Wednesday, 24 August 2011

British and Irish Players in Italian Football (3 of 3)

The third and final part of this piece originally written for Football Italiano in May 2010

The summer of 1991 saw two high-profile transfers, one of which was delayed by unfortunate events. Paul Gascoigne and David Platt moved to Lazio and Bari respectively, both for the sum of £5.5 million. However, while Platt would shine with 11 goals from midfield in a relegated team, Gazza's 1991/92 season was a write-off due to the ligament damage he inflicted on himself during five minutes of madness at Wembley. It is ironic that while Channel 4 bought the rights to Serie A coverage on the back of Gazza's re-emergence in 1992, he would largely frustrate and disappoint, while Platt flourished especially at Sampdoria between 1993 and 1995, at one point becoming the player who had seen the most money spent on him in history. Des Walker played for Sampdoria while his pace appeared to deteriorate, and thus never had the success one would have hoped from a strong international defender.

Paul Ince's spell at Inter between 1995 and 1997 saw the self-styled 'Guvnor' become popular with the Nerazurri support for his all-action style, guided by Roy Hodgson, possibly Britain's greatest coaching export in the modern era. Again, we had lesser-name English players trying their luck in Italy. Franz Carr, Daniele Dichio and Lee Sharpe all appeared for clubs who were relegated from the top flight – Reggiana, Lecce and a declining Sampdoria respectively. There was also the curious case of Ronnie O'Brien, who left Middlesbrough only to find Juventus waiting for him on his release. Having never played a Serie A game, he now operates in the MLS over in the United States.

David Beckham's loan moves to AC Milan from the same league were perhaps an indication of the type of British activity we may see in Serie A in the near future. Whereas once the peninsula was the place to prove oneself, now it is the Premier League which is seen as an arena where both the action and the remuneration reside. A change of pace and a new experience in the latter stages of a player's career may well appeal to some who feel they still have nothing to prove. Of course, there is always the possibility that the Sky-fuelled hedonism of the world's biggest soccer franchise will implode with ghastly results. Until then however, the move of the cream of these isles to Italian shores may well be a thing of the past. One merely hopes that Beckham can recover from his injury and wear those Rossoneri stripes again.

Many thanks to Tim Doel and Rob Paton of Football Italiano - for giving me a break, even if it was an unpaid one. Smart people tend not to forget who their friends are and you won't be forgotten - take care.

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