Charismatic Italian Alessandro Diamanti was the first of a new breed of exciting talent to grace Upton Park in its final years, a cult hero from start to end. But how did the flashy winger achieve his status in East London? Why did his Claret & Blue career only last for one season? And where is he now?
The Italian international started his playing career in the third division of his home nation, showing his flair and talent from an early stage with Prato. After spending eight years at the club from a young age, he was spotted by then Serie A side Livorno, making the leap to the top-flight.
Having seen through the side’s failed promotion bid from Serie B in the 2008/2009 season, the lure of the Premier League proved too tempting for Diamanti as Gianfranco Zola came calling.
At the time, we had just enjoyed one of our best seasons of the Premier League era finishing ninth and narrowly missing out on UEFA Cup qualification. The midfielder was signed for an undisclosed fee, along with the likes of Guillermo Franco and Luis Jimenez that summer in an attempt to take the club to the next level.
However, Diamanti would be but a flickering light in a dark Premier League campaign that saw us narrowly avoid relegation and the departure of Zola at the end of it.
The winger made his debut in Claret & Blue at The DW Stadium in a 1-0 loss but scored the following week against Liverpool at Upton Park. Three goals in three games in clashes with Bolton Wanderers, Chelsea, and Portsmouth.
The former Livorno man’s finest performance in a Hammers shirt came in the second-half of that season, as he scored a magnificent free-kick in a 2-0 victory over Birmingham City on a snowy Upton Park night.
In total, the then 27-year-old had notched eight goals in all competitions from his one and only season at The Boleyn, five of which were from set pieces. Despite his good return, David Gold and David Sullivan thought it best that the attacker moved on and back to Italy with Brescia.
Just a few months later, Diamanti would earn his first cap for the Italian national team with Cesare Prandelli as manager. English Football fans will probably remember the former Fiorentina man most clearly for scoring the winning penalty over the Three Lions in the 2012 European Championships Quarter-Final.
Meanwhile, the No. 32’s journeyman like career was ebbing along, spells at Bologna and Guangzhou Evergrande followed his final international game in 2013.
In the ever-continuing twilight years of his career, the exciting attacker made a second loan move to Fiorentina before a return to the Premier League with Watford for a three-game spell.
Last year, the flair player embarked on the seventh loan move of his career in the Serie A with Atlanta, helping them to a 13th place finish.
Nowadays, Diamanti is still enjoying his playing career at the age of 34 for Palermo and it doesn’t seem like his 18-year long career will be finishing any time soon.
Alessandro Diamanti may have spent most of his football lifespan bouncing around the divisions of Italian football, but there is no doubt that his talent and ego earnt him a place in the hearts of many Hammers.
There is also no denying that he helped to bridge the gap between West Ham United and some of Europe’s top talents, even if his time in East London did scarcely last a year.