Football: discovering the Italian goalkeeper Vincenzo Cozzella, former Montpellier and new Nîmes

Football: discovering the Italian goalkeeper Vincenzo Cozzella, former Montpellier and new Nîmes

Vincenzo Cozzella a signé avec Nîmes un contrat pro de 6 mois + 1 an en cas de maintien. MIDI LIBRE – MIKAEL ANISSET

National/21e journée/Avant Chateauroux – NO, vendredi 16 février à 19 h 30. Repéré par Montpellier en 2018, l’Italien Vincenzo Cozzella vient de signer à Nîmes. Portrait d’un gardien de 22 ans à potentiel.

There are less than 50 kilometers between the Grammont and Bastide training centers, but it took thousands, and two and a half years, for Vincenzo Cozzella to move from Montpellier Hérault to Nîmes Olympique. With a few detours: through Italy, his native country, AJ Auxerre and even the Czech Republic! An unusual story and trajectory for a young transalpine goalkeeper who was not predestined to choose France.

"It’s rare in Italy, but my parents weren’t too interested in football. There is just my grandfather who played amateur… And I didn't speak French when I arrived in Montpellier, explains the young man who just turned 22 on December 21.

Football: discovering the Italian goalkeeper Vincenzo Cozzella, former Montpellier and new Nîmes

The 1.90 m, 86 kg goalkeeper was born on December 21, 2001 in Puglia, Italy. FREE MIDI – MIKAEL ANISSET

He was born in 2001 in Bitonto, in Puglia, the heel of the Boot. He started playing football there, at the age of 6, at the Bella Vista club. "Like many children, I wanted to score goals, I was a striker. Then, at 8 years old, during a tournament, I saw a goalkeeper sitting on the ground during a match. It made me want to try, because I didn’t really like running, and I still don’t like cardio,” he smiles.

He did well: as a last bastion, he was spotted and joined Matera then Pescara, which made the elevator between Series A and B (L1 and L2). Vincenzo Cozzella was 16 and a half years old when he received a call from Montpellier. Via a Frenchman living in Puglia and employee of the Italian Football Federation, who reported it to a player agent working with the MHSC.

With the MHSC, slowed down by Covid and head trauma against… NO

The rest is Julien Gibert, responsible for goalkeeper training at the Hérault club, who tells it: "We were looking because we had a gap in the 2001 generation. Vincenzo came for a test of & rsquo;a week with us, but he can only do one specific session because he is called by his Federation for an international tournament bringing together the best U17s from Serie B clubs. From what I have seen, I said to Henri Stambouli (director of the training center at the time) and Bruno Martini (goalkeeper coach): “We have to sign him immediately”. He exuded things, in certain areas, indicative of a high-level goalkeeper."

Julien Gibert is heard, and Cozzella signs a 3-year professional trainee contract. He takes the plunge and the Alps. "My parents found it a bit strange that I was going to France – “You’re sure you want to go there ?” – but they understood."

Internship in the United States with Savanier, Delort, Hilton…

After a very good first season with the Chotard generation (vice-champion of France U19, semi-finalist of the Gambardella, 8th finalist of the Youth League), his next two will be truncated by Covid and two head traumas during a match, following shocks. Including a counter… Nîmes, in national U19.

Despite a summer internship in the United States with Savanier, Delort, Hilton and others, the professional contract flew away, to the great displeasure of the goalkeeper with a very good size (1.90 m, 86 kg ), and Julien Gibert.

"It’s a regret not to have gone further with him. He has qualities of explosiveness, power, leadership, character… I believe in him a lot. When the MHSC told him that he would not sign professionally, he was very disappointed and decided to return to Italy, home, even though his agent had plenty of contacts."

Julien Gibert, the angel… goalkeeper and the Tour de France

Gubbio (Series C, equivalent of National) gives up recruiting him professionally because training allowances have to be paid. He bounced back to Casale (N2), as an amateur. But the heart is not there. Gibert will then play the angels… guards. He activates his contacts in the Hexagon.

So, "I left by car alone, at the beginning of 2022, I crossed Italy and France to do tests found by Julien. I did some at OL, where I almost stayed, at Dunkirk, Rodez and Auxerre, where I signed pro,” confides Cozzella. No. 3 in the hierarchy, he made a bench in Ligue 1, against Nantes, in April 2023. But the AJA goes down to L2 and cannot keep 4 professional goalkeepers. He is the only one at the end of the contract: he is not kept.

Back to Italy last summer. Gubbio (N) wants it again. His (ex) agent offered him a Czech L2 club. He goes there, realizes that it is to be number 2. In the meantime, Gubbio has taken on another doorman…

This fan of Buffon and Inter Milan, and therefore of Handanovic, spoke with Mola (N2) in recent months when Nîmes arrived. Gibert and Babikian, NO's goalkeeper coach, are friends. Like Claude Barzotti, “I am Rita and I remain so”. For Vincenzo Cozzella, it will not be in Belgium but in France. To finally launch his career there.

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