After Gabriel Batistuta came Hernán Crespo

Prior to the 2002 World Cup in Germany, Marcelo Bielsa found himself deciding who to play in the most advanced position of the field for Argentina. On one hand, an ageing Gabriel Batistuta had been Argentina’s leading striker for the past two finals. On the other, Hernán Crespo was taking huge steps towards his competitor…

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The lovable wizardry of Gianfranco Zola

The thing with being an instantly likeable footballer is that it’s oddly linked with being consigned to relative obscurity. As a mercurially gifted playmaker, Gianfranco Zola dazzled fans wherever he played. He was a magician. However, much like the girls at secondary school, tabloids and mainstream history often prefer the bad guys. Those who challenge authority are often…

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Lilian Thuram: the legend who came from nothing

Saying ‘He’s forgotten where he’s from, he’s forgotten his roots’ is perhaps the easiest criticism you can throw at somebody who has gone from having nothing in their childhood to everything a boy dreams of by adulthood. Footballers are used to hearing this, but Lilian Thuram is not. You may find other reasons to criticise him,…

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Antonio Cassano: an unhinged master

It was a wet December night at Stadio San Nicola in 1999 as FC Bari played host to Inter Milan in Serie A. Inter were already clear favourites prior to the game as circumstances conspired against the home side; both of Bari’s regular forwards were sidelined through injury. Opportunities were given to two young and unproven…

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Parma and the Parmalat scandal

It started in a family-run shop and ended with a lonely 17 years in prison. Between those two fateful events, time would see the rise and fall of Italy’s largest dairy company along with the football club that it bankrolled. Parma, 1961: a young 22-year-old by the name of Calisto Tanzi has just inherited the family…

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