OUR HISTORY: LORENZI TURNS 80
Eighty years of Benito 'Veleno' Lorenzi. The last time he was quoted was after the recent 3-2 Milan derby victory when Massimo Moratti said: "Martins' goal was exceptional. It reminded me of a Lorenzi goal, fifty years ago when I was a boy. It took him two seconds to run twenty metres. Yesterday I saw that speed again, that goal by Lorenzi..." History always repeats itself, and in football this is often the case, but in terms of character, spirit and technique it is difficult to find a striker comparable to Lorenzi.
When' 'Veleno' (literally 'poison') played, news would become literature. Like his second Serie A match for Inter, against Juventus in the summer of 1947. Born on 20 December 1925 in Buggiano, Pistoia province, Lorenzi joined Inter from Empoli. Benito was one of three children of a tailor father and a grocery shop assistant mother who was the first to call him 'Veleno'. A furiously talented penalty area striker, thin, gritty, cunning, predatory, powerful and as quick as lightning, Benito Lorenzi was all this and more. Scoring was his job, and when he ended his Nerazzurri playing career he had reached a respectable total of 138 Serie A goals in 305 matches, winning two Scudettos in 1952/53 and 1953/54. At international level Lorenzi won 14 Italy caps, scoring 4 goals, and in typical style was also the protagonist of an argument with Brazilian referee Viana at the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland. For Nerazzurri fans, Lorenzi was their new hero after the Giuseppe Meazza era.
In that match against a fearsome Juventus side in 1947 a young Lorenzi found himself up against Bianconeri full-back Rava, who gave him 'beatings' at every chance, followed by a puncutal apology. At the start Veleno didn't understand what was happening, but after the umpteenth foul it was the Inter masseur Della Casa who came to his aid. "It was him who changed my career," Benito admitted. "He said 'React, Lorenzi'. And I reacted. I went in hard on Angeleri and Rava got furious. 'Hey boy! Who do you think you are. Here we eat our bread....' I replied: 'Sure, and you don't want me to start eating it!'" Lorenzi's was indeed very good bread for Inter.
And what about that slice of lemon? Lorenzi developed a sporting hatred for AC Milan (but off the pitch he was the best friend of Nordahl). A protagonist of the 6-5 victory over the Rossoneri on 6 November 1949, Veleno played his 22nd Milan derby on 6 October 1957. He won Inter a dubious penalty, then the referee Lo Bello gave one to Milan. Tito Cucchiaroni stepped up to the spot and missed. Incredibly. After the game won 1-0 by the Nerazzurri there was a brawl between the players, for no apparent reason. A few years later Benito explained why: "I was sucking half a lemon, which we did back then to quench our thirst, and without letting the opponents see me - but I realised the Milan fans were shouting all sorts of things - I put that half lemon on the spot, below the ball so Cucchiaroni would miss."
Before hanging up his boots Veleno had spells at Alesandria and Brescia, but the city of Milan and Inter remained his home, his world, his strength, and they still are today. He coached the Nerazzurri academy youngsters (Arturo Di Napoli was his last favourite pupil), went from home to home to collect money for those most needy, and until a couple of years ago he was a regular visitor to Angelo Moratti Sports Centre on Saturdays. He would arrive at the wheel of an old Fiat 500, irritated by everything and everyone, both jokingly and intentionally, ready to write his book of truths. "And I'll warn you beforehand - when I write it I will tell everything and criticise everybody. Yes, even you." Happy 80th birthday, dear Veleno.