Paolo Di Canio started his career at his local Italian club Lazio in 1985, but did not play for the first team until 1988.
After spells at Juventus, Napoli and AC Milan, he moved to the UK in 1996 to play for Celtic where he scored a total of 15 times in 37 matches.
In a deal worth £4.5 million, Di Canio began a tempestuous period at Sheffield Wednesday later the same year.
He received an 11-match ban for pushing a referee to the ground during a game against Arsenal, and was repeatedly fined by his club for failing to show up.
In 1999, he transferred to West Ham and was promptly charged with misconduct by the FA after appearing to make an insulting gesture during a game with Aston Villa.
Di Canio said in a 2005 interview with Italian news agency ANSA: "I am a fascist, not a racist."
He retired as a player in 2008 and went on to manage Swindon, quitting in February citing issues with the club's hierarchy.
Sunderland manager Paolo Di Canio denied he was a racist or fascist after his controversial appointment received fresh criticism.
Yesterday's press conference at Sunderland's Academy of Light training base was illuminating in every way but one.
Paolo Di Canio refused to answer questions on whether he is a fascist but said the controversy surrounding his appointment was "ridiculous."