Mirco Antenucci was one of Massimo Cellino’s first wave of imports from the Italian leagues, one of a number of players who came over from various Serie B sides to play their trade at Elland Road in the opening of Cellino’s tenure as Leeds United owner.

Antenucci, who came to sport a fine growth of facial hair at Elland Road – spawning the ‘Fear the Beard’ meme – signed for the Whites from Italian Serie B side Ternana nearing the end of August 2014.

The bearded Italian soon came to be seen as a firm fan favourite, with his likeable personality endearing him to a lot of the Leeds United fanbase. This was a situation that was soured somewhat with the Italian being one of the infamous ‘Sicknote Six’ – a half-dozen players who called in sick and didn’t travel to an away game vis Charlton Athletic. He also failed to appear for the traditional lap of thanks at the end of the final home game of the 2014/15 season.

His two seasons at Elland Road proved a mixed bag of delights, Antenucci in a team that struggled to rise above mediocrity, held back, some said, by the off-the-field incidents involving the Whites’ new owner and his seemingly magnetic attraction to both trouble and court cases.

During his stay at Elland Road the amiable Italian made 80 appearances for the Whites, scoring 19 times and providing eight assists for teammates. It was well-known that he wouldn’t be kept on at Elland Road beyond his second season, that proving to be the case as Antenucci returned to Italy and Serie B with SPAL 2013.

His performances for SPAL have elevated the Ferrara-based side to the top of Serie B – Antenucci’s side on 67 points having a five point gap to second-placed Hellas Verona with six games left to play. Antenucci has been SPAL’s spearhead in achieving the top of Italy’s second-tier competition, his 16 goals and seven assists helping to position the team from the Emilia-Romagna region – with seven of these goals coming in his last eight games.

It is this form that has led his agent, Michelangelo Minieri to say of Antenucci: “He is proving to be a player who is too good for Serie B, [he]has enormous qualities that have nothing to do with this league.”

The positive assessments of the former Leeds United striker continue to come, this time TUTTOmercatoWEB quoting SPAL Sporting Director Davide Vagnati as saying: “I do not like talking about individuals but he is an extraordinary player who deserves Serie A. He has everything: technical qualities, strength and shooting. The fact that here [at SPAL]he is loved by all, that the city allows him to live in peace is a factor why he is doing his best.”

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Cynicism turned to optimism but without the woop woops and ringing bells. Leeds United supporter through thick and thin, more thin than anything recently. Write mainly about the Whites but turn my hand to other clubs. Lover of salted crisp sandwiches. Not a hipster.