A character with an incredible against all odds story, Lapadula is a player who has seen it all. Enjoying an adventure with the ball at his feet, his scoring abilities have landed him a home at the San Siro. As adidas and AC Milan linked up to produce arguably one of the most beautiful shirts going into 17/18 we sat down with this humble, hard working hero.
Through various loans and a handful of different clubs, you’ve seen a great deal of football all over the country before coming to Milan, how much have you enjoyed the process of exploring and developing in this way?
"Through the years that I’ve spent in lower leagues, in foreign leagues and even in time spent on the bench I have matured and grown in self-confidence. Some experiences I have great memories of, some less so, but it has definitely made me become the player I am today."
Your journey has been described as a ‘fairytale’ - how would you describe it though?
"The fairytale has been signing for a team like Milan after some difficult periods in my career. It’s fair to say some experiences that I’ve had have not really helped me or progressed my game. I changed teams ten times in eight years and at some teams I just didn’t quite fit in for reasons that were out of my control. But at Pescara I had all the ingredients I needed to show my potential, and eventually earn a move to a club like Milan."
It’s obviously important for you personally to take and make the very most of the opportunity - how much fire in your belly do you have when putting on that AC Shirt now? You must be pumped…
"It’s definitely something that gives me great pride and a real motivation. It’s the most decorated team in Italy. When I heard ‘Milan’ I immediately felt I had to say yes. It’s almost impossible to say no to a team like Milan because of the club’s reputation, its history, its infrastructure and its support. I knew I had to become a Milan player, and I want to give my all for the club every time I take the field."
It’s a bit of a story against all odds - Having been released by Juventus now found your way to the top - have you always known you could get to the very top?
"I must admit that the responsibility for not making the grade at Juve was first and foremost mine. I made some poor choices around that time which I look back on now with regret. For example, I was never really a top student at school, but over the years I have realised that your education is really important. But in every team I have played in since, I have had a burning desire to get back to the top."
What was it like to be released and told you weren’t at a high enough level back then - did it give you extra fight to prove people wrong?
"It wasn’t easy, but it was important to carry on believing in myself, even when others didn’t believe in me. My route to Milan has come courtesy of many things, but above all to my attitude. I have always had that desire to make my opponents lives difficult and never give up. It’s what I’ve done in the lower leagues, Slovenia, the Belgian Pro League: It’s always been my trademark."
You’ve scored wherever you’ve been - pretty much scoring every other game, do you feel like you’ve always got a goal in you when you step onto the pitch?
"I’m constantly working hard to improve my goal-scoring. I try to prepare as best I can for when scoring opportunities come round in games."
How would you describe your style of play on the pitch - what kind of player are you?
"I’m a player who never gives up on a loose ball, always fighting even if the game seems lost. This is my character, it’s never say die."
Low socks and a powerful image, not to mention a nuisance for the opposition - how much do you like to terrorise opposing defenders by getting under their skin?
"As I said before I am a full-on player, but I do believe in respecting my opponents and that is something any player I’ve played against will tell you."
Your tattoos, can you tell us what it was about the braveheart one that inspired you to get it? Does that say something about who you are on the pitch?
"I like the Braveheart one a lot; it’s one of my favourites. The image is of the main actor, Sir William Wallace, who I think has similar traits to myself. He was someone who struggled and had to fight to get where he wanted in life. I identify with his character, so I decided to get the tattoo."
You got the nickname as Sir Gianluca - who gave that to you? Where did it come from? It’s obviously something you’re proud to wear on your sleeve...
"As I said I can really relate to the character, so my brother Davide decided to give me the nickname Sir William Wallace. He was someone who fascinated me and inspired me."
Away from the pitch, how would you describe yourself? You’re a stylish guy with a creative edge - is that fair to say?
"I am a fairly creative guy, I like fashion and music. I played the piano with my father once – he’s an absolute wizard!"
Who were those players you really idolised - were there any you modelled yourself on?
"I’ve always liked those personality players, players who weren’t afraid to try something new. Players like Zidane, Del Piero or Seedorf. If you made mistakes against them you knew you were in for a tough game."
How does it feel a year on from joining AC now - how have you settled into the squad and the club?
"I joined a club that from day one was always supporting me and helping me out with anything I needed. The dressing room has a real togetherness and that’s been really important in overcoming difficult moments."
What’s the step up to the Serie A been like on the pitch?
"Beyond the obvious step up in the quality of the players, the pace of the game is a lot faster and the matches are much more tactical."
Off the pitch, has your life changed a lot? Being put on the centre of the stage at one of the biggest clubs in the world has got to be quite a whirlwind?
"I have to be honest, it’s not changed that much. Maybe I get stopped in the street for an autograph or a selfie more often now, but the two pillars of my life will always be my family and my friends."
What is it like to be able to call the San Siro your home now? Stepping out onto that pitch must have quite a powerful effect, the first time you look around and take it in?
"It was something incredible, something completely new. Walking out onto a stage like that, one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world, after all of my career leading up to that point was an extraordinary feeling. But I have treated it as a new challenge and a new opportunity, not a sign that I have arrived as a player. The best thing about the stadium is definitely the fans that fill it – they give us a huge boost."
It’s got such an incredible history, this club, it must feel pretty incredible to see an AC Milan shirt with your name on now?
"The game has been my life ever since I began playing on the muddy pitches outside my house with my brother. To see my name on the back of such a prestigious shirt like Milan’s is a dream come true and makes me very proud."
What do you remember about football shirts as a football fan as you were growing up - were they special for you?
"They were special, particularly when I was just starting out playing the game, they had me hugely excited. When I started playing for Juve I could ask for shirts from the club, before then I had to wait for my birthdays and Christmas to ask for them as a gift from mum and dad."
Now all those years on, have you kept hold of a lot of your shirts as mementos? Do you like to collect them or swap with players?
"Like a lot of players, the shirts that I have kept have been from seasons or matches that have for one reason or another have been significant in my career."
What have you done with your first AC shirt?
"I have kept it to preserve the memory of such an important moment in my career."
The Milan shirts are iconic all over the globe. Looking good on the pitch is something this club has always done - what do you like to see when a new shirt comes out?
"I really like attention to detail in the design of a kit, but for it still to look traditional and represent the history of a club. I can’t think of many shirts out there that are as recognisable as Milan’s."
What do you think of the new AC Milan home shirt, there’s a lot of class there don’t you think?
"Once again adidas has come up with a great looking design and at the same time kept the jersey functional and comfortable to wear."
Football shirts are being worn more and more in the street as a piece of fashion - from Snoop to Drake - do you like seeing shirts worn by musicians like that?
"It’s cool to see such huge artists wearing our shirts. Today footballers are fashionable objects as well as players. Our kits go beyond just the sphere of football."
Looking forward, where do you set your sights now? What would you like the next chapter in your story to look like?
"I would like to settle at Milan and help write more glorious chapters for the Rossoneri, after getting a taste of winning trophies in Doha against Juve."
Want it? Get the adidas AC Milan 2017/18 Home Shirt here.