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  • Writer's pictureBy Yann Tear at BVB Stadion Dortmund

Fulham's 'Little Aeroplane' takes flight in the Euros on his 50th birthday - thanks to Real Madrid's star in the making

By Yann Tear at BVB Stadion Dortmund

Can it really be 17 full years since he donned the white shirt of Fulham? The history books cannot be denied. It really was that long ago.

At the time he arrived at Craven Cottage for a loan spell in 2007 it seemed as if there must have been some kind of administrative cock up. Here is the sequence of his playing career: Empoli, Genoa, Sampdoria, Roma...Fulham. say what?

Vincenzo Montella's stay at the Cottage was somewhat left-field and really brief. In six months with the Whites he made only 10 appearances under Chris Coleman, who did not seem to trust the man dubbed 'Aeroplanino' or Liitle Aeroplane.

That moniker came about for the manner of his trademark arm-spreading goal celebrations.

And yet he soon became a fan favourite in west London, scoring twice on his home debut against Leicester City in the FA Cup and bringing with him an instant touch of Italian glamour.

That quirky interlude still lingers warmly in the minds of plenty of Whites fans who may have been surprised to notice the Italian with a managerial CV that includes Milan now rocking up in Istanbul as Turkey's national team coach.

Right now, it will feel like a good decision (he took over last September) as he has some talented players to work with - not least the young Real Madrid striker Arda Guler.

It was Guler's sublime left foot finish from an angle outside the box that guided the Turks to a win in their opening game in the Euros and he was a menace to tournament debutants Georgia throughout.

In a match of raucous high-octane passion in Dortmund, Montella looked at home in Roberto Mancini impersonation mode - white trainers and suit...his watch glinting in the stadium floodlights on a rain-soaked Rhineland afternoon.

He had two great moments to celebrate on his 50th birthday as the first-half volley from Mert Muldur which gave his side the lead, was also a magnificent hit.

His captain and playmaker, Inter Milan's Hakan Calhanoglu, is another reason for Montella to get excited about how far his team might progress in a group that also includes Portugal and the Czech Republic.

It was another excellent match in an impressive week for the German tournament and Georgia played their part to the full.

Their equaliser through Georges Mikautadze of French club Metz gave them a moment to savour, and they hit the bar in a gutsy pursuit of an equaliser and almost scored twice at the death before shipping a third goal to Kerem Akturkoglu in a breakaway after Georgia 's keeper Mamardasvili had joined the attack at a corner in injury time.

It was a great advert for Euro 24. For Montella, it was a birthday he is unlikely to forget as he joined the post match adulation of Turkish fans. He had a poncho on by now to cope with the rain. A slight loss of elegance that was a small price to pay.


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