Over the past two decades AC Milan fans have roared their approval at the ruthlessness of Andrij Shevchenko, the grace of Kaká and confidence of Zlatan Ibrahimović. But another entertainer, who has never actually kicked a ball, has also seduced them. An animated, slim figure boasting a booming voice and bucketload of charisma.
Germano Lanzoni, or Gegio to his friends, is Milan’s pre-match emcee. He stands pitchside with his microphone and starts the party, while DJ Simo J plays the tunes. When the players come out for their warm up he rachets up the hype and reads out the Milan starting XI “at the top of my voice and with every last breath available”. And it’s a wonderful voice. “My maternal grandfather, Mario Galli, was a baritone. I have inherited some of his vocal power and his timbre. When I announce the teams I use a dramatic, almost musical style.”
The 55-year-old’s delivery and energy are adored by supporters; in fact, he is a local celebrity. “I love it when people recognise me in the street. As last season entered the final six weeks, Milan fans thanked me for my work but we never spoke about the league title, out of superstition. There was no mention of the ‘s’ word: scudetto.”
The Milan-born showman’s big break was a much-welcome slice of luck. “At the beginning of the 2000s I was working for a radio station that was a partner of Milan. In 2002 the stadium announcer retired, and they offered me his job. As a Rossoneri fan from the city, I jumped at the opportunity. My first season pitchside was 2002/03 and we won the Champions League. A pretty good start – and they kept me on. Maybe they thought I was a lucky charm.
“I have been here ever since and we have had some glorious nights in Europe. I will never forget the 2006/07 semi-final second leg against Manchester United. We lost the first match in England, which was understandable considering it was a good United team starring the young Cristiano Ronaldo.
“The return leg took place under an incredible storm and the atmosphere was electrifying. It was win or bust, an all-or-nothing night at the San Siro. Carlo Ancelotti and his team got everything right and we blew United away 3-0. The rain felt as if the gods were watching and supporting us from above the clouds. We then won the final in Athens against Liverpool, a measure of revenge for the penalty shoot-out loss in Istanbul two seasons previously.