There is more to Emmanuele Zurlo than meets the eye, as his Italy team-mates have found at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015. A welcome addition to the Azzurra attack and the scorer of seven goals in four matches in his maiden world finals, the 27-year-old has also become the team’s barber.

In his two years in the Italy set-up, the enterprising Zurlo has nailed down a place for himself and gained the confidence of his fellow squad members, all of whom are now having their hair snipped and trimmed by the striker.

“I started doing it for a bit of fun,” the No9 told FIFA.com. “I did my own hair first and then I got a few guinea pigs together. The results were good too.

“I got more and more customers and here I am, the national team’s official barber. Even the head of the Italian delegation comes to our hotel to get his hair cut. I do most of the work with clippers and then tidy it all up with scissors.”  

Zurlo has proved so adept at his new trade that word of his expertise has started to spread: “Believe it or not, one of the Switzerland players came and asked me if I could cut his hair the other day. If things start to go wrong for me on the sand, at least I’ve got another profession I can now fall back on,” he joked.

The sharpest of cutting edges
If his performances in Espinho are anything to go by, however, Zurlo’s career in haircare will have to wait.

For someone making their first World Cup appearance, the Italian looks remarkably at ease, finding the back of the net in each of his side’s four games to date to sit second in the tournament scoring charts, just one goal behind Paraguay’s Pedro Moran and Switzerland’s Noel Ott, both of whom have played their last games in the competition.

“To be honest, I’ve surprised even myself because I never imagined scoring so many goals here,” explained Zurlo after striking twice in his side’s 3-2 quarter-final win over Japan.

“Over these last two years I’ve felt more and more comfortable alongside my team-mates, and not just in attack either but as part of the team’s gameplan in getting back and defending the whole time.”

The Italians have defended so well as a unit in fact that they boast the tightest rearguard in the competition, having conceded just nine goals in their four matches. With Zurlo making the most of the chances that have come his way up front, the men in blue seem to have struck the right balance, with their four consecutive victories keeping them firmly on course and taking them into a semi-final against Tahiti on Saturday.

“We knew when we faced Italy that there wouldn’t be a lot of goals in the game and that the team who took more of the few chances that came their way would win,” said Japan’s Brazilian coach Marcelo Mendes. “We knew Zurlo, and we knew how good he was. We’d made plans to keep him quiet, which we managed to do for quite a while, but he’s a great player and he made the most of those few openings.”

As he has proved in Portugal, Italy’s chief goal machine-cum-barber has the ability to leave the opposition tearing their hair out.