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Gianluca Festa (born 15 March 1969 in Cagliari) is an Italian former football player. He was most recently head coach of Greek Super League club AEL. Festa played as a defender for clubs such as Internazionale and Roma, but is best known for his spells at Middlesbrough and Cagliari.

Gianluca Festa
Personal information
Date of birth (1969-03-15) 15 March 1969 (age 50)
Place of birth Cagliari, Italy
Height 1.82 m (6 ft 0 in)
Playing position Centre-back / Right-back
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1986–1993 Cagliari 128 (0)
1987–1988 → Fersulcis (loan) 26 (2)
1993–1994 Internazionale 4 (0)
1994 Roma 21 (1)
1994–1997 Internazionale 62 (3)
1997–2002 Middlesbrough 136 (10)
2002–2003 Portsmouth 27 (1)
2003–2004 Cagliari 26 (2)
2004–2007 Nuorese 79 (6)
2007–2008 Tavolara 15 (0)
2008–2009 Sanluri 31 (1)
Total 555 (26)
Teams managed
2010 Cagliari (Assistant Manager)
2010–2012 Cagliari (Reserve Team Manager)
2012–2013 Lumezzane
2015 Cagliari
2015–2016 Como
2018–2019 AEL
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 10 May 2019

Playing careerEdit

Festa started his career at his hometown club Cagliari, after impressing at Cagliari he joined Inter Milan. In his first year at the club he only made 4 league starts for Inter, and was transferred to Serie A rivals A.S. Roma. His form for Roma then earned him a move back to Inter Milan where he became a regular starter for the club, however prior to joining Middlesbrough he lost his place in the team and found himself mainly as a substitute.

In 1997, Festa joined Middlesbrough, being one of the first Italians to play in the Premier League. Festa arrived at Middlesbrough from Inter Milan in the midst of a relegation battle to add steel to the defence. Festa was the second Italian at the club with Middlesbrough also having Italian International Fabrizio Ravanelli at the club. Festa scored on an impressive winning debut against Sheffield Wednesday in January 1997.[1] Festa had been an accomplished martial arts master, a junior Italian tennis champion and captain of the Army team when he did his national service. He had shrewd positional sense, was tough in the tackle, a dominating figure in the air and got forward on occasions to score the odd important goal. After scoring in the semi final against Chesterfield,[2] a goal that could have been even more historic was ruled out when Festa's header in the 1997 FA Cup Final was deemed offside. That was one of three Wembley appearances he made in his first 18 months at the club.

When many of Middlesbrough's players left following relegation, Festa stayed and helped win promotion back to the top flight. His performances earned him the Middlesbrough player of the year award in 1998. Festa was squeezed out by the arrivals of England internationals Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu but remained as a squad player. In his final season at Boro they again reached the FA Cup semi finals. This time they faced Arsenal. Festa came on as a substitute for the injured Ehiogu with the score poised at 0–0. However, he unfortunately scored an own goal which proved to be decisive, as Arsenal reached the final with a narrow 1–0 win.[3]

Other memorable moments for Festa include scoring a late equaliser in a 3–3 draw with Southampton despite his team being reduced to 9 men,[4] and an equaliser against rivals Newcastle United.[5] In 2002 Festa left for a short spell at Portsmouth, where he scored once against Bradford City[6] and was part of the squad that won the Championship and gained promotion the Premier League.

In 2003, he returned to Sardinia, joining Cagliari and helping the rossoblu to win promotion to Serie A. In 2004, he joined then-Eccellenza side F.C. Nuorese Calcio, serving as team captain and leading the club to two consecutive promotions and an unsuccessful appearance in the Serie C2 campaign playoffs in his third season. He agreed to leave Nuorese by mutual consent on September 2007.[7] He then signed for Tavolara of Serie D, coached by his former teammate Vittorio Pusceddu.[8]

Style of playEdit

Usually deployed as a central defender, Festa was known for his strength in the air, ability to organise the back-line, and his eye for goal as a defender, having scored at least once in every season of his career since the 1993–94 season.[9]

Coaching careerEdit

Cagliari AssistantEdit

On 14 April 2010 he was appointed as assistant to newly appointed head coach Giorgio Melis at his former club Cagliari.[10] Later in the seasons 2010–11 and 2011–12 he has been the coach of Primavera in the same club.

Lumezzane head coachEdit

On 14 June 2012 he was appointed the new head coach of Lumezzane in Lega Pro Prima Divisione. He left Lumezzane in March 2013 and was replaced as head coach by the Lumezzane captain Michele Marcolini.

Leeds United: Massimo Cellino TakeoverEdit

On 28 January, after Festa had been shown round Leeds training ground with prospective new owner Massimo Cellino, it is believed that Festa was ordered to go in the dugout for Leeds' game against Ipswich Town, this was refused by those at the club.[11]

On transfer deadline day 31 January 2014 he was tipped to replace Brian McDermott as new head coach of Leeds United, a decision which caused uproar amongst the club's fans.

With McDermott being reinstated as manager on 1 February during the second half of the Huddersfield Town match, on 3 February 2014 McDermott revealed in his press conference that Gianluca Festa had changed the starting lineup on Friday 31 January for the fixture against Huddersfield Town, only for the team to then be changed back again to the original starting lineup on Saturday 1 February by McDermott's assistant manager Nigel Gibbs. Festa watched the game from the stands with Nigel Gibbs taking Caretaker charge instead of Festa on Saturday lunchtime. McDermott also revealed that on February 3 that Festa was still present in training, however this time acting as a translator for new signing Andrea Tabanelli. Tabanelli was signed in between the window of McDermott's 'sacking' and his reinstatement.[12]

Return to CagliariEdit

Following Zdeněk Zeman's resignation, Festa was appointed as the new head coach of relegation-threatened Serie A side Cagliari on 22 April 2015, returning to the club he both played for and served as assistant manager.[13]

Despite winning a number of matches Festa was unable to prevent Cagliari being relegated to Serie B, and the end of the season Festa left the club and was replaced by Massimo Rastelli as the head coach.[14][15]


On 1 November 2015 he was named new manager of Como in the Serie B.[16] He was sacked on 13 March 2016 with the club bottom of the Serie B.[17]

Larissa F.C.Edit

On 24 September 2018 he was named new manager of Larissa F.C. in the Super League Greece.[18]


  1. ^ "Festa fiesta as Ravanelli sees red". The Independent. 19 January 1997. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  2. ^ Shaw, Phil (13 April 1997). "Hewitt keeps the Chesterfield dream alive". London: The Independent. Retrieved 1 May 2010.
  3. ^ "Arsenal break brave Boro". BBC. 14 April 2002. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Festa trumps the card show". The Independent. 8 November 1998. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  5. ^ "Festa has final word in Tyne-Tees drama". The Guardian. 3 May 2000. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  6. ^ "Bradford 0–5 Portsmouth". BBC. 4 May 2003. Retrieved 21 October 2009.
  7. ^ "UFFICIALE: Gianluca Festa, ex Inter, rescinde con la Nuorese" (in Italian). TuttoMercatoWeb. 21 September 2007. Retrieved 22 September 2007.
  8. ^ "Gianluca Festa" (in Italian). Archived from the original on 15 September 2007. Retrieved 13 December 2007.
  9. ^ Roberto Muretto (22 December 1999). "GLI EMIGRANTI DEL PALLONE Il gran momento di Tomaso Tatti e Mariano Sotgia" (in Italian). La Nuova Sardegna. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  10. ^ "Esonerato Allegri" (in Italian). Cagliari Calcio. 13 April 2010. Archived from the original on 26 April 2010. Retrieved 13 April 2010.
  11. ^ "Leeds United striker Ross McCormack pledges his future to club". Daily Mail. 30 January 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  12. ^ "VIDEO: BRIAN McDERMOTT PRESS CONFERENCE". Leeds United Official Website. 3 February 2014. Retrieved 3 February 2014.
  13. ^ "Gianluca Festa appointed head coach of Serie A side Cagliari". BBC Sport. BBC. 22 April 2015. Retrieved 22 April 2015.
  14. ^ "Risoluzione contrattuale con il tecnico Rastelli e il suo staff" (in Italian). A.S. Avellino 1912. 12 June 2015. Archived from the original on 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  15. ^ "Massimo Rastelli è il nuovo allenatore del Cagliari" (in Italian). Cagliari Calcio. 12 June 2015. Archived from the original on 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015.
  16. ^ "FESTA E MATTEOLI PER IL COMO DEL DOPO SABATINI" (in Italian). Calcio Como. 1 November 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  17. ^ "IL PRESIDENTE PORRO UFFICIALIZZA IL NUOVO ALLENATORE: SARÀ STEFANO CUOGHI" (in Italian). Calcio Como. 13 March 2016. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Λάρισα: Νέος προπονητής ο Ιταλός Τζιανλούκα Φέστα" (in Greek). 24 September 2018.

External linksEdit