New Vasco da Gama Sporting Director Fabio Cordella will be hoping to build a footballing dream team on the pitch, having achieved success off of it… in the wine industry, writes Robson McCallister.
Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Gianluigi Buffon, Cafu and Wesley Sneijder are among some of the names to have joined Fabio Cordella Cantine, but the Italian winery is still growing its ‘wine of the champions’ squad.
Cordella’s relationship with wine is based on passion and tradition, his family have been in the industry since 1911 and his relationship with football is somewhat similar.
A former professional footballer amidst the lower leagues of Italy, it was the role of Sporting Director in which Cordella was able to make a mark in bringing football and wine together.
“I wanted to build the team of my dreams, full of champions, but this team was impossible to build because it would have been so expensive, perhaps over one billion pounds,” said Cordella, referencing his time as Sporting Director of Budapest Honvéd FC.
“From there, it began the idea to combine two of my passions - my family’s tradition, with football.
“That’s when the idea of creating ‘the wine of the champions’ came along.
“I chose the ones I had in mind for my team, the champions I wanted and that’s how we started.”
Cordella revealed during the interview that there was to be a new signing to add to the ‘wine of the champions’ in the shape of a Premier League legend.
“There is an addition to the team, as soon as we can do it, we will present John Terry as a centre back for the team in London,” revealed Cordella.
“He is officially in the team.”
Having knowledge in both industries of football and wine, Cordella used his footballing contacts to trial his family’s wine and could see there was potential.
“Working 15 years in football, sometimes I would get the players to try the family’s wine,” said Cordella.
“I was noticing the wine was becoming more and more appreciated.
“I noticed that the wine was being tried by big personalities and footballers and thought there must be a better way to promote the wine and make these worlds connect.”
One big scalp to tick off Cordella’s checklist was to attract the attentions of former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, a well-known connoisseur.
“Sir Alex Ferguson drank my wine,” revealed Cordella.
“Roberto Mancini gave it to him as a gift when they (Manchester City) played Manchester United.
“When I heard about this story, I sent some wine to Sir Alex directly, at least I know he definitely tried them.”
Another big personality to have tried Cordella’s wine happens to be Boris Johnson, who was introduced to the wine by Southampton MP Royston Smith.
Smith had found out about Cordella’s wine at Max’s, an Italian brasserie in Southampton.
The owner Massimiliano Romano (Max) was blown away by the quality of Cordella’s wine, after being sent over a case to trial.
“When I tried the wine, I thought ‘wow, this is good wine actually’,” said Romano.
“This is beautiful wine.
“I had to be honest, the wine was very good, so that started the relationship.
“He (Cordella) was very surprised because I ordered a £10,000 pallet of wine!”
With the impact of COVID-19 hitting restaurants such as Max’s, the winery found that the option of online shopping proved to be a temporary alternative for Fabio Cordella Cantine.
“Of course, it (COVID-19) has been a big problem, not just for us, but for the hospitality industry.” acknowledged Cordella.
“Wine bars, hotels, restaurants, there were less events where people could go out and try the new wine.
“With COVID, there has been a big acceleration of the online shops and orders.
My role will be... to build up, even more, the Vasco de Gama importance with clubs like Juventus and Real Madrid Fabio Cordella
“Maybe the people discovered to have some nice nights at home with good wine.
“At one side it did take away a lot, but on the other, there has been this new thing about ordering online and consuming at home.
“Of course we hope that everything goes back to normal, as soon as possible, for all of the industry.”
Now living in Brazil as the Vasco da Gama Sporting Director, Cordella outlined his immediate plans for both the club and his winery.
“That’s going to be very important and the centre of my work,” stated Cordella about his new role at Vasco da Gama.
“Although I can make both things go ahead because I believe a lot in my family and teamwork, I have my brother Luigi that takes care of the wine business with me.
“It’s a traditional family business, the teamwork and the family close to me is very important so I have no doubts about the progress of the wine business.
“Of course, the role of the sporting director will be the focus, to try and build up, even more, the Vasco da Gama importance around the world with many clubs like Juventus and Real Madrid, so that’s my idea of managing the two roles together.”
With a new challenge ahead of him, Cordella has strong ambitions for Vasco da Gama and outlined his ambition for the Brasileirão club.
“The main focus at the beginning is focusing on the academy because there needs to be more focus on it, because Brazil, since the game of football started, always created lots of talent and exported lots of players all around the world.
“To then have these young players in the team to try and win something in Brazil and then export them, that will make Vasco more popular, more financially healthy in order to go back to the winning days like a club like Vasco da Gama deserves.”