Euro 2022 winner Alessia Russo on making history, inspiring a generation and that viral backheel goal
She knows she has a lot to live up to. In 2017, when she became the first Italian woman to win the FA Cup, she was already the reigning UEFA Women’s Champions League winner and a star of Champions League. This year, she’s making history in the Women’s Champions League in her debut season, with a team featuring no less than the four club legends of the last three seasons.
It’s fitting, then, that Russo is also the most-capped Italian player on the World Cup squad. She only has to wait a couple of hours to join up, as she’ll be making her debut against USA on Tuesday before then joining up with the team in London for the final warm-up match against Germany.
Her aim is to become Italy manager Paolo Maldini’s successor, and, like Maldini – and, before him, Andrea Bertolacci – she’ll need as much support as possible from supporters and fellow players. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the game’s biggest Italian footballer is also keen to use the Women’s International Champions Cup to raise her profile further.
“I try to put myself in the shoes of a guy who just signed a contract that would be considered a massive signing for his country,” the 27-year-old Russo says. “In the moment he signs and thinks: ‘I have to prove to everybody that I am worth the investment, because it’s good for my country’. That’s very important for women’s football – to achieve some sort of benchmark.”
Russo is a great example of that benchmark. During her reign as title-holder, she has set out to be the best player in Italy in a similar way to the way Maldini will go about trying to be the greatest of all time.
It’s been a long road for Russo, who ha