Monday, February 20, 2012

Soccer memories: Part 3

Serie A Foreign Fiascos: Why some of the World’s best failed to adapt

(Note: I would like to once again thank for uploading this article
Serie A Foreign Fiascos )

Italy’s Serie A for decades now has been the El Dorado of top foreign players from all over the world.
As far back as the 1930s, foreigners, especially Argentineans and Uruguayans, played a prominent role in making Serie A the most elite championship in the world.
While for many decades, notably in the 60s and 70s, the game itself was decried as aesthetically non-pleasing due to the influence of Catenaccio,  that did not stop foreign players to try to make their mark in Italy.
The main reason was obviously economic, as players would multiply their salaries by playing for Italian clubs.
In fact in those early days (pre-80s and 90s), in some instances signing for Italian clubs meant the end of their international careers. In those days clubs were not compelled by any authority to release players and they seldom did.
But the salaries and standard of life more than made up the lost international caps.
In many instances the players became Italian citizens and played for the Azzuri.
This gave rise to the Oriundi, foreign-born players who could trace Italian ancestry in their lineage.
In Italy’s 1934 World Cup squad, Oriundis such as Argentineans Luisito Monti and Raimundo Orsi played prominent roles in Italy’s triumph.
The other reason that attracted world’s top talent was the understanding that if one had the ambition to be the best, then to excel in the tough jungle of Serie A was a must.
There are many foreign players through the decades who have become legends by succeeding in Italy: John Charles, Suarez, Sivori, Haller, Angellilo, Altafini, Falcao, Platini, Maradona, Matthaus, Gullit, Van Basten, Batistuta, etc.
But there have also been excellent players who for diverse reasons were flops in the Serie A and were unable to adapt.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Italian clubs signed a number of top British players.
While Welshman John Charles, during his time at Juventus, was the most successful, others such as Englishmen Gerry Hitchens (at Inter), Jimmy Greaves (at AC Milan) and Scottish Dennis Law (at Torino) were relative failures and returned home after short stays.
After Italy’s debacle vs. North Korea during the 1966 World Cup, the abundance of foreign players in the league was made to be the scapegoat.
To protect the interests of the national team, a ban on new incoming foreign players was put in place.
No new foreign players could be signed, however, those already on the books could remain.
So throughout the next decade into the 1970s, there would be no “flops” as the foreign players in place were those who had successfully adapted to Italian Football.
Players such as Brazilian born Jose Altafini and West Germans Helmut Haller and Karl-Heinz Schnellinger played for many years with distinction.

Photo From: Mondial, April 1985
(Brazilain Socrates in action for Fiorentina 1984/85)

Starting the early 1980s the borders were re-opened and once again Italy was flooded with top foreign talent.
Each team was authorized to have two foreign players.
The early 1980s influx, once again made the Serie A the pre-eminent league on the planet.
But with every success story like Falcao, Platini, Maradona and Briegel, there was bound to be failures.
West German midfielder Hansi Muller and Belgian midfielder Ludo Coeck failed to settle at Internazionale FC Milano and were eventually loaned to smaller clubs such as Como and Ascoli.
Brazilian captain Socrates at Fiorentina was a shadow of the player who dazzled the world with his displays during the 1982 World cup.
Austrian striker Toni Polster arrived at Torino as one of the most prolific strikers in Europe, but departed to Spain after an indifferent season.
Dutchman Wim Kieft, who had won Europe’s Golden Boot award with his club Ajax, managed 3 goals for Pisa and relegation battle.
England’s former Watford player, Luther Blisset’s season with AC Milan in 1983/84 is synonymous with failure.
Brazilian Renato also came with a good reputation, but was a complete failure at AS Roma.
While Hugo Maradona (Diego’s younger brother)’s season with Ascoli is not even worth mentioning.
Belgian Enzo Scifo was also a failure in his one season with Internazionale and was loaned out to the French league after one season. He did however, resurrect his career in France and returned and played two adequate seasons for Torino.
The most notable failure of the decade was Welshman Ian Rush at Juventus. Much was expected of him as he was replacing Frenchman Michel Platini
He performed so poorly that he was offloaded as quickly as he was signed.

Photo From: World Soccer, April 1993
(Welshman Ian Rush in action for Juventus 1987/88)

By 1988 the limit on foreign players was raised to 3 per team and with the fall of communism, the end of the decade and the new one brought the largely unexplored Eastern Europe contingent into the frame.
Eastern Bloc players were attractive prospects as they were cheaper than say Brazilians and Western European players.
This increase in the limit also increased the possibility of failures.
In general Eastern European imports for the most part failed to make the grade, there were exceptions, most notably Yugoslav Srecko Katanec at Sampdoria and Czech striker Tomas Skuhravy at Genoa.
But the likes of Czech midfielder Lubos Kubik (at Fiorentina), Romanian Marius Lacatus (also at Fiorentina), Soviet Alexei Mikhailichenko (at Sampdoria) and Yugoslav Striker Darko Pancev (at Inter) did not meet expectations and were offloaded after no more than a season or two.
The greatest disappointment was Soviet star Alexander Zavarov at Juventus. He came as a global star and was expected to perform miracles, but in his two seasons he failed to make an impact.
The irony is that most of the eastern European players were still useful for their respective national teams, but seemed to be out of sorts for their clubs.
Of the non-eastern players, Spain’s Rafael Martin Vasquez’s stay at Torino was deemed a failure.
So impressive for Real Madrid, yet very average for Torino, he also departed after two indifferent seasons.

By 1992, teams were allowed to sign as many foreigners as they wished, though only a maximum of three could play per match.
French striker Jean-Pierre Papin arrived at AC Milan as the reigning European Footballer of the year, however, he was sidelined with the above-mentioned restrictions and poor form.
German midfielder Matthias Sammer, a future European Footballer of the year, was also a failure in his half season at Internazionale and was relieved to join Borussia Dortmund.
While Englishman Paul Gascoigne was hampered by serious injuries in his three seasons at Lazio and never made any headway.
English defender Des Walker had a nightmare of a time at Sampdoria and returned to England after a year and was never the same player as before.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, September 1992
(French striker Jean-Pierre Papin in AC Milan uniform 1992)

The Bosman ruling in early 1996 did away with most foreign player restrictions. That in itself requires further analysis due to its implications to the modern game and the fact that in some cases foreign players outnumbered Italians in a given squad.
The shear number of foreign players makes the failure ratio higher just by the law of averages.
Also progressively Spain’s La Liga and the English Premier League eclipsed the Serie A as the number one destination of top foreign talent.

So what are the reasons why clearly talented players failed to settle and shine?
There are the general ordinary reasons such as getting accustomed to new food, language, lifestyle, homesickness, etc.
Argentines historically have settled well in Italy. They are described as the most Europeans of South Americans. Since they are themselves descendants of immigrants from Europe and therefore have maintained some of the customs and mentality.
Other Latins such as Brazilians and other South Americans generally do well in Italy with some exceptions.
Very few British players adapted to Italy during the post 1980s influx, Trevor Francis and Liam Brady being the notable exceptions.
There were some who managed to hold their own without reaching the heights expected of them, such as Graeme Souness, David Platt, Joe Jordan, Mark Hateley and Ray Wilkins.
Ian Rush’s fiasco was blamed on his inability to learn the language, homesickness, and in his case, and probably countless others, being in the wrong team at the wrong time.
Platini is often cited as a successful example of someone adapting by learning the Italian language prior to coming to Italy. Although Enzo Scifo already spoke Italian due to his ancestry, but was nevertheless a failure at Inter.
Another reason is a player’s talent and ability being unsuited to for a particular team.
Essentially a player is being played out of position or in a different playing formation than what they are familiar to.
This was specially true for the former eastern bloc players who in their own countries adhered to rigid playing systems that rarely enabled them to play in different positions much less formations.
In fact former Dinamo Kiev manager Valeri Lobanovsky blamed Zavarov’s poor displays for Juventus due to the insistence of Juventus management to play Zavarov in a position completely different than his own. He stated that they were playing Zavarov (a midfielder) as if he were van Basten (Center forward)
This problem was not restricted to Eastern European only, Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp also suffered at Internazionale because of a completely different playing style than what he had enjoyed at Ajax.
He endured his two worst seasons as a footballer at Inter and left to join EPL’s Arsenal and rebuilt his shattered career.
Another reigning European Footballer of the year, the Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov also joined AC Parma with much fanfare, but played a forgettable solitary season and returned to his “home” at Barcelona.
One other reason could be the fact that these players were playing for exceptionally strong teams in their own league against vastly inferior opposition, but now they were playing in a high quality league where each match is difficult even for the strongest teams.
Many players were also unable to meet the expectations placed upon them, A foreign player was always expected to outperform local Italian talent because of the money spent to acquire them, And if they did not perform to the desired standard, they were accused of standing in the way of blossoming Italian talent.
There were cases where excellent players agreed to play for modest teams because they were paid a king’s ransom.
Brazilian Zico was such a case, at Udinese after a successful first season; he endured a difficult second season and relegation survival fight. He happily departed back home at the end of the season.
Had he played for a team worthy of his talents perhaps he would have had a longer career in Italy.
One must also remember that in these pre-Bosman days of foreign player limits, teams had no patience and one lousy season was enough to send someone home.
Perhaps in the post-Bosman era, Juventus might have been patient with Ian Rush and given him a second chance.
Internazionale might have kept faith with the likes of Scifo, Coeck and Hansi Muller with no limits restrictions.
Sampdoria could have afforded another season with Mikhailichenko.
Since there was a limit of 2 or 3 foreign players per team, the clubs had to be very selective about the chosen players. In most cases they were players with extensive international experience who were now perhaps closer to the end of their careers.

Some players are tailor made for certain teams, while others however talented can never fit into a system, culture, pattern.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Articles on Teams and Events-Part 8

Club profile on Benfica during 1991/92 season
(Magazine / Language : World Soccer, April 1992 / English)

Photo from : World Soccer, April 1992 /
(Pacheco of Benfica, 1991/92)

An article on 1980 Friendly Austria 1-Argentina 5
(Magazine / Language : El Grafico, No. 3164 from 1980 / Spanish)

Photo from : El Grafico, No. 3164 from 1980
(Leoplodo Luque in action vs. Austria)

Club profile on Dukla Prague during 1977/78 season
(Magazine / Language : Onze, September 1977 / French)

Photo From: Onze, September 1977
(Oldrich Rott of Dukla Prague in yellow, 1977)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Player Profiles-Part 8

A profile on Magic Magyar Nandor Hidegkuti
(Magazine / Language : The Observer / English)
Special Thanks to Chris Mitchell from UK for submitting this article

Photo From: Die Geschichte der Fussball Nationalmanschaft, Author: Dietrich Schulze-Marmeling (Hrsg)
 (Nandor Hidegkuti, prior to the 1954 World Cup Final vs. West Germany)

A profile on Brazilian striker Bebeto
(Magazine / Language : Foot Magazine, October 1989 / Belgian French)

Photo from: Mondial, October-November 1988
(Bebeto in action for Brazil Olympic Team, September 27, 1988, Olympics, Brazil 1-West Germany 1)

A profile on Dutch striker Peter van Vossen
(Magazine / Language : Voetbal International, February 18, 1989/ Dutch)

Peter van Vossen Profile

Photo from: Voetbal International Special, Nummer 7, 1992-Oranje in 1992
(Petervan Vossen in action for Holland, December 16, 1992, World Cup Qualifier, Turkey 1-Holland 3)

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Interviews-Part 11

An interview with English Manager Brian Clough
(Magazine / Language : World Soccer, February 1975 / English)

Photo from: World Soccer, February 1975
(Brian Clough)

An interview with French player Dominique Rocheteau
(Magazine / Language : Onze, July 1978 / French)

Photo from: Onze, October 1984
(Dominique Rocheteau in action for France, October 7, 1978, EC Qualifier, Luxembourg 1-France 3)

An interview with Italian Alessandro Del Piero
(Magazine / Language : Don Balon, Chile Edition, May 5, 1997/ Spanish)

Alessandro Del Piero Interview

Photo from: Don Balon, Chile Edition, May 5, 1997
(Juventus’ Alessandro Del Piero)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Old Team Photographs-Part 1

Photo From: IFFHS-Belgique-Belgie (1904-1940)
(Belgium squad, April 22, 1906, France 0-Belgium 5)

Photo From: IFFHS-Russia (1912-1920), Soviet Union (1923-1940),Polska(1921-1940),Lietuva(1923-1940)
(Russia squad, July 1, 1912, Olympics, Germany 16-Russia 0)

Photo from:  Landslaget, Det Norske Fotballandslagets Historie, authors Egil Olsen, Arne Scheie,Per Jorsett, Otto Ulseth, 1997
(Norway squad, June 16, 1946, Norway 2-Denmark 1)

Photo From: World Soccer, December 1966
(Brazil squad from 1958)

Photo From: Chronik des deutschen fussballs, 2005
(West Germany squad, May 31, 1962, World Cup, Italy 0-West Germany 0)

Photo From: Onze, June 1980
(Spain squad, December 9, 1979,  UEFA European Championship Qualifier-Cyprus 1-Spain 3)

Photo From: Onze, May 1982
(Wales squad, May 24, 1982, Scotland 1-Wales 0)

Photo From: Don Balon, Chile Edition, April 25-May 5, 1997,  Issue no 256
(Chile squad, September 1, 1996, World Cup Qualifier, Colombia 4-Chile 1)
Photo From: La Nazionale Italiana, 1978
(Italy squad, Future great manager Nereo Rocco, is standing, second from the left, March 25, 1934, World Cup Qualifier, Italy 4-Greece 0)

Photo From: Calcio 2000, April 1999
(1963/64 Scudetto winning FC Bologna)
Photo From: Calcio 2000, February 2001
(Internazionale FC Milano 1962/63)
Photo From: Calcio 2000, November 1998
(Juventus 1998/99)
Photo From: Onze, August 1977
(Bastia, July/August 1977)
Photo From: Onze, December 1979
(Ajax Amsterdam, 1979/80)
Photo From: Onze, June 1983
(SV Hamburg squad before the 1983 Champions Cup Final vs. Juventus)
Photo From: Onze, October 1986
(Paris St. Germain before their Champions Cup match vs. Viktovice in September 1986)
Photo From: World Soccer, March 1992
(Barcelona, 1991/92)
Photo From: World Soccer, October 1990
(Real Madrid 1990/91)
Photo From: Calcio 2000, February 2001
(Penarol 1966)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Old Match Photographs-Part 1

Photo From: Chronik des deutschen fussballs, 2005
(March 16, 1909, England (Amateur) 9-Germany 0)

Phoro From: A-Laget, Norges 25 storste fotballspillere gjennom tidene, Authors: Svein Saeter, Johan L. Oiestad
(May 26, 1918, Sweden 2-Norway 0)


Photo From: Les Bleus, Le livre official de l'equipe de France, Author: Dominique Grimault, 1997
(April 18, 1926, France 4-Portugal 2)

Photo From: Azzurri, Storia della Nazionale di calcio tre volte campioni del Mondo, 1910-1983
(June 3, 1934, World Cup, Italy 1-Austria 0, Diagram showing the goal)

Photo : from World Soccer, May 1992
(June 3, 1934, World Cup, Italy 1-Austria 0, moments before the goal)

Photo from: History of the World Cup Author Michael Archer
(June 3, 1934, World Cup, Italy 1-Austria 0, goal being scored by Guaita)

Photo from: Seleccao Brasileira -90 Anos 1914-2004, Authors Antonio Carlos Napoleao, Roberto Assaf
(February 18, 1940, Copa Roca, Brazil 2-Argentina 2)

Photo from: Football Association of Ireland, 75 Years, Author Peter Byrne, 1996
(May 19, 1957, World Cup Qualifying-Republic of Ireland 1-England 1)

Photo : from World Soccer, June 1964
(Pele vs. Bobby Moore, May 30, 1964, Nations Cup, Brazil 5-England 1)

Photo : from Onze, November 1977
(October 29, 1977, World Cup Quyalifying, Hungary 6-Bolivia 0)

Photo : from France Football, November 26, 1985, Numero 2068
(Safet Susic of Yugoslavia, December 21, 1983, UEFA European Championship Qualifier, Yugoslavia 3-Bulgaria 2)

Photo : from Onze-Mondial, February 1991
(Roberto in action vs. Portugal, January 14, 1991, Spain 1-Portugal 1)

Photo from : Onze, March 1977
(Asensi of Barcelona)

Photo from : Voetbal Internatinal, February 18, 1989
(PSV Eindhoven’s Belgian Eric Gerets taking a throw in vs. Mechelen, February 1, 1989, UEFA Super Cup , Mechelen 3-PSV Eindhoven 0)

Photo from : Calcio 2000, February 2001
(Real Madrid’s Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas)

Photo from : Calcio 2000, November 1998
(Brazilian pair, Udinese’s Zico and Roma’s Cerezo, 1984/85)

Photo from : Mondial, January 1981
(Czechoslovakia’s Zdenek Nehoda)

Photo from : Mondial, April 1983
(Juventus’ Roberto Bettega in action in March 1983 vs. Aston Villa during teh Champions Cup Quarter finals)

Photo from : Onze, April 1986
(Real Madrid’s Hugo Sanchez and Jorge Valdano, with Antonio Maceda in the background)

Photo from : Onze, August 1977
(Barcelona’s Johann Neeskens and SV Hamburg’s Kevin Keegan during a friendly, July 26, 1977, SV Hamburg 6-Barcelona 0)

Photo from : Onze, September 1977
(New York Cosmos’ Italian striker Giorgio Chinaglia)

Photo from : World Soccer, September 1991
(Robert Prosinecki and Stefan Reuter, April 10, 1991, Champions Cup , Bayern Munich 1-Red Star Belgtrade 2)

Photo from : World Soccer, December 1990
(Arsenal and Manchester United brawl in fall of 1990 that led to points deduction for both teams)

Photo from : World Soccer, February 1975
(Real Madrid manager Milan Miljanic and West German Paul Breitner)

Photo from : Onze, October 1987
(Ajax’s Frank Rijkaard in 1987)