyes of West Ham fans. He made 118 appearances for West Ham, scoring 48 goals.
Before his West Ham days, he was well known for a ‘small’ incident that cost him an 11 match ban and £11,000. When playing for Sheffield Wednesday in 1998, he pushed referee Paul Alcock to the ground after he was sent off against Arsenal.
He was awarded the FIFA Fair Play Award in 2001. This was because he rejected a golden goal opportunity to score because of an injury to Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard. The keeper went down injured with a twisted knee and Di Canio caught the ball and stopped play (the look on Harry Redknapp’s face was priceless).
His volley against Wimbledon in March 2000 was not only voted BBC Goal of the season, but more importantly, the Premier League's Goal of the Decade. He even has a lounge named after him in West Ham’s hospitality alongside other West Ham legends such as Bobby Moore, Ron Greenwood and John Lyall.
He created many comical as well as magical moments such as the time he refused to let Frank Lampard take a penalty for West Ham and also when he would refuse to play the rest of the game because he felt himself getting annoyed and thought he may be sent off.
One goal that really stands out for me is the goal he scored against Manchester United in 2001. Fabien Barthez thought Di Canio was offside so he stood up with his hand in the air appealing for offside. Di Canio continued on and the goal was allowed.
Di Canio left West Ham in 2003 and went to Charlton. He announced his retirement in 2008 when playing with Lazio.
There have been strong rumours of Di Canio returning to West Ham as a coach and he has revealed it would be his dream to return. He’s such a strong character and would be great fun to have as manager.
One shocking fact about Di Canio is that he never earned a single cap for Italy. Former boss Harry Redknapp said the following: ”He does things with the ball that make you gasp. Di Canio is an entertainer.”
So with that, I’m going with Di Canio as the greatest ever player for West Ham United for simply being such a great player, and a great man.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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