Minozzi england
With a heavy heart, the livewire star of Italy's 2018 Championship is bidding farewell to Treviso.

The 27-year-old's exploits during that year's Guinness Men's Six Nations will have been inspirational for many a young fan - or indeed, the Azzurri's new crop of stars, such as Tommaso Menoncello - scoring in four consecutive games and being nominated for Player of the Championship in the process. He can also boast an enviable strike rate of 11 tries in 23 matches.

"Every memory with Italy for me is crazy, but the Six Nations is something else," explains Matteo Minozzi. "They're experiences that we Europeans dream about. We're raised on these Championships."

Minozzi recently announced his departure from Treviso, stating that he will now be devoting himself to new off-field projects. Specifically, he's decided to open his own multi-sport centre, with a particular focus on padel, the sporting craze that's been his greatest passion outside of rugby.

"There will be padel, a gym, areas dedicated to yoga, pilates, fitness, and then bars, changing rooms, but the core business will still be padel," says the former Zebre and Calvisano player, who won the Italian Championship in 2017. "If it wasn't a great passion, I wouldn't have made this investment. Padel and rugby are completely different sports. One is a contact and team sport; the other is almost the opposite, where at most you play in pairs and there is no contact.

"What they have in common for me is the fact that rugby all my life has been fun, which is what this now represents for me. I'd already played it in the past, but I got much more involved last summer. Having been through some turbulent years and I needed to find something else to take my mind off things a bit, and then the entrepreneurial side came in. Considering that it is a very popular sport, I studied the investment a bit to see how I could differentiate myself from other centres, and I got hooked on the idea of being able to do something new."

His goodbye to Treviso came after a rather troubling period, where bad luck seemed to lurk around every corner for the fullback/winger. It reads like a litany of misfortune: first came the knee injury; then a couple of concussions; almost losing the sight in one eye which required urgent surgery for retinal detachment; the bankruptcy of his club, Wasps, with whom he had featured in a Premiership final; topped off with a red card in his first URC outing.

"When I broke my knee, I asked the surgeon who operated on me, Professor Mariani, when I could return to play," recalls Minozzi. "He said we should just concentrate on getting me to walk properly again."

Minozzi says that he tried to stop believing in the concept of bad luck just so that he "wouldn't go mad". The 2021 Premiership final was eventful for all the wrong reasons: breaking his nose and almost losing the sight in his eye making the loss to Exeter seem insignificant, all things considered.

"The problems with my eyesight got worse and so I went to an optician who detected a detached retina, which is what posed the risk to me going blind in one eye. The next morning I had emergency surgery in London. This was in the middle of the Covid pandemic, so I was alone and couldn't stay in the hospital. They put me in a car with post-operative anaesthesia to go home."

A post-script to that series of unfortunate events saw him tear his calf, before the final straw, which was an injury that led to reconstructive surgery to his hamstring. Dad Umberto and uncle Andrea were also forced into retirement from the game due to injury, but the love for rugby still shines through in the Minozzi family.

"In my family we have always shared this passion, and I hope I have made my family proud of my achievements," says Minozzi. "No one will be able to take those away from me. I may not have been the best player or a world champion, but I believe I have achieved some important goals."