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I'll start with two of them that I believe the world has forgotten already even though they didn't play that long ago. Both are in the "hall of fame" for their clubs that they played in at the height of their careers in Serie A.

Álvaro "El Chino" Recoba (Uruguay) active: 1994-2015


Known for his amazing left foot he was an amazing player during the late 90's and 2000's. Great with the ball, had great technique, touch, could score from corner kicks, free kicks, long range shots you name it...




Rui "il Maestro" Costa (Portugal) active: 1990-2008



For many Benfica fans the best number 10 ever, for Fiorentina the prince of Florence he would move once Batistuta left to join AC Milan that in turn paid a club record fee at the time. He smoked his whole career but never told it publicly. He was a very hard player to read and when on the ball he had great balance and at his best a very hard player to play against. The anecdote goes that he simply tore up his contract while in AC Milan a year early, rejected Chelsea's offer for a big final payday only to join his first and last club Benfica for less money.




Edited by Gol15
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Remember The Name: Hernan Crespo | As Clinical A Striker As Anyone


July 24, 2014

Hernan Crespon has had an illustrious career filled with trophies and personal accolades. Liam Bekker takes a look back at the Argentine striker.

Hernan Crespo’s love affair with football began blossoming in 1993 when he took to the field for the first time for local club River Plate as an exciting 18 year old. The Argentine strikerspent three years at River, winning the Golden Boot award in 1994 and helping them to a famous Copa Libertadores title – a tie in which he scored twice to lead his club to victory – in his final season.


Crespo’s stellar performances saw him depart from his homeland later that year when a Parma side jam-packed with superstars came calling for his signature. Things couldn’t have started off worse for Crespo as he failed to score a single goal in his first six months at the club but Carlo Ancelotti’s insistence on playing him paid dividends as the classy Argentine ended up scoring twelve goals by the end of the season, in the process helping Parma to second place in the League.

That first season laid the foundation for something special as Valandito transformed himself from being a promising youngster into one of the world’s best strikers in the years that followed. With pace, power and a precise finish like few others, Crespo announced himself to the world as one of the most complete forwards around and in doing so led Parma to UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Italian Super Cup titles in his four seasons at the club.

DID YOU KNOW | Hernan Crespo was the first ever player to score in both the Copa Libertadores final and the Champions League final.

His goal scoring prowess placed him firmly in the hearts of the Parma faithful who had become accustomed to seeing the flowing locks and outstretched arms of Crespo streaking towards the corner flag in celebration of yet another goal. In fact, Crespo hit the back of the net on 62 occasions in Serie A for Parma at a rate of more than a goal every second game. His journey at the club had been a fairytale of sorts with the Argentine overcoming his early goal scoring hardships and the wrath of the fans before going on to become the pride and joy of not just the club, but the entire city of Parma. Joy would turn to mourning soon enough though as Crespo departed the club (for the time being at least) in the year 2000 when Lazio broke the bank, and the then world record, by paying an estimated £35 million for the prolific striker.

It was at Lazio that Crespo would hit his best goal scoring form, netting an incredible 39 goals in just 55 league games for the club – a haul which included a Golden Boot winning tally of 26 goals in his first season in Rome. His tenure at the club though, which included another Super Coppa title, ended prematurely as Lazio’s intense financial troubles forced their hand into selling Crespo to Serie A rivals Internazionale in 2002. Crespo continued his fine goal scoring form in Milan, especially in the Champions League where he scored 9 times but his single season at Inter was riddled with injuries – a plight that had begun leaving its mark on the striker at Lazio already and one which would plague him up until his final kick of the ball.

DID YOU KNOW | Hernan Crespo was the first ever player to score goals with five different teams in the Champions League

Despite this though, a money rich Chelsea still regarded Crespo as being one of the deadliest strikers in world football and snapped him up in 2003. His first season in London was solid yet unspectacular with a goal scoring return of 10 league goals in 19 appearances. The arrival of one Jose Mourinho at Stamford Bridge, however, would throw a spanner in the works for Crespo at Chelsea as the ‘Special One’ regarded the Argentine striker as being surplus to his needs and loaned him back to Italy, this time in the colours of AC Milan.

Crespo’s return to the city of Milan saw him re-join coach Carlo Ancelotti and partner Andriy Shevchenko up front in an impressive AC Milan side that boasted the likes of Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso, amongst others. Having reached double figures in the league and his incredible brace-scoring performance in the famous 2005 Istanbul Champions League final saw Crespo become a fan favourite and proved that he was still at the top of his game, despite Mourinho’s lack of faith in the Argentine.

He would, however, return to the field for Chelsea in the 05-06 season where he added another ten Premier League goals to his name. Crespo scored an impressive 26 goals in all competitions that season but it was a uniquely special one for him as he collected his first ever league title with Chelsea beating Manchester United to the crown.


Hernan Crespo never received a single red card in his 19 year long career.

His relationship with Mourinho soured further soon after, and this, coupled with his more-than-apparent longing to return to Italy saw him re-join Inter on loan in August 2006. Crespo’s loan at Inter spell would last two seasons and earned him two Scudetto titles. Inter signed him permanently the next season following the expiration of his contract at Chelsea but at this stage, age and injuries had begun to catch up with Crespo and the subsequent arrival of none other than Jose Mourinho at the club meant that game time became something of a rarity – the Argentine was even excluded from the club’s Champions League campaign. Despite this, Crespo still made a valuable contribution in front of goal and was rewarded with his third Scudetto in three seasons.

Having only signed a one-year deal, Crespo was free to leave Inter the following season and took the opportunity to join fellow Italian side Genoa. He spent less than a year at the club before making a dramatic return to his much loved Parma where he would see out his footballing days. Throughout his career, Crespo had become something of a journeyman but it was at Parma that he had planted his roots and it was at Parma that he would say his final farewell. It was the perfect setting for him to bring an end to a glittering career and it was the perfect ending to his Parmesan fairy-tale.

On top of all his successes at club level, Hernan Crespo made a valuable and lasting contribution to the Argentinian national side. He made his debut for the national team in 1995 but struggled to solidify his spot thereafter as Gabriel Batistuta had made the striker position his own. Batistuta retired after the 2002 World Cup which opened the door for Crespo to make a name for himself, an opportunity he took with both feet as he went on a goal scoring spree for Argentina. He was the top goal scorer in the 2006 World Cup qualifiers and followed this up by sharing the Silver Boot award at the World Cup itself. All in all, Crespo scored 35 goals in just 64 appearances for Argentina and by the time he retired, he was the country’s 3rd  highest all-time top goal scorer.

When Hernan Crespo arrived in Italy he arrived with the words fare non parlare – don’t talk, do. It is this attitude that will see him go down in history as being one of the finest strikers of his generation. His horizontal runs behind the defence and his clinical finishing made him a nightmare to face and a joy to watch. He left his mark across the globe but his biggest influence came in Italy where he is still regarded as being of the leagues deadliest ever strikers. As mentioned before, he is most missed by those in Parma where in just four seasons he became the clubs all-time top goal scorer. His goal scoring exploits coupled with his dedication and desire to prove himself to the I Gialloblù faithful never went unnoticed and in 2013 Crespo was named as Parma’s greatest ever player. A tribute befitting a true legend of the game.

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Nickname: "L‘Ange Vert



Dominique Rocheateau. St Etienne, PSG and France.

Dominique Rocheteau.jpg

Dominique Rocheteau: the green angel of Saintes

By ALBERTO COSIN,14th Dec 2015.

Mythical French football player and one of the banners of the great AS Saint-Étienne of the 70s and Paris Saint-Germain of the 80s. In addition, in the French team he lived a splendid stage together with Platini, Giresse or Tigana , with whom he won the 1984 Euro Cup. Born on January 14, 1955 in Saintes (France), his position was that of extreme. Right-handed footballer, very fast, technical and with a fantastic dribble, he could also play a changed band to draw diagonals and exploit his precise shot. During his stay at Saint-Étienne he earned the nickname Green Angel.

From a young age he was interested in football, although his other hobbies included literature, philosophy and an energetic defense of peace. His first kicks to a ball he gave in the Etaules and La Rochelle teams until the 16-year-old Saint-Étienne took him to their quarry. There he played for a couple of years and in 1973 he got the opportunity in the first team in a clash against Nancy. He did not waste the circumstance and what followed was an excellent sporting career in which he was able to lift numerous titles.

The first came in 1974 and 1975, seasons in which the green box conquered the league and confirmed its superiority in French football over Nantes and Olympique de Marseille. However, Rocheteau's participation in these wounding was not very high. The first major injury of his career came to Lyon defender Bernard Lhomme in 1974, and he was only able to play four games in each of those two seasons.

It was from the 1975-1976 season when he recovered and began to be a basic piece of the group led by his partner Robert Herbin. Named revelation player of the French championship, he carried out a brilliant campaign in which Saint-Étienne once again revalidated the league title and was proclaimed runner-up in Europe. It was a team in which, in addition to the winger, men like Beretta, Ćurković, Piazza, the Revelli brothers, Hervé and Patrick, Larios and Janvion stood out. He eliminated first the Danish KB and then Rangers with a goal from Rocheteau in the return. In the quarterfinals a tough rival awaited him, Blokhin's Dynamo Kiev. The first leg was a stick for the green interests: defeat 2-0. However, in the return crash, with a fantastic atmosphere in Geoffroy-Guichard they equalized the result during the 90 minutes and Rocheteau culminated the comeback in extra time after scoring on a pass from Herbin. They then beat PSV in a thrilling semi-final, but in the final, Bayern de Beckenbauer beat them by the slimmest.The Green Angel was not in optimal conditions to play the match, after injuring himself against the Dutch. He came out in the 83rd minute and put the Bavarian defense in check, but the result remained unchanged.

The glorious green cycle concluded a year later, Sain-Étienne won the Coupe de France. In the domestic competition, this time they were far behind Nantes and ranked fifth. But in the cupbearer tournament, Auxerre, Rouen, Sochaux and Nantes were their victims, before defeating Stade de Reims 1-2 in the grand final.

Rocheteau continued two more seasons being one of the team's strongholds (in 1978-1979 he scored 24 goals, his highest number) but with the arrival of the 80s he decided to change course and signed for PSG. One of the reasons was his increasingly deteriorating relationship with the green board, despite the fact that coach Herbin trusted him and always opposed his transfer. He landed in Paris as one of the stars of the capital squad and went on to play many times as a center forward.

His career continued to be successful and he became a top with magnificent numbers in head to head. In his debut campaign, he reached 18 goals and kept those figures for the next two seasons, in which he expanded his record with two French Cups. PSG, in which they had Baratelli, Luis Fernández, Bathenay, Sušić and the Algerian Dahleb as teammates, achieved two very worthy KO tournaments after beating two great teams such as Saint-Étienne and Nantes in the final. Against the Greens, in 1982, Rocheteau forced penalties with a target in the 120th minute. And against the Canaries , in 1983, PSG took the 3-2 victory in a beautiful clash.

His only thorn at that time was to become league champion with the capital, and although it cost, he did it in 1986. In a course in which he had a lot of continuity and hardly any injuries, he scored 19 league goals and was one of the players key to lift the trophy. PSG had a nice fight with Nantes that was decided in the last days. With three points of difference, he took a title that he had not achieved until then.

The following year they participated with great enthusiasm in the European Cup, but the hit was tremendous. In the first round, Vitkovice from Czechoslovakia eliminated him and did not raise his head again throughout the course. Rocheteau had a very discreet campaign and in the summer of 1987 he left the Parisian entity for Toulouse.

The Upper Garonne team, which was active in D1, enjoyed a couple of seasons of dribbling and the goals of Ángel Verde until in 1989, at the age of 34, he ended his sports career after a match at Racing Club .

French national team (1982) French national team (1982)

With the French team he was international for a decade, coming to play 49 games and score 15 goals. His first opportunity with les bleus came when he was barely 20 years old. France was immersed in qualifying for the 1976 Euro Cup and was called up by Stefan Kovacs for a match against Iceland in Nantes. The locals won 3-0 and Rocheteau played the full game. Then they also participated in the games against the GDR and Belgium, but the French team finished in third place in their group and did not get a ticket to the continental tournament.

From 1976 the mythical Michel Hidalgo took over the position of coach, who also included Rocheteau among his regulars. France had as rivals in the search for a ticket for Argentina 1978 to Ireland, Bulgaria and Albania (finally withdrew). The winger played both games against the Irish and one against the Bulgarians and helped France to certify its presence on Argentine soil with a goal. That goal was not the first for the national team, since in early 1977 he had scored in a friendly against Switzerland in Geneva.

In the summer of 1978, Hidalgo put him on the World Cup list along with other great figures of French football such as Henri Michel, Platini, Tresor or Six. In the premiere against the Italians (defeat 2-1) he did not enjoy a minute. This marker caused some changes in the eleven in the second day and Rocheteau was one of the new ones. However, the revulsive did not give the expected result and he fell again, this time before the hosts. On the last day with the honor at stake, Rocheteau started again and France left the World Cup with a 3-1 victory against Hungary. He scored a goal in the 42nd minute of the first half with his left leg.

The next objective of the French team was to ensure their presence in the 1980 Euro Cup held in Italy. Rocheteau's role continued to be important: he played three of the six games, but France was again left without a place because it was overtaken by Czechoslovakia by one point. With little time to regret the qualifying phase for the 1982 World Cup in Spain arrived. People like Amoros, Bellone, Genghini and Tigana joined the team, who made a leap in quality to the national team. Rocheteau completed a magnificent qualifying round, capped off with a goal against Cyprus. After being second in group 2 behind Belgium, France confirmed its presence in Spain.

Les bleusThey went with a lot of morale, but it started with a stumble against the English in Bilbao. Rocheteau played 71 minutes and left the field touched with one foot, which knocked him out of the next two group games. In those games they clearly beat Kuwait and drew with Czechoslovakia, thus achieving a difficult pass for the second phase. There Rocheteau reappeared and his contribution was excellent. France beat Austria by the minimum and Northern Ireland 4-1 with a double from the PSG winger. Days later and in one of the best games in the history of the World Cup, West Germany, led by Jupp Derwall, won the semifinal played at the Sánchez Pizjuán in Seville on penalties. France finished fourth after losing to Poland in the third-place clash, a match that Rocheteau experienced from the bench.

Two years later, the Eurocopa was hosted by France and Hidalgo's men did not have to suffer to seek a place that they did not reach in the five previous appointments. In the previous months they prepared well with duels against powerful teams such as the Spanish, the Yugoslav, the English, the Austrian or the West German. Rocheteau lived a magnificent time in his team and transferred him to the national team, in which he added two more goals against Spain and Austria.

In his continental tournament group he competed with Denmark, Belgium and Yugoslavia for two places in the semi-finals. Rocheteau watched the victory over the Danes from the bench, but did help in the great 5-0 win against the Belgians and in the 3-2 victory with a hat-trick by Platini against the plavi box . However, this would be his last match of the competition; bad luck returned to fatten him and an injury separated him from the European Championship. In the semifinals, in an agonizing clash, France defeated Portugal. Then, in Paris, with the Parque de los Principes overflowing, France was crowned European Championship champion after beating Spain.

The last blows of Rocheteau's international career came between 1985 and 1986. Punished by previous injuries, he still performed at a good level and after playing three qualifying matches with a triplet included against Luxembourg, he was called up for Mexico 1986. He was part of the eleven Henri Michel against Canada and rested in the draw against the USSR on the second day. At that time, France had three points, but the group leadership against Hungary was at stake. Rocheteau scored the third French goal after beating Disztl and gave an assist, but the 3-0 was insufficient to overtake the Soviets in the table. In the second round he continued to be part of the line-up in a duel in which France beat Italy 0-2 in Mexico City with two more passes to Platini and Stopyra. The next opponent was the Brazil of Telê Santana, that neither could stop them and succumbed in a harrowing penalty shootout. Rocheteau lasted until minute 99, when his body said enough and he had to leave the field limping. It would be his farewell to the national team, as he did not participate in either the semi-final defeat against Germany again or in the third-place contest that France beat Belgium.

In his post-football life, he began working as a players agent, but left after a problem with David Ginola. Then he chaired the Ethics Commission of the French Football Federation, in which his main task was to fight for the correct behavior of footballers, collegiate and hobbies. In 2010 he returned to Saint-Étienne. President Roland Romeyer appointed him vice president of the Supervisory Council and later became the sports coordinator of the entity, carrying out tasks in the training center and in relation to the fans.

In addition, he has participated in several films such as Le Garçu , with Gérard Depardieu, or Casablanca Driver . He published a book in 2005 titled My Name is Green Angel and opened a youth soccer academy in Vietnam.

* Alberto Cosín .





Edited by erskblue
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16/04/2019 by DAN WILLIAMSON.      www.thesefootballtimes.com


Famed Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano poetically described Mario Kempes as “an unbreakable bronco who liked to gallop over the grass-carpeted in a snowfall of confetti, his shaggy mane flying in the wind,” in Soccer in Sun and Shadow. For football fans of a certain vintage, the image of Kempes celebrating his goals in the 1978 World Cup final will be indelibly seared onto their brains.

After a relatively slow start, the number 10 emerged as the undoubted star of the tournament, won by host nation Argentina against a backdrop of fear and military repression. His two goals in the final guaranteed a modicum of revenge over the Netherlands, following the 1974 World Cup humiliation, and briefly papered over the cracks for a government teetering on the brink of collapse. 

Mario Alberto Kempes Chiodi was born in July 1954 in Bell Ville, a small agricultural town approximately halfway between the cities of Córdoba and Rosario, Argentina’s second and third largest. Fittingly, Bell Ville is renowned for manufacturing footballs – boasting more than a dozen dedicated factories – and therefore it’s perhaps only natural that Kempes would choose the path he so successfully did.  

His first club was Instituto, located in Córdoba, with whom he debuted as a 16-year-old in 1973. The club’s distinguished academy also produced Ossie Ardilesand, more recently, Juventus’ Paulo Dybala. After a short but prolific stay with La Gloria, Kempes headed the 400km down Ruta 9 to join Rosario Central. 

Three years in La Canalla’s classic blue and yellow stripes gleaned little collective success – a runner-up spot in the 1974 Nacional the most successful league campaign – but allowed Kempes to emerge as a fearsome goalscorer. He finished as top scorer in the championship with 25 strikes in as many games, accounting for just shy of 50 percent of his team’s overall output. A further 21 goals were plundered in 33 appearances during the 1976 Metropolitano. 

During his time at the Gigante de Arroyito, Kempes was selected by national team manager Vladislao Cap for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany. The player, who would become affectionately known as El Matador, made his international debut in 1973 and, just a year later, would appear on the grandest stage of all despite still being a teenager. 

His international form going into the tournament promised much, with four goals in three games against European opposition, as Argentina prepared for the finals. Kempes started all three group games in the first phase but, crucially, Argentina were only able to finish in second place behind Poland. It was in the fixture against the Poles that an inexperienced Kempes missed a key chance that could’ve altered the game – and the course of Argentina’s tournament. 

The punishment was being drawn in a tough group alongside Brazil, the Netherlands and an East Germany side that created history in the first phase by beating West Germany 1-0 in Hamburg. Kempes started the first match, against Johan Cruyff’s Netherlands, on the bench and was brought on after just 45 minutes with the Dutch already two goals to the good. Cruyff’s second of the night, and Johnny Rep, completed the 4-0 rout. Kempes started the second game, against eternal rival Brazil, but was taken off at half-time. Argentina lost the game 2-1, and a 1-1 draw with East Germany in the final match sealed their exit from the tournament. 

Argentina of the mid-1970s was a football nation without an identity to be proud of. The drubbing at the hands of the Dutch Totaalvoetbal machine in 1974 had as a seismic impact as the defeat to Czechoslovakia at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, which brought the curtain down on the so-called La Nuestra period. The match against the Netherlands highlighted the negative path that Argentina had trodden since the Helsingborg debacle, and change was needed. The result was the appointment of Huracán boss César Luis Menotti, who was tasked with bringing flair back to the side ahead of the 1978 World Cup, something which he would do with aplomb. 

In 1976 Kempes joined Spanish outfit Valencia, immediately winning the coveted Pichichi award – one of only four Valencia stars to do so – with 24 goals in 34 appearances as Los Che narrowly missed out on UEFA Cup qualification. In the campaign leading up to the 1978 World Cup, Kempes retained his Pichichi crown and netted 39 goals in all competitions as Valencia finished fourth and qualified for Europe. His form going into the World Cup couldn’t have been any hotter. 

The quality and profile of Kempes led coach Menotti to abandon his policy of only selecting domestic-based players for the home-soil tournament. Five years after his debut for La Albiceleste, the stage was set for him to shine. 

Perhaps it was understandable nerves, the weight of expectations from an under-fire military regime, and a population in need of a morale-boosting lift that caused Kempes to start the tournament slowly. Wearing the coveted number 10 shirt, and occupying a central attacking midfield role, Kempes initially struggled in the first group stage, with all games played at River Plate’s El Monumental. 

La Albiceleste beat both Hungary and France 2-1, but then lost 1-0 to Italy. The second-place finish in Group A sent Argentina away from their supposed Buenos Aires stronghold to Rosario. What seemed initially like a curse, especially for Kempes, ended up being a blessing. Back where he spent three years as a player, El Matador came to life in Rosario, away from the stifling pressure of the capital.

In the opening game of the second phase, Argentina beat Poland 2-0. The absence of Leopoldo Luque, who had two first phase goals to his name, forced Menotti to push Kempes further forward. The reward was a brace from the Valencia man, his first strikes of the tournament breaking an 11-match goal drought for the national team. 

The headlines weren’t all positive from the Poland game, however. With the game finely balanced at 1-0, Poland pushed for an equaliser and thought they had found it when Kempes prevented a Grzegorz Lato header finding the net with his hand. Thankfully for El Matador, Ubaldo Fillol came to his rescue and saved the resulting spot-kick from Kazimierz Deyna. Kempes remained on the pitch and was able to settle the tie with his second goal. 

Writing his World Cup reflections in August 1978’s edition of World Soccermagazine, Brian Glanville was scathing in his condemnation of Kempes’ handball and reproduced a quote from Sir Stanley Rous, the former referee and president of FIFA: “The player who handles the ball on the goal line and gives away a penalty which is missed may feel that he has lost nothing. He has. He has lost his reputation as a sportsman.” 

Argentina shared a goalless draw with Brazil in the next outing, and the Seleção’ssubsequent victory over Poland meant that Argentina approached the final game needing to defeat Peru by at least four goals to progress to the final. In a game that has gone down in World Cup folklore, Argentina won 6-0 against a backdrop of intimidation, shady cross-governmental deals, and suggestions that Kempes and other players were “high”.

Kempes opened the scoring after 21 minutes, playing a one-two before outwitting the defender and finishing from 15 yards. Alberto Tarantino doubled the lead as Argentina led 2-0 at half-time. Kempes scored his second from close range just minutes after the break and, three goals later, Argentina had qualified for the World Cup final. 

Argentina were accused of all sorts of subterfuge before the opening whistle of the final. It seemed to work as Kempes slid the ball under the advancing Jan Jongbloed after 38 minutes to ensure Argentina led going into the interval at El Monumental, but Dick Nanninga’s header after 82 minutes forced extra-time. After 105 minutes Kempes restored Argentina’s lead, displaying the balletic feet that were characteristic of several of his World Cup strikes, before benefitting from a lucky bounce. With five minutes to spare, Daniel Bertoni sealed the deal, and Argentina were champions of the world. 

Despite the controversies, Kempes excelled as the tournament wore on, coming to life when it really mattered, the hallmark of any truly great player. His pace and direct running from deep upset defences and led to him pick up the awards for top scorer as well as the tournament’s best player. He was later also named South American Footballer of the Year for 1978, succeeding Zico and preceding compatriot Diego Maradona; fine company indeed.

The spectre of the military regime will, to some extent, always cast a shadow over the on-pitch success. Many players, Kempes included, have been questioned about their complicity in enabling the regime to use the World Cup as a propaganda tool to portray the image of a happy, vibrant country to the watching world. Distancing himself from the suggestion, Kempes told The Observer in 2002: “Of course it was a difficult situation. I arrived on 8 May and left again on 15 July. I was practically never in Argentina during the time of the military regime. Within the camp we were playing for ourselves, and then for the people and then for Argentine football as a whole – that was our perspective.”

Following the World Cup, Kempes returned to the Mestalla where he would spend a further three years. Sixty-one goals and three trophies – the Copa del Rey, Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup – preceded a return to Argentina, with River Plate the destination.  

Diego Maradona, who by now had joined Boca Juniors from Argentinos Juniors, formed a formidable partnership with Miguel Ángel Brindisi at La Bombonera and their great rivals River Plate sought an antidote. “By now River, still pissed off about my transfer, were looking to buy someone else, to calm the fans down,” wrote Maradona in his 2004 autobiography, El Diego. “They chose well, repatriating my friend Kempes who had been playing in Valencia since the mid-70s. I was proud of that. I had always admired Kempes, and the fact that they made the effort to bring him back to Argentina on my account, to compete against me, made me feel important.”

Maradona’s Boca won the 1981 Metropolitano title, but River were glorious in the subsequent championship, the 1981 Nacional. It proved to be the only league title of El Matador’s career. River faced Ferro Carril Oeste in the final, the modest team that pushed Boca so hard in the Metropolitano. River won 1-0 in the first leg and, four days later, won the away leg by the same margin, the decisive goal coming from the boot of Kempes.

In 1982 the World Cup was hosted by Spain, a country Kempes knew well. He started all five of Argentina’s games in what was his third World Cup. From competing against Maradona on either side of the Superclásico divide, Kempes was now his teammate. The duo helped La Albiceleste advance through the first phase, although a second-place finish – for the third successive World Cup – behind Belgium placed them in a tough group alongside Italy, the eventual winners, and the fabled Brazil side thought by many to be the best ever not to win the tournament. 

Argentina lost both fixtures and ignominiously crashed out, with Maradona sent off against Brazil with an act of frustrated petulance. The Menotti era was over and, with it, Kempes’ international career. In the wake of the tournament it would’ve been hard to imagine that, for Argentina, more World Cup success was just around the corner. 

The deteriorating economic situation in Argentina, which helped facilitate the demise of the regime, also led to the end of Kempes’ short stay with River Plate. He returned to Valencia, although his second spell at the Mestalla wasn’t as fruitful as the first, and after two seasons he was transferred to Hércules. However, his legacy with Los Che was set in stone, enough so that he was heavily involved in their centenary celebrations in March 2019. 

Two seasons with modest Hércules ended his Spanish adventure, but instead of returning home to a newly democratic Argentina, he embarked on a curious six-year stint in Austria, before brief spells in Chile and Indonesia. In 1992, after he’d finished in Austria, Valencia paid homage to Kempes with a fixture against PSV Eindhoven. Fittingly, El Matador scored twice in the exhibition match. A succession of nomadic managerial posts in Indonesia, Albania, Venezuela, Bolivia, Italy, and Spain preceded a career in the media; Kempes now works an analyst and commentator for ESPN. 

Back home in Córdoba, in 2010, the stadium built for the 1978 World Cup was renamed in his honour. The Estadio Mario Alberto Kempes, more affectionately known to locals simply as the Kempes, occasionally plays host to the national team as well as the most high-profile games involving the city’s two biggest clubs. In Córdoba, Kempes is synonymous with football. 

In El Diego, Maradona suggests that Kempes isn’t given enough credit in his homeland, despite his exploits in 1978. Like Lionel Messi in the modern era, a possible explanation is that the peak of his career coincided with his time in Spain’s LaLiga. Although he won the only league title of his career with River Plate, his short stay in Argentina’s capital paled in comparison to his time with Rosario Central. And, aside from his two crucial goals in the final, his best form of the 1978 World Cup came away from the goldfish bowl of El Monumental.

His brilliance and potent goalscoring abilities brought a plethora of individual awards, but perhaps warranted more collective success during his club career. Considering he won the grandest prize of all, does anyone really care?

By Dan Williamson




Edited by erskblue
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Kempes and Luque, the brilliant bandoleros.



Mario Kempes had a great strike partner in the 1978 World Cup. Leopoldo Luque.

This article below, is worth a read as it’s about that front partnership during the 1978 World Cup Finals.

WE remember the litter-strewn pitches of Argentina 1978 as well as the military presence, the controversy and, from a footballing perspective, the left foot and cavalier approach of Mario Kempes, the player of the tournament and leading scorer.

Kempes was the only player in Cesar Luis Menotti’s squad for the World Cup that did not play in Argentina. He moved from Rosario Central, where he had scored 85 goals in three seasons, to Spain’s Valencia in 1976. He was an instant hit in La Liga, finishing leading scorer, and winning the prestigious Pichichi trophy, in 1976-77 (24 goals) and 1977-78 (28 goals).

Still, pundits were more focused on Brazil’s new wonder boy, Zico, and the absence of Johan Cruyff rather than the relative strengths of the host nation, who would, they said, only win because it was written by the Junta.

But that aside, Argentina were an exciting team to watch, largely because Menotti wanted to play fast, flowing football. In Kempes, he had the perfect forward to finish off the work started by the likes of Osvaldo Ardiles and Rene Houseman. The question was, how would Menotti use his star forward – as an out-and-out leader of the line or just behind a front three, the position he had made his own in Spain?

argentina-78-world-cup-leopoldo-luque-arKempes also had the ideal partner up front in Leopoldo Luque, River Plate’s muscular centre forward. Both dark, long-haired and leggy, accentuated by shorts that emphasised their limbs, Kempes and Luque looked like they could easily be members of a rock band such as The Doobie Brothers. There was an air of menace about them and they were both extremely awkward to defend against, especially Kempes, whose left foot was lethal, not only in finishing, but also in dragging the ball away from defenders. Kempes had the knack of creating his own chances, often by performing a seamless movement that included bring the ball under control, making space and teeing himself-up for a shot on goal. Luque, meanwhile, was fast and strong and dovetailed nicely with Kempes.

Yet Kempes and Luque had not played together for Argentina since 1976 when the hosts kicked-off their campaign on June 2, 1978 against Hungary. Kempes had been somewhat isolated by the decision to only play domestically-based players, but his currency was so strong after two years at Valencia that the chain-smoking Menotti could not afford to leave him out of the squad.

Hungary had the nerve to open the scoring in Buenos Aires in the 10th minute, stunning the passionate crowd. But five minutes later, a Kempes free kick was parried by the Hungarian keeper and Luque followed-up to equalise. This was the moment the world was introduced to the crescendo of noise that would greet every Argentine goal in 1978. Seven minutes from the end, Daniel Bertoni won the game for a relieved Menotti and Argentina’s campaign was truly underway.

Four days later, Argentina beat France 2-1, another difficult victory, but won by a superb strike from Luque, who flicked the ball up from an Ardiles pass and volleyed past goalkeeper Bertrand Demanes.  They had come through the group and just had to face Italy to decide who won Group A and stayed in Buenos Aires for the second stage.

Luque was missing owing to an arm injury and Kempes was employed as a direct front-runner. He was far less effective and Italy won 1-0, sending Argentina to Rosario in a group that would include Brazil, Peru and Poland. For Kempes, it was a return home to the club where he made his name.

Still without a goal in the competition, Kempes really came alive in the second phase. He netted twice against Poland, the first an effortless near post header that he took in his stride, the second a low shot after Ardiles found him ready to bite. Luque was still missing, but returned for the big South American clash with an out-of-sorts Brazil. A physical game ended 0-0, but the initiative had switched to the 1970 winners by the time Argentina faced Peru in the final group game. Brazil had won two and drawn with Argentina, establishing a goal difference of +5, while Argentina had +2. They needed a four-goal win to reach the final.

Kempes gave them the lead after 21 minutes, a typical manoeuvre that saw him control and strike all in one, again with the left foot. Alberto Tarantini made it 2-0 with a header just before the interval and Kempes, predictably, scored with his trusty weapon on 49 minutes. “It’s on, now!” screamed the commentators and within seconds, the fourth goal came, Luque diving full length to send the ball over the line from close range. Anything else now was pure icing on the cake and Houseman provided that in the 67th minute, leaving it to Luque to apply more salt to the gaping wound in the 72nd.  A 6-0 win that was full of conspiracy theories; remarkable, suspect, heartbreaking, joyous – name your superlative.

The Netherlands would provide the opposition in the final, a less vibrant, more pragmatic and Cruyff-less side that had matured as the competition progressed. Nobody truly expected them to win and when Kempes opened the scoring with the type of routine that had typified his game throughout the competition, taking the ball on his left and nudging it into the danger zone before scoring with a low shot, it didn’t look good for the Dutch. But they came back and equalised to send the game into extra time, but only after Robbie Rensenbrink almost induced 70,000 coronaries by striking the post in the dying embers. Kempes did it again, though, scrambling the ball home in the 105th minute after he had worked his way through the defence. Bertoni added a third five minutes from time. Argentina had won 3-1 and Kempes, with six goals, received the Golden Boot.

Kempes and Luque had played together 16 times for their country. The first time was in August 1975 when Luque netted a hat-trick on his debut against Venezuela, a game that also saw Kempes score. The duo’s record for Argentina is remarkably similar – Kempes scored 20 goals in 43 games, Luque 22 in 45. Their 17th and last appearance together was on January 1, 1981 when they lined-up against Brazil in Montevideo. That was Luque’s last international game, whereas Kempes went on to the ill-fated 1982 World Cup, his final bow in Barcelona, also against Brazil.

Kempes and Luque are, naturally given their achievements, legends in Argentina. Messi and Maradona are at the head of the queue, but these two direct, skilful and venomous strikers have one advantage over the big names of Argentine football – they won the FIFA World Cup in Buenos Aires. Forty years ago, they could have walked on the waters of the River Plate.

Photo: World Cup final 1978, Press Association.

Edited by erskblue
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02/06/2016 by CONOR HEFFERNAN  

ON 3 JUNE 1978, Peruvian footballer Teófilo Cubillas broke the hearts of five million Scots with a set-piece of ineffable magic. Moments earlier, Cubillas stood 20-yards away from the Scottish goal, staring down goalkeeper Alan Rough. Rough, like any sane goalkeeper, was expecting the Peruvian to strike the ball around the outside of Scotland’s six-man wall into the right-hand corner.

Unfortunately, Rough miscalculated. Juan Muñantes’ dummy lowered the Scots’ guard enough for Cubillas to thunder the ball into the back of the net with the inside of his boot, leaving Rough and Scottish fans utterly speechless. It was one of the greatest goals in World Cup history and demonstrated just how far the man from Peru had come.

Born in Lima in March 1949, Cubillas began his footballing career aged 16. Playing for local side Alianza Lima in 1966, Cubillas’s teammates named him ‘El Nene’ (The Baby) owing to his age and boyish looks. Cubillas soon proved that he possessed an ability far beyond his years. Playing primarily as an attacking midfielder, he scored 19 goals in 23 appearances, making him the top goalscorer for that season’s Primera División, a feat he repeated in 1970 when he notched 22 goals in 27 games aged just 20.

His feats in 1970 were enough to earn a place in Peru’s 1970 World Cup squad, a significant moment for both Cubillas and the nation. It was the first time Peru had travelled to the tournament since 1930 and it came at a time of mourning for La Blanquirroja. Days before the tournament, Peru’s coastline experienced a devastating earthquake that left 70,000 dead and many more homeless. It was the worst natural disaster in the country’s history and left the Peruvian public, and indeed the football team, utterly speechless.

Speaking years later, Cubillas revealed that no matter how trivial football seemed in the face of such losses, the Peruvian team were determined to raise the country’s spirits by progressing through their World Cup group, thereby bringing some joy to a nation crippled by its losses. Placed alongside West Germany, Bulgaria and Morocco, this would be no easy task. Yet cometh the hour, cometh the man.

In Peru’s first game, against Bulgaria, Cubillas scored the winning goal in an exciting 3-2 victory for the South American side. Cubillas would better this feat in the following match against Morocco, in which he found the net twice. Cubillas even managed to score against West Germany in Peru’s 3-1 loss to the European giants. On football’s biggest stage, Cubillas was shining. More important than that, however, was the utter joy with which the Peruvians were playing with; an infectious joy that brought a smile to the face of both the Peruvian fan and neutral spectator.

Peru’s next game, against Brazil in the quarter-finals, would be Cubillas’s defining moment at the tournament. In an exhilarating game, which saw Brazil and Peru trade blows for 90 minutes, Cubillas proved pivotal. A constant thorn in the side of the Brazilian defence, the young midfielder proved remarkably composed on football’s biggest stage. Although Brazil won the game 4-2, Cubillas’ performance and goal had earned him the respect of many of the Samba stars. After Brazil won the tournament outright, Pelé was asked if he would be returning in 1974. “No,” he replied, “but don’t worry, because I have a successor and his name is Teófilo Cubillas.”

Pelé’s praise was well-founded. When the tournament ended, Cubillas was awarded the Young Player of the Tournament award, the Bronze Ball and was named in the World Cup’s Best XI, all at just 20. Progressing further than any Peruvian team before or since, Peru’s 1970 squad helped – in some small way – to give hope to a nation still mourning. It was a team effort in which Cubillas’s contribution was invaluable.



Within two years it was apparent that Cubillas’s World Cup form was no mere fluke. At the 1972 Copa Libertadores, Cubillas finished as joint top-scorer, despite Alianza failing to progress past the group stages. This meant that the attacking dynamo had scored six goals in six matches in South America’s most gruelling tournament.

Still in his early 20s, Cubillas complimented his Libertadores form that season with 14 league goals in 29 games and a string of impressive international performances. In recognition of his exploits, Cubillas won that year’s South American Footballer of the Year, beating off the likes of Pelé and Jairzinho. Pelé’s chosen successor was living up to his reputation.

Interestingly, it was a charity match in the summer of 1973 that would see Cubillas make a lucrative, albeit unexpected, transfer to Europe. Playing in a UNICEF match against a European XI containing Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff, Gerd Müller and Eusébio among others, Cubillas had dominated the game, scoring two goals in the South American XI’s 3-1 victory. Overseeing the game was Ruedi Reisdorf, an FC Basel fan then working for the charity.

After the game, Reisdorf asked Cubillas how much it would take to bring him to Basel. Somewhat nonchalantly Cubillas replied $100,000, thinking the conversation to be nothing more than a passing fancy from the Swiss fan. You can imagine Cubillas’s reaction when months later an excited Reisdorf called Cubillas from Lima airport telling him he had the $100,000. If reports are to be believed, El Nene immediately drove to the Alianza’s training ground to speak with the chairman about staying in his hometown.

The two men decided to price Reisdorf out of the transfer, a tactic that underestimated the Swiss man’s determination. When told Cubillas’ value had risen to $300,000, Reisdorf smiled before accepting. Within weeks, Cubillas was reluctantly on a plane to Basel to begin his European adventure. Amazingly, FC Basel had secured one of South America’s greatest footballers, a feat they have yet to repeat, one that even at the time of writing seems unbelievable.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given Cubillas’s initial reluctance, his time with Basel did not prove to be a happy one. Unaccustomed to the cold weather, strange language and strict training regime, Cubillas struggled. As Cubillas was Basel’s only professional player at the time, he trained two to three times a day and fed on a diet mainly salads to ensure his health. Within six months he had dropped nearly 10 kilos and, while his performances were characteristically stellar, the midfielder was miserable. Just months into his contract, Cubillas met with Reisdorf to discuss his problems.

Far from angry, Reisdorf proved remarkably sympathetic to the Peruvians plight, despite the fact that the maestro was improving Basel’s form on the pitch. When Cubillas asked to be sold to another club, Reisdorf agreed. Porto came in with an offer of $400,000 and the Peruvian gratefully moved to a warmer European climate. Cubillas became the highest-paid player in Portugal at the time, ahead even of the legendary Eusébio. Rather than falter under the pressure of his price tag, Cubillas flourished.

For three years he wore the number 10 jersey at Porto where he marshalled the midfield and produced a series of spectacular goals that have lived in memories ever since. Though Porto only won a single trophy during his tenure, his 65 goals in 109 games and inspired captaincy ensured his legacy with the Portuguese side. Indeed, when Cubillas returned to Porto for a speaker’s function in 2012, he was hailed by the press as one of Porto’s shining lights of the 20th century.

While still a Porto player, Cubillas also experienced his greatest success in a Peruvian shirt. While the national team failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup in West Germany, they bounced back to win the 1975 Copa América. Despite notching a solitary goal in the tournament, Cubillas was voted the Copa’s best player, demonstrating his importance to the Peruvian side once more.

Returning to Portugal following the Copa, Cubillas continued his form by helping Porto win the Taça de Portugal, his sole title in Portugal. Although fans were desperate to keep Cubillas at the club, after three years in the blue and white Cubillas sought to return to Peru. The 1978 World Cup was on the horizon and the fleet-footed creative maestro was keen to return to Alianza Lima, the place where his remarkable career had begun. Similar to Basel, Porto posed little objections and, in 1977, Cubillas became an Alianza player once more.


Back in his natural habitat, it was inevitable that Cubillas would turn out for Peru in their 1978 World Cup run, much to the misfortune of Scottish football fans.

Scoring four goals in three games, Cubillas helped Peru finish top of their group, ahead of Holland and a highly-fancied Scottish side.

While the second group stage would see Peru finish bottom of their group, Cubillas had done enough to finish second top goalscorer in the tournament, only one goal behind the prolific Mario Kempes.

Cubillas’s five goals in ’78 saw him become one of the few players to score five goals in two separate World Cups.

Given that he regularly played as a midfielder in such games, the return was nothing short of phenomenal.

Off the back of his second standout World Cup, Cubillas was signed by Fort Lauderdale Strikers to embark upon the NASL adventure all footballing legends seemed to undertake in the 1970s. Over five seasons with the Strikers, Cubillas scored 65 goals in 141 games and created a formidable partnership with Gerd Müller and, for a brief period, George Best.

The 1981 season would prove Cubillas’s most fruitful in Lauderdale as the Peruvian number ten notched 17 goals, including a hat-trick in just seven minutes against the LA Aztecs, the team briefly owned by Elton John. Although Lauderdale failed to capitalise on his rich form, he was nevertheless named NASL’s midfielder of the season for 1981.

His domestic form was enough to secure Cubillas a spot in Peru’s 1982 World Cup squad. The only remaining squad member from Peru’s marauding 1970 squad, Cubillas played in Peru’s three ill-fated group games. Peru finished bottom of their group and dejectedly returned home. The magic of ’70 and ’78 had faded as Peru exited the World Cup. They have yet to return.

The remaining years of his career would see Cubillas alternate between the United States and his beloved Alianza Lima. While he nominally retired in the mid-1980s, Cubillas returned to Alianza Lima in 1987 after Aliancistas lost the majority of their first team in a tragic air disaster. Despite being in his late-30s, Cubillas helped to rebuild the side, scoring three goals in 13 games as Lima sought to rebuild. The cliché of class being permanent was always applicable in the case of Téofilo Cubillas.

The challenge in summing up Cubillas’s career stems not from a lack of success, but rather the abundance of it. Over two decades, Cubillas scored over 200 goals in 500 club matches, over 20 goals in a Peruvian jersey and collected a host of individual and team awards. He was a cultural icon both in his native Peru but also in the United States and Portugal.

Cubillas played football with a joy in his heart that radiated throughout the pitch. He played football in its purest form, creating passes and goals seemingly impossible for the average footballer. He dared fans and footballers to redefine the boundaries of the sport.

After seeing Cubillas’s free-kick against Scotland, a young José Luis Chilavert decided that despite being a goalkeeper, he wanted to take free-kicks. After playing against Cubillas, Pelé decided that his successor had well and truly come. After over 500 games – almost all littered with moments of incredible genius – Cubillas decided to put an end to a truly magical career. Peru may never produce another El Nene, but for many in the nation of a certain age, words cannot describe how thankful they are to have produced just one.

 By Conor Heffernan  @PhysCstudy


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Serginho (Brazil) - active: 1992-2008


One of the most underrated left backs/Left midfielders/left wingers that I can think of. He could play anything on the left side and he was really, really good. But due to other amazing left backs (Roberto Carlos for example) he never got to play more than 10 games for Brazil.




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16/01/2019 by BIKASH MOHAPATRA  

“Of course it is the mention of the cross that you always see returning. Actually I hit it too hard. I have given dozens of better passes in my career. If Marco van Basten had shot that ball to Cologne, everyone would have said that he could do little with that cross. Now it was suddenly the most beautiful assist ever. Marco made it so beautiful with that fantastic finish.”

Arnold Mühren, in conversation with Voetbal International, was downplaying the significance of his contribution to what remains the Netherlands’ greatest success on the international stage. 

In an illustrious career, during which he became one of only a handful of players to win all the major European club competitions, Mühren’s greatest moment arguably came in the final of the 1988 European Championship, against the erstwhile Soviet Union, when Marco van Basten turned his pinpoint cross into the most spectacular volley ever.

In the twilight of his career, Mühren was part of the Netherlands team that won Euro 88. At 37 years and 23 days, he was, and still is, the oldest European Championship winner. While Mühren admits that the triumph was “absolute highlight of my career”, he has reiterated that the assist he is best remembered for was “actually a poor cross”.

His modesty isn’t strange for someone who was quick to realise he was always going to play a supporting role in his career; forever the bridesmaid but never actually the bride. “It’s in our character [the Mühren brothers], putting yourself in the service of others. Football is a team sport in which you have to use each other’s qualities. We were in the service of the better players,” Mühren once said.

In fact, it was this grasp of reality early on that helped him to an immensely successful career lined with silver. While he may have lacked the skill of Johan Cruyff and the verve of Johan Neeskens, he made up for it through his brilliant consistency, professionalism and determination.

Mühren joined Ajax from FC Volendam in 1971 aged just 20. The Amsterdam side had just lifted their maiden European Cup and included in their ranks stalwarts like Cruyff, Neeskens, Johnny Rep, Sjaak Swart, Ruud Krol, Piet Keizer, Wim Suurbier and Arie Haan; individuals with strong personalities and world-class talent.

With elder brother Gerrie – also a left-sided midfielder – the preferred choice, it was palpable that the younger of the Mühren siblings had to content with the role of a substitute under legendary Romanian manager Ștefan Kovács.

Arnold played 62 league games in his first stint with the Amsterdammers between 1971 and 1974, winning the Eredivisie twice. Mühren was also part of the side that won a third straight European Cup, playing for a few minutes in the quarter-final second leg against Bayern Munich and the semi-final first leg against Real Madrid.

He played the entire 90 minutes in the semi-final second leg in Madrid, watching his elder brother score the winner and then juggle the ball to torment his opponents, indicating a shift in the balance of power, both in terms of success and ideology from Madrid to Amsterdam.

Though his contribution was less significant, Arnold nevertheless had plenty of silverware in his cabinet by the time he left the capital.

His next assignment, in Enschede, saw him play a bigger role. During a four-year stint, he helped Twente reach the UEFA Cup final in 1975, losing to German side Borussia Mönchengladbach, and win the KNVB Beker in 1977. Then came the opportunity that helped establish his reputation as one of the best players of his generation. 

Impressed with Mühren’s performances in Enschede, Bobby Robson didn’t hesitate to pay £150,000, a considerable sum back then, to bring him to Ipswich Town in 1978. A year later, another Dutchman, Frans Thijssen – Mühren’s teammate at Twente – joined the English side, and the duo, amongst the earliest overseas superstars to play at the highest level in England, combined to form a formidable midfield axis and ensure the most successful period in the history of the Suffolk club.


While some wondered whether the Dutchman from the Total Football side of Ajax could adapt to the English game, Mühren instead ensured that English football adapted around him. “Ipswich played like a Dutch team,” he once told the Independent, “and proved it was possible to play that way and be successful.” 

Mühren played a pivotal role as Ipswich won the FA Cup in 1978, the UEFA Cup in 1981 and twice finished runners-up in the First Division. Robson was palpably pleased to see his decision vindicated, and was fond of the player’s character. “Mühren was a wonderful passer, great vision. I cannot think of anyone I would rate higher as a professional than Arnold. No one works harder and when the match is over, he won’t go out drinking. He goes to bed,” the legendary England manager was quoted as saying by the media.

Soon after Robson left Ipswich to take over the mantle of the England national team, Mühren was looking for pastures new. He opted for Ron Atkinson’s Manchester United. While only the first of his three seasons at Old Trafford could be considered a success, winning the FA Cup and scoring a penalty in the final replay against Brighton, Mühren had valid reason to back his move north. “I thought it was my last chance to play for such a big club,” he confessed later, adding, “But I didn’t know that I’d play for Ajax again for another three years after that.”

That return to Amsterdam was bolstered by the desire to play under Cruyff, who was now managing Ajax, and helped him add the only major silverware missing from his trophy cabinet – the now-defunct Cup Winners’ Cup in 1987. More importantly, it also afforded Mühren, aged 36, a last shot at making an impression with the national team. 

For all his success at club level, Mühren seldom had the chance to wear the famous Oranje, such was the depth of the Dutch squad in those days. Despite being a graceful midfielder and comfortable on the ball, Mühren was often underrated, ignored for more outwardly gifted players and those plying their trade on the continent.

As a result, he has something of an unwanted record in common with the likes of Alfredo Di Stéfano, George Best, Eric Cantona, George Weah, Ian Rush and Ryan Giggs. Like the aforementioned legends, Mühren never got the opportunity to play at the biggest tournament of them all: the World Cup.

A rookie Mühren was never in contention for the 1974 squad that made the final in Germany, becoming synonymous with Total Football. In fact, manager Rinus Michels had asked the elder of the siblings, Gerrie, at the peak of his powers, to join the squad. However, Gerrie refused due to the ill health of his son.

In the run-up to the 1978 World Cup, the younger Mühren made his debut for the national team in a friendly against Tunisia, but didn’t make the squad that travelled to Argentina. The Netherlands reached the final for a second straight time, again losing to the host nation.

He did feature in the qualification for the 1982 edition, scoring the winner against France and a penalty in the 2-2 draw against the Republic of Ireland. However, losing both their opening matches – away to Ireland and Belgium – came back to haunt the Dutch. Another loss to France in their final qualifier in Paris meant that the Netherlands could finish only fourth in Group 2, with Belgium and France making it to Spain.

The qualification for the 1986 ended in another failure for the Netherlands, unable get it past neighbours Belgium in the playoffs. However, by then a new generation of Dutch players had come into the team. As a result, Mühren, who symbolised the failure of the old for some, failed to gain a place in the squad.

From his fledgeling career to his peak to his twilight years, Mühren had witnessed four World Cup tournaments without being a part of any of them. To his credit, he was gracious enough to accept the reality. “In my career at the various clubs, I grabbed all the big prizes. For me, however, 1988 was the crowning glory of my career. 

“I am very proud to have been part of two major generations of Dutch football. In 1971 I came to an Ajax team having Cruyff, Keizer and Neeskens – who had just won a maiden European Cup – and as a 37-year old, I won the European Championship with Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit and Van Basten,” he told Voetbal International.

The fact remains that Mühren’s selection for the Euro 88 squad – his first European Championship following non-selection in 1976 and 1980, and the failure of the team to qualify in 1984 – was as much down to luck as anything. “ I was the only odd duck in the middle of that Oranje selection in terms of age. But I never felt like a father figure. Not even when I returned to Ajax. Then I was 35,” Mühren was quoted as saying to the media. 

“In 1987 they lacked a left-sided player during qualifying. At one point, Ronald Koeman even played on the left. And even though Koeman was a fantastic footballer, they got me out of the stable.”

In the remaining qualifiers, Mühren scored the second goal in a 2-0 win over Hungary. It was his third and final goal for his country, with all three of them coming at De Kuip in Rotterdam. 

In the tournament proper, the 37-year-old used the wealth of experience he had to his advantage. Even though he was again a sidekick, amidst a gamut of star names, Mühren played his role to perfection. His calm head and sublime passing served the team particularly well, and they recovered from an opening defeat against the Soviet Union to set up a final against the same opponents.

“The crazy thing was, in the Netherlands everyone thought after the semi-final against West Germany that we would win the final,” recalled Mühren. “It’s the biggest nonsense I had ever heard. The final was against Russia and it had to be won. That’s why I was immediately focused on them. I knew it would be my last international match. 

“I stayed on the field for 90 minutes despite my age. I was also pretty fit and, in my opinion, Michels also allowed me to make it to the final whistle. You cannot wish for a nicer farewell. To win something with your country is beautiful.”

In fact, 10 of Mühren’s 23 matches for the national side had come during Euro 88; five in the qualifiers and five in the tournament proper. In his final appearance, he had made a key contribution to the winning cause in the form of that famous looping cross. It’s what many outside of his homeland and England remember him for. Even though he missed out on opportunities to represent his country on the biggest stage, the Dutch victory at the Olympiastadion in Munich ensured a perfect swansong for Mühren. 

It has been more than 30 years since the Netherlands won their only major international title. “The 1988 championship is the only tournament we ever won, and whenever a big championship comes about, everybody is talking about it,” Mühren was quoted as saying by the Irish Times. “I look back on 1988 with great memories, but it is about time that another Dutch team won a major tournament.” 

With a new generation of stars waiting in the wings, ready to elevate the Dutch to their standards of old, perhaps there’s another Arnold Mühren behind the scenes, patiently biding his time, underrated and quiet, but determined to leave a mark on the world of football.

By Bikash Mohapatra @vickeypedia


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Mühren and Thijssen, taking totalvoetbal to Suffolk

DECEMBER 11, 2019NEIL FREDRIK JENSEN.                www.gameofthepeople.com

IN the mid-1970s, there was a certain fascination for all things Dutch among the football fraternity. Some managers, such as Dave Sexton, Ron Greenwood and Bobby Robson, were students of the European game and attempted to bring elements of the continent to England. It didn’t always work, for English players were not schooled in the same way as their European counterparts, but these managers at least demonstrated they were willing to learn from Germany, the Netherlands and other countries.

English football was still somewhat xenophobic, however, and clubs rarely saw a glimpse of a foreign player. In February 1978, the European Community decreed that the football associations of member states had to allow players from abroad access to England. In the summer of 1978, the Football League lifted a ban that dated back to 1931. Some clubs moved quickly, notably Tottenham Hotspur, who signed two members of Argentina’s victorious World Cup squad: Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa. It was more a trickle than a torrent of new talent, but by the end of 1978-79, clubs like Ipswich Town, Southampton, Chelsea, Manchester City and Birmingham City had all signed foreign players.

By sheer virtue of the fact they were “not from round here”, most of these players were popular, their foreign status making them a curiosity. Ipswich Town acquired two Dutch players, Arnold Mühren and Frans Thijssen, arguably the best overseas duo to enter the Football League in the 1970s. They were certainly more consistent than the Spurs pair and helped create a better team than anything that came out of north London during that period.

pa-320917-1.jpg?w=999&h=546&crop=1 Ipswich Town’s Frans Thijssen brings the ball inside Cologne’s Engels

Ipswich, under Bobby Robson, had a reputation for purist football and represented a solid challenge to Liverpool, often undone by their lack of strength in depth. They were a small club, playing in front of just 23,000 people at their homely Portman Road ground. They were also a popular club outside their own environs. Between 1972-73 and 1976-77, Ipswich finished in the top four on four occasions. In 1977-78, a season that saw them flirt with relegation, they won the FA Cup, only their second major honour after their shock 1961-62 title win when Alf Ramsey was in charge.

Robson was looking for something different to make his team into championship contenders. Kevin Beattie, a player that was once rated the future of English football, was plagued by injury and Brian Talbot, an industrious midfielder, departed for Arsenal in mid-season. Robson’s first venture into the overseas market came in the summer of 1978 when he signed Mühren from Twente for £ 150,000. Mühren had mixed in good circles, growing up among Ajax’s golden generation that included Johan Cruyff. He had won the European Cup in 1973 and was still only 27. His cultured left foot was a joy to watch, although his debut against Liverpool was a setback, a three-goal home defeat. Mühren was anonymous as the game bypassed him, prompting a post-match discussion with Robson. The message was clear: “I need the ball”.

It wasn’t long before Robson started to adapt Ipswich’s style and also to take notice of some of the methods adopted by Dutch football clubs. Mühren noticed the lack of pre-match preparation, something that was important to clubs like Ajax and Feyenoord. Pretty soon, his team-mates were warming to pre-match gym sessions.

Ipswich were still inconsistent and after the Boxing Day draw with Norwich, they were 16th in the first division and had won just seven of their 21 games. Robson signed Thijssen from Twente for £ 200,000, providing Mühren with a like-minded partner in midfield.

Ipswich’s form in the second half of the season was impressive. They lost just twice in 20 games, winning seven of their last eight. They also reached the quarter-final of the FA Cup and were narrowly beaten by Barcelona on away goals in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup.

The following season, Ipswich were seen as possible champions, but their start to the campaign was disastrous, with Robson’s men losing eight of their first 12 games. But after losing to Coventry at the start of December, they went 22 games without defeat and finished third, just seven points behind champions Liverpool.

By now, Mühren and Thijssen were the driving force of Ipswich’s free-flowing style. Robson said of Mühren: “I cannot think of anyone I would rate higher as a professional. No one worked harder.”

Thijssen, speaking some years later, recalled that when he arrived from Twente, Ipswich played like most other teams: “The English style was to kick it forward as much as possible, so when you played midfielder you had to run forward and if you didn’t get the ball, you would have to run back. Bobby [Robson] changed the srtyle, telling the defenders to play it to the Dutch guys in the midfield. That style suited our team very well.”


The 1980-81 season was supposed to be Ipswich’s finest hour. Ipswich had an excellent starting XI and played a compelling brand of football. They were unbeaten in their first 14 games and were chasing the title all season as well as fighting on the European front and in the FA Cup. Ipswich lost in the FA Cup semi-final and eventually finished second in the league, four points behind an Aston Villa team they had beaten three times during the season. Frans Thijssen, who was named Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year award, missed the last five league fixtures with hamstring problems and Ipswich lost four of them. Ipswich did win silverware, though, lifting the UEFA Cup in a two-legged final against AZ 67 Alkmaar. Thijssen scored in both games.

Ipswich finished runners-up in the league again in 1981-82 and at the end of the season, Bobby Robson departed. So, too did Mühren, joining Manchester United. A year later, Thijssen signed for Nottingham Forest.

The club’s golden era was drawing to a close and in 1986, Ipswich were relegated. Mühren finished playing in 1989 and Thijssen hung his boots up in 1991.

Both players remember their time at Portman Road with affection. Thijssen recalled: “We came very close to winning the championship, that is the only pity. We had a small group of players and injuries at the end of that season cost us the title.”

Mühren paid tribute to the way Bobby Robson brought something new to English football. “Ipswich played like a Dutch team and proved it was possible to play that way and be successful.”

With a little luck, and a bigger squad, Arnold Mühren and Frans Thijssen may have ended their Suffolk jaunt with a few more medals. But they left behind some wonderful memories of a time when Dutch flair made Ipswich one of the best teams in the land.




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08/06/2018 by AIDAN WILLIAMS  

“With so many great players in one team, you make art. You don’t mean to but you do.” These were the thoughts of one of the crucial cogs in the Dutch totaalvoetbal machine of the 1970s, the flying forward, Johnny Rep; a man for whom the complexities and sophistication of total football was, in his own words, “natural”.

With his long, tousled blonde locks flowing as he glided down the wing, Rep stood out not only for his ability and his lethal right foot, but for the rock star image and reputation as something of a bad boy – albeit a reputation he held no sway with.

The name Rep sits alongside those of Cruyff, Neeskens and Krol when you cast your mind back to the brilliant orange images of 1974. Swathed in a glow of 1970s cool, with free-flowing football and free-flowing hair, the gloriously doomed squad that delighted and dazzled featured Rep as one of its key attacking weapons.

Add in the swagger and bravado of a man with supreme confidence in his ability and you have all the makings of an iconic, era-defining player. He was a late addition to the all-conquering Ajax side of the early 1970s, but he was arguably as instrumental in the dominance of Total Football as anyone bar Johan Cruyff.

It was in his on-field links with Cruyff that Rep formed a formidable attacking trio initially at club level alongside Piet Keizer, and subsequently at international level alongside Rob Rensenbrink, that took him within striking distance of the ultimate footballing summit.  He remains the Netherlands’ leading scorer at the World Cup with seven goals – four on the way to the final in 1974 and another three as the Dutch fell agonisingly short again in 1978.

Even in the agony of defeat, Rep was the key man. For all the sublime goals and outrageous talent, the highs of his career will always be set alongside the three tragic chances he missed in the 1974 final.

Rep had arrived at Ajax as a 16-year-old in the late 1960s from the humble, unassuming surroundings of Zaandam. There he had come to the attention of Ajax thanks to his performances with the local amateur team in the Dutch second tier, a club who had nurtured the future star from the age of eight.

Spending a year in the Ajax youth team and two years in the second team, Rep settled comfortably into the Ajax way during those formative years. “All the teams wanted to play the same system,” he said, reflecting on his time with Zaandam. “But at Ajax, the players were better, so it was easier to play with them.”

As tempting as it may seem to seem to label Rep as being another Ajax product schooled by the legendary Rinus Michels during this time, that wouldn’t be quite accurate. He may have joined the Amsterdam giants during Michels’ time in charge, but Rep’s initial breakthrough in the first team came at the start of the 1971/72 season, some months after Michels had left Ajax for Barcelona, having just delivered the first of the Amsterdam club’s trio of successive European Cup wins.

The new Ajax coach, Romanian Ștefan Kovács, gave the gangly, awkward looking Rep his debut on the right wing. Rep went on to make sporadic appearances in his first season, occasionally deputising for Ajax legend Sjaak Swart – Mr Ajax as he was known. Rep’s big breakthrough would come a year later.

Early the following season, after Ajax had added another European Cup triumph, they took part in the Intercontinental Cup, having declined to do so the previous year. An hour into the second leg of the clash with Argentine side Independiente, Rep was brought off the bench to replace Swart. The game was very much in the balance at that stage, Ajax leading 1-0 in the night and 2-1 on aggregate.

The benefit of hindsight allows us to flag this moment as the changing of the guard, the passing of the baton from the old to the new. Swart had been a stalwart of Ajax and Dutch football for so long, but his ageing legs were beginning to feel the toll of the intensity. Rep, now 20, came off the bench that night and swaggered onto the right wing, his long blonde highlights flowing and shimmering under the lights.

Within four minutes he had announced himself to the world, scoring his first major goal for Ajax, swinging the match decisively in their favour. Ten minutes from the end of the match he repeated the trick with a sublime, graceful goal, running from the halfway line, past the Argentine defence, and shimmying past the goalkeeper to score. That sealed a 3-0 win, and the global title for the exuberant Dutch.

As first steps towards international renown go, Rep’s weren’t so much a tentative, timid foray into a higher level of play, but were more akin marching headlong into an arena to which he immediately belonged. Swart’s days on the Ajax right may have been numbered by the passing of time, but the emergence of Rep meant that the club wasn’t merely in safe hands, but there were the makings of an electrifying, exuberant, front line alongside Cruyff and Keizer.

On the field, the young Rep was gelling well with his two colleagues, both players he had considered his heroes in his teenage years. But this productive playing relationship was a much more strained one that it appeared on the pitch.

“I had problems with Johan,” said Rep. “We did not get along well, except on the ground. I was a little bit young and Johan was always telling me what to do. Do this, do that. And I was a boy but I spoked back to him. He was stubborn and so was I – that was our problem. And Johan doesn’t like that. You must always say ok. But I did it instinctively because I didn’t like him telling me what to do.”

Rep was not alone in having such issues with the perfectionist Cruyff. On the field, the Cruyff-led Ajax seemingly continued from strength to strength, but the successes masked a dying of the light for that great team. The end of an era was nigh. Rep had become an essential member of an Ajax team that was entering the final flings of their golden age.

They had one more glittering flourish to their years of continental dominance later that same season, in defeating Juventus in Belgrade to win a third successive European Cup.  For Rep, it marked another significant moment in his rapid rise to the top.

He had already been instrumental in the European campaign, particularly in laying on Gerrie Muhren’s stunning semi-final winner away at Real Madrid. He then scored the only goal of the final after only five minutes with a delightful, looping header past Dino Zoff to further enhance his burgeoning reputation, and handy knack of scoring vital goals in the most significant matches. The young Rep’s status in Ajax folklore was now assured.

But in spite of their historic achievement, the Ajax fans returned home from their latest triumph rather subdued, even disgruntled. “Juventus were so frightened,” Rep remembers. “We were surprised. A good team but they did nothing. They seemed satisfied to lose 1-0. We were waiting for them. Come! But nothing. For the public, I’m afraid, it was a very bad game.”

The game had been a dull one, and the manner of victory left many fans, and indeed many of the players who had been there throughout this glorious era, dissatisfied. Having fallen behind, Juventus made little effort to strive for an equaliser, leaving Ajax needing to do little more than pass the ball among themselves for large swathes of the match, playing keep-ball until the clock ticked over to 90 minutes.

“The biggest problem was that everything was so easy,” recalled Rep. “It was such a good team. The players had won everything. They needed another challenge, another team, another club. We had won everything.” For Rep individually, it was a triumph, but for several of his colleagues, it was not the same any more. Many of the team had become jaded and would soon seek new challenges elsewhere.

For Cruyff, the end at Ajax was hastened soon after by an ill-conceived captaincy election, instigated at the start of the following season by the new manager George Knobel. Keizer won the vote by a significant margin. “We just wanted to take someone else,” recalled Rep. “But I think it broke something for Johan. That was it for him. We went further with Johan as a player. But the talking, it was terrible.”

While there was a clear clash of personalities, on the field Cruyff had been a huge influence on the young prodigy. “I learnt a lot of my own play from Cruyff,” Rep would later recall. “Of course, the most important things for a footballer to have are instinct and talent. When you can play football, you don’t need to learn. If you don’t have the instinct, you cannot be a good player. But I learnt a lot from Cruyff. When I was 19 years old he was my mentor. If I was a little bit too relaxed, he was always behind me, always pushing.”

But Cruyff was soon on his way to Barcelona for the 1973/74 season. The great man’s departure allowed Rep to flourish that season with Ajax – freed of the shackles of Cruyff, he relished his new role and the team’s primary attacking focus. This time apart also seems to have allowed relations to mellow somewhat, as by the time the Dutch stars gathered together in the summer of 1974, everything blended together in near perfection.

Aged 22, Rep was a mainstay of the 1974 World Cup team that so captivated the watching world. In their first World Cup appearance for 36 years, the Dutch team clicked from the opening kick-off. Rep marked himself out immediately as their key attacking threat with two neatly taken goals against an overly defensive Uruguay. He scored again in a 4-1 thrashing of Bulgaria as the Netherlands stormed into the second round top of their group.

Ostensibly playing on the right-hand side of a three-pronged attack line, Rep had a tendency to cut inside, very much akin to one of his more recent successors in an orange shirt, Arjen Robben. Added to this were frequent bursts into the box, to be in effect the main striker, making Rep the key source of Dutch goals. He added another – a flying header in the torrential rain to score the Netherlands’ third goal – in the most captivating display they had produced so far, beating Argentina 4-0 to open the second round group stage.

Against Brazil, in the intense and at times brutal de facto semi-final, the young Rep left his mark on the great Rivellino, refusing to be bullied or to back down. Having been jostled by the Brazilian, Rep waited a few seconds and delivered a retaliatory elbow to the face. “He had done it to me before and that was my reaction,” said Rep. “Of course, you look to make sure the referee doesn’t see it. But he started it!” There was a steely side to Rep to complement the silk.

When it came to the final with hosts West Germany, confidence was understandably high. Rep was one of six in the Dutch side to have been schooled in the Ajax way that Michels had now transferred to the national team. The German side was also strongly influenced by just one club, in their case with six players from a Bayern Munich background. But the Ajax contingent had regularly been victorious in clashes between the two.

Having scored four times to bring the Dutch this far, Rep would be central to the lost opportunity of 1974.  In the 24th minute, with the Netherlands leading 1-0 thanks to their early penalty, Cruyff broke clear of the German defence and drew the goalkeeper Sepp Maier towards him. He slipped the ball to Rep to add the final flourish and put the dominant Dutch into a deserved and commanding lead. For once, at such a crucial moment, Rep’s normally accomplished finishing deserted him. He stabbed the ball straight at Maier, and the chance was gone.

Up until that point, Rep had been on the periphery of the action in the final, limited to just a few fleeting touches that left him not quite up to speed with the game when this golden chance came along. “I was not very good in the game at that moment,” said Rep. “Not many balls, nothing important. And then you have a very good chance.”

His miss was to prove a real sliding doors moment in the match. Barely a minute later, West Germany won a dubious penalty at the other end of the pitch, and the match was levelled. By half-time the Dutch were trailing, paying a heavy price for their earlier complacency.

Rep was a central character to the second half. Breaking clear on the right, he shot narrowly wide, ignoring the better placed Willem van Hanegem. He later hit the post and had another effort that Maier saved at his feet, in amongst a string of other Dutch chances that went begging.

It was not to be for the dazzling Dutch that day. For Rep, the chances he couldn’t take would linger with him, but the real fault was a collective one, as he described some years later. “We wanted to make fun of the Germans,” he said. “We didn’t think about it but we did it, passing the ball around and around. We forgot to score the second goal. When you see the film of the game, you can see that the Germans got more and more angry. It was our fault. It would have been much better if West Germany had scored in the first minute.”

Many of the same players, Rep included, were back four years later when the global showdown made its way to Argentina. Again, Rep was crucial to the Dutch forward line, along with Rensenbrink and René van der Kerkhof, this time playing more centrally than he had done in 1974 given the absence of Cruyff.

It was a very different experience to that of 1974, where thousands of orange-clad Dutch fans dominated the crowd whenever they played. “It was far away from home and people didn’t have the money to go,” said Rep. “We spent three weeks in a training camp in the Andes. Nobody there. We went crazy. In the first game against Iran in Mendoza there were 5,000 people – not many Dutch. No atmosphere. We played very badly. Against Scotland, 10,000. Again no atmosphere.”

They had started the group stage hesitantly but had seen off Iran with a 3-0 victory. But following a 0-0 draw with Peru, the Dutch were staring down the barrel of elimination as they trailed Scotland 3-1 in the high altitude and bumpy pitch of Mendoza. Archie Gemmell had zigzagged his way to his glorious solo goal, and the Netherlands were on the ropes, with just one more Scottish goal enough to send them home.

Up stepped Rep with the strike that he is probably best remembered for. Dropping deep to collect the ball from Neeskens in midfield he ran into space before unleashing a sumptuously ferocious piledriver that flew into the Scottish net and made the Dutch safe. “A little bit of a lucky goal,” said the man himself. It was a strike of pure instinct, given a lack of other options.

He would score two more in the second phase 5-1 thrashing of Austria, as the Netherlands hit their stride just at the right moment on their way to another date with disastrous destiny in the final with Argentina.

“In 1978 we had a good team,” recalled Rep. “But we were happy just to play the final.” Expectations were somewhat different to those of four years before, of course, when Total Football swash-buckled its way to almost total dominance. The tournament, too, had a different feel to it – almost sinister.

After the sparsely attended early games, when the Dutch moved on to Buenos Aires in the latter stages, the crowds packed in and the atmosphere turned febrile and volatile. “There was 80,000 for the final, but that was terrible too. Argentina had to win. It was bizarre. Not a normal situation. There was some fear too. A lot of people said that if we won the game, there would be a big problem afterwards. All the military, not a good atmosphere. It was too heavy.”

Rather than for Rep as in 1974, the sliding doors moment this time fell to Rensenbrink, hitting the post in the last minute of normal time with the scores level, before the hosts prevailed in extra-time.

In the years between his two World Cup final appearances, Rep had moved on from the now broken-up Ajax team and gone off to earn a salary more in keeping with his abilities in the wealthier leagues of Europe. He had two highly productive seasons in Valencia where he joined forces with his future World Cup final opponent Mario Kempes, as well as Paraguayan striker Carlos Díaz, where Rep averaged almost a goal every other game. “That was the best attack I played in,” said Rep. “Better than with Cruyff and Keizer.”

But for a player as cultured as Rep, the training laid on by the coach, another Paraguayan, Heriberto Herrera, was less than fulfilling. “Discipline? Good. Coaching? Terrible,” was Rep’s verdict. “We never played with a ball in training. Always running.” Amid financial tensions with the Valencia hierarchy, Rep made the very unusual move of paying £150,000 to buy out his own contract so that he was free to move on.

He next shipped up in Corsica to play for a Bastia team that was a rising force in the French game, and had more than a little influence from the local mafia, rumoured to be involved in financing the deal for the high-profile Rep. With Bastia’s play built around their Dutch star, Rep looked instantly more at home.

Just prior to the 1978 World Cup, he’d been not only instrumental in Bastia’s epic run to the UEFA Cup final, but had almost single-handedly dragged them there himself. It was an experience that Rep would describe as “fantastic – the whole island was crazy for one year.” They would ultimately lose to PSV Eindhoven, but such was Rep’s influence on one of the French league’s lesser lights that he earned a move to the principal French club of that era for the start of the 1979/80 season: Saint-Étienne.

There he would form a fearsome combination with the youthful Michel Platini and Dominique Rocheteau. Rep was an instant hit, scoring a hat-trick in one of his first appearances for the club in a UEFA Cup tie with Widzew Łódź, when they had been trailing 2-1 from the first leg.

The impressive output from the gloriously productive front line was best exemplified by another UEFA Cup tie in which Les Verts put six past PSV, including three in the first four minutes of the game. The team were electrifying going forward, and Rep was at its very heart, pulling the string and bringing the best out of the talents surrounding him.

They would go on to win the French title in 1981, but two years later it all came to an ignominious end when the club president became embroiled in financial scandal. However, this French escapade was one of the finest spells of Rep’s career. “If you ask me where I was happiest, the answer will always be Saint-Étienne”’ he noted.

On the international front, Rep’s career had hit a lull in the aftermath of the 1980 European Championship, not being a part of the team that began a tough qualifying group for the 1982 World Cup. Under Ernst Happel’s stewardship, the Dutch were phasing out many of the remaining stars of the 70s to allow a new breed to come through. But after a disastrous opening to that campaign, Happel was replaced by Kees Rijvers, who had been initially reluctant to recall Rep, among others, partly thanks to some outspoken comments Rep had directed at him surrounding that 6-0 thrashing of Rijvers’ PSV by Rep’s Saint-Étienne.

But as the campaign continued to stutter, Rep came back into the squad for the final five qualifiers. It would prove too late for the Dutch, however. In losing to France, they would miss out on reaching the tournament in Spain. It was a failure that would signal the end of Rep’s magnificent international career at the age of 30.

Returning to the Netherlands after it had all gone sour in France, Rep played for PEC Zwolle before having a final fling at the sharp end of the league with Feyenoord. But the best days were behind him and other influences were now taking their toll. The claws of alcoholism were taking over and led to a raft of personal traumas, with more than one failed marriage and being left penniless and homeless. It was a sad end to what had been a remarkable career.

Rep had been central to all that the Dutch achieved in the 1970s, and indeed all that they failed to achieve. As David Winner noted in his Dutch football epic Brilliant Orange, speaking to Rep about the high points of Dutch football: “For me, you are in most of them.” Rep, naturally, wholeheartedly agreed with this assessment.

He was a fabulous footballer who had it all. Skill in abundance, a compelling confidence bordering on nonchalance, an eye for a goal, and a vicious right foot. Total Football had come naturally to him as he stood prominently among one of the finest generations of footballing talent one country has ever produced.

By Aidan Williams @yad_williams











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Rob Rensenbrink and Ruud Krol

Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Hans Peters

If you ask someone to name the king of Dutch football, the answer from most people will invariably be Johan Cruyff. And why not - he's a true icon of the game, a genuine legend. But what if, in the Cruyff-lessWorld Cup Final of 1978, a tight-angled shot 14 seconds into injury-time had been an inch to the right? Then we all might be naming another holder of that crown... Rob Rensenbrink.

If Rensenbrink’s opportunistic poke had gone in, not only would the Netherlands have been crowned world champions, but Rensenbrink would also have finished as the World Cup Golden Boot winner and would have been seen as the standout player of the tournament. Instead, Argentinian forward Mario Kempes pipped him to both, with his extra-time winner.

Yet whilst that goalpost may have cost Rob Rensenbrink the chance of becoming a true footballing legend, his story and career is still a great one...



Born in Amsterdam, Rob Rensenbrink was one of the few really talented local youngsters to slip through the Ajax net in the early 1960s, so instead of starting out at Ajax’s Sportpark Voorland along with other Amsterdam lads such as Johan Cruyff and Ruud Krol, he began his footballing career with another club in the city - DWS.

Despite Ajax’s forthcoming dominance of the Eredivisie league in the late 1960s, DWS had incredibly become Dutch football league winners when they won the title in 1963-64, and then come close again when they finished second and fourth in the following seasons, so they had some talent in their ranks, and Rensenbrink soon started to showcase his skills there. He had a slinky, lithe style to his game, a great touch, especially with that sweet left foot of his, and an ability to beat defenders on the left wing with both traditional dribbling and bursts of speed, as well as more unconventional feints and tricks. It was this style and skill (along with his lean frame) which would eventually lead to Rensenbrink getting one of our favourite footballers' nicknames - "Het Slangenmens", meaning the Snakeman or the Contortionist.

All these attributes made the national team manager, Georg Kessler, sit up and take notice, eventually earning him a call up to the national team in 1968, for a match against Scotland.

Rob Rensenbrink had four years in the DWS first team, from 1965 to 1969. Strangely, given his success during this period, and the traditional pulling-power of the Eredivisie giants, Ajax and Feyenoord, this would be Rensenbrink's only spell in the Dutch league.


With Rensenbrink in such fine form in the Eredivisie, it was no surprise that all of the big Dutch clubs were interested in signing him, and it was assumed he’d make his choice between them, with the Amsterdam football powerhouse Ajax the obvious favourites.

But this is one of the things we really love about some of the players and transfer dealings from this era - the unexpected sometimes happened. Strange, unconventional moves and deals occurred every now and again that you just don't get in modern football. And so it was with Rob Rensenbrink.

So, rather than doing as expected and signing with Ajax or Feyenoord, Rensenbrink surprised everyone in 1969 with a left-field move, over the border to Belgium, and Club Brugge. The Blauw-Zwart hadn’t won the Belgian First Division title since 1920, but Rensenbrink was impressed with their ambition and desire to break the ten year monopoly of Anderlecht and Standard Liège. The move proved to be a success on a personal level, with Rensenbrink averaging a goal every two games, whilst for Club Brugge as a club it was close to being inspired as they finished runners-up during both of Rensenbrink's first two seasons in his new league.


Rensenbrink’s form for Club Brugge on the left wing had alerted bigger clubs all around Europe, as well as the two Dutch giants who were now actually starting to dominate European club football - Feyenoord winning the European Cup in 1970 and then Ajax following suit in 1971. But again Rensenbrink sprang a massive surprise, opting to stay in Belgium and moving to Anderlecht in 1971.

So, whilst back home in the Netherlands Ajax had their own attacking legends in Cruyff and Piet Keizer, and Feyenoord had theirs in Wim van Hanegem and Coen Moulijn, Rob Rensenbrink became a legend in Brussels, forging fantastic attacking partnerships with the likes of Belgian midfielders Ludo Coeck and Paul Van Himst, and Hungarian striker Attila Ladynski. Rensenbrink's goals, assists, and general performances helped bring the title back to the Parc Astrid in his first season at the club, scoring 16 goals as they pipped his former club Club Brugge to the championship on goal difference.

Another 16 goal haul in his second season at Anderlecht wasn't enough to lead them to the title though, as they finished a lowly fifth. However, the next three seasons would see Rensenbrink's best scoring stats of his career, hitting the net 20, 19 and 23 times in the league, winning a second Belgium Football League winners medal in 1974 as Anderlecht looked to reassert themselves back to the top of the domestic scene.


Despite his fantastic form at domestic level, Rensenbrink was struggling to get a prolonged run in the national team, mainly because of Piet Keizer, Ajax's brilliant left winger. Indeed, Rensenbrink played only three times for the Oranje between 1970 and 1973, so things weren't looking great for him as his first tournament approached - the 1974 World Cup.

However, controversial events at Ajax were about to work in Rensenbrink's favour. Arguments between Cruyff and Keizer over the club captaincy were one of the reasons for Cruyff transferring to Barcelona in 1973, and the bad blood had started to spill over into the national arena, with Cruyff and Keizer hardly even on speaking terms when the squad met up for international matches. František Fadrhonc had been the national coach for the Netherlands 1974 World Cup qualifying campaign but Barcelona boss Rinus Michels was brought in by the KNVB to take the reigns for the actual tournament. Michels knew Johan Cruyff better than anyone, and realised that because of the fallout over the Ajax arguments, playing his star man up front with Keizer wasn't ideal. So, Michels changed the system to a three-man attack, with Cruyff in a roving role behind Rensenbrink on the left, and 22 year-old Ajax starlet Johnny Rep on the right.

Rob Rensenbrink 1974 World Cup

Rob Rensenbrink before the 1974 World Cup.

Whilst Cruyff was undroppable, there were contrasting fortunes for Rensenbrink and Rep in the opening game against Uruguay. Rep grabbed both goals as they won 2:0, whilst Rensenbrink was dropped for the next game against Sweden in favour of Keizer. However, the Ajax man didn't impress against the Swedes and Michels handed Rensenbrink the starting slot in the final group game against Bulgaria. Needing to win to ensure they went through, Rensenbrink grabbed his opportunity with a fantastic performance as they took the Bulgarians apart with a brilliant 4:1 victory.

The Rensenbrink-Cruyff-Rep partnership had now hit top form as they entered the second stage, dismantling Argentina 4:0 in the first game, and then comfortably seeing off East Germany 2:0 in the second game, Rensenbrink scoring his maiden goal of the World Cup as he slotted home their second goal from just inside the penalty area. In the final match of the group, effectively a semi-final against Brazil, Rensenbrink set up Cruyff to score the second goal as the Dutch won a ferocious battle 2:0. However, the match ended in disappointment for Rensenbrink as he had to hobble off with an injury just after he'd set up Cruyff's goal.

The victory over Brazil set up a final against the hosts, West Germany. The physios had just three days to get Rob Rensenbrink fit for the final, but having had so much success with the attacking trio, Michels knew that their best chance of lifting the trophy was to have all three playing together. Rensenbrink was declared fit, but unfortunately the gamble didn't pay off, he started the final but had to be withdrawn at half-time, the injury clearly affecting him in the first half as he was unable to have the same level of impact as in the rest of the tournament. To make things even worse, the West Germans came from behind to lift the trophy, winning 2:1.


Back on the domestic front, Rensenbrink was the subject of heavy interest from Ajax. Having lost out to Feyenoord in the 1974 title race, they were looking to become Eredivisie winners again and also to re-establish themselves as European Cup contenders once more. They were keen to spend the money they'd received from Barcelona for Johan Neeskens on Rob Rensenbrink, but Anderlecht baulked at the idea of a cash deal, saying the only thing they'd consider was a player-swap involving Johnny Rep. Ajax declined the offer, and so Rensenbrink stayed at Anderlecht.

Rensenbrink continued to score freely for Les Mauves, but the coming seasons would prove frustrating as they ultimately failed to win another Belgian championship after their 1974 title success. This was despite landing Rensenbrink's national team-mate Arie Haan from Ajax and the emergence of talented Belgian youngsters such as Franky Vercauteren and Francois "Swat" Van der Elst.

Whilst Anderlecht struggled to overturn Rensenbrink's former team, Club Brugge, in the league, they had more joy in the Belgian Cup, winning the trophy in 1975 and 1976. Their success in the domestic cup would lead to international success and some great European nights for Rensenbrink, as Anderlecht became the powerhouse of the Cup Winners' Cup competition. Between 1976 and 1978 they reached three finals in a row, their 1977 defeat to Hamburg sandwiched between victories over West Ham United and Austria Vienna. Rensenbrink was almost unstoppable in the Cup Winners' Cup competition, his 25 goals in 36 appearances making him the record scorer, ahead of Gerd Müller and Gianluca Vialli. As the competition no longer exists, it's a record that won't be broken.

Anderlecht would continue their fine cup-winning exploits into the UEFA Super Cup, defeating Bayern Munich and Liverpool in the same years as their Cup Winners' Cup successes, Rensenbrink scoring in the home legs of both finals.


1978 saw the World Cup head off to Argentina, and gave Rob Rensenbrink a second shot at the game's biggest prize.

Rinus Michels was now gone. And so was Cruyff. There was much debate at the time as to exactly why, and the real truth would only come out years later, but it did mean that extra responsibility would rest with Rensenbrink along with the other remaining stars from 1974, such as Rep, Neeskens and Krol.

Rensenbrink relieved the pressure on himself immediately in the opening game against Iran, scoring a hat-trick, two of them penalties as he'd taken over the duties from Johan Neeskens. A goalless draw against Peru meant that the Netherlands needed just a draw against a struggling Scotland team in their final group game. Rensenbrink made history when he opened the scoring in the 34th minute with another penalty - it was the 1000th goal in the World Cup, another great record that can never be taken away from him. A superb Scottish comeback gave the Dutch a wobble but they went through to the second round despite a 3:2 defeat.

Argentina and Netherlands Line-up 1978 World Cup Final

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

On to the second round, and Rob Rensenbrink scored yet another penalty, his 4th of the tournament, as they demolished Austria 5:1 in the opening game of Group A. A 2:2 draw against old rivals West Germany and then a 2:1 victory in a real battle against Italy saw Rensenbrink and his team-mates head into a second successive World Cup Final, this time facing Argentina.

Again it wasn't to be. Rensenbrink came close to scoring twice, the first one being kept out by the boot of Ubaldo Fillol when they were a goal down, and the second, agonisingly, in injury time - with the scores level at 1:1 he latched onto a hopeful long ball and poked the ball past Fillol but this time it hit the post, coming straight back into the six yard box but straight into proximity of the grateful Argentinian defence who hoofed it to safety.

It remains one of the most pivotal moments in any World Cup Final, there would have been less than a minute on the clock for Argentina to find an equaliser had it gone in, and Rensenbrink would have done something that Cruyff had failed to do. But it wasn't to be, Argentina survived it and went on to win 3:1 in extra-time with Mario Kempes getting that vital bit of luck when the ball ricocheted off himself and Jan Jongbloed before he managed to force it over the line.

In those two moments the 1978 World Cup crown swapped between two of its key players, and it's Kempeswho is now remembered as the tournament's star player.

Rensenbrink Hits the Postage in Stoppage Time 


Rob Rensenbrink would play for the Netherlands in some of the qualifiers for the 1980 European Championships, but wouldn't make the squad for the actual tournament. So his last appearance in that famous orange shirt would be a 2:0 defeat away to Poland, as the great team of the 1970's continued to be broken up. He finished his career with the national team with 46 caps and 14 goals. It seems incredible to think that he didn't reach 50 caps, yet neither did Rep (42 caps), Neeskens (49 caps) or even Cruyff (48 caps).


Back at Anderlecht, Rensenbrink narrowly missed out on a long overdue league title, finishing runners-up to Beveren in 1978-79, whilst the following year they finished a lowly 5th, Rensenbrink making his least number of appearances in a season (20), and scoring only 3 goals.

So, in the summer of 1980, at the age of 33, having spent 9 years at the Parc Astrid and scoring 143 goals, he finally decided to leave the club and head off to the USA to join the likes of Cruyff and Neeskens in the NASL. It was only a fleeting stay though, playing just 18 matches for the Portland Timbers in their 1980 season before he returned to Europe in 1981, and another unexpected club - French Ligue 2 outfit Toulouse, who were desperately trying to get themselves back into the top flight for the first time since they’d be reformed in 1970. Maybe it was those familiar purple shirts that attracted him to join the likes of Abdelkrim Merry Krimau and Laszlo Balint in transferring to Les Pitchouns. He only played 12 matches for them, scoring a single goal, but they did win promotion back to the top flight.


So, whilst the reality is that Rensenbrink's last-gasp shot hit the post in the 1978 final, effectively denying him genuine legendary status and the chance to be crowned the king of Dutch football, he will always be remembered as one of the greats, not just of Dutch football, but of world football throughout the 1970s

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19/04/2017 by SOMNATH SENGUPTA.    www.thesefootballtimes.co.uk



Some pieces of commentary end up becoming part of football folklore. Fans of the Norway national team still remember with fondness Bjørge Lillelien’s hysterical “Maggie Thatcher … your boys took a hell of a beating” playing in the background as the minnows upstaged England in a World Cup qualifier in 1981. Few Liverpool fans are unaware of David Coleman’s sardonic summarization of the Newcastle defence – “They were absolutely stripped naked!” – when Kevin Keegan scored his second goal in 1974 FA Cup final.

For Austrians, this moment came courtesy of Eduard ‘Edi’ Finger on 21st June 1978 as they tuned in to follow their country square off against West Germany on a sunlit day at the Estadio Olímpico Chateau Carreras. 

The scoreboard read 2-2, the clock 87 minutes. German defender Rolf Ruessmann misses flight of a crossfield ball from the right-wing and it falls to the Austrian number 9 hovering near the touchline. The striker nods the ball forward, going past an off-balance Ruessmann and darting into the penalty box. 

Once inside, he takes his second touch, leaving Manfred Kaltz sprawling on the floor. Seeing impending danger, Sepp Maier comes off the line; the striker can sense Ruessmann closing in from behind and Bernard Dietz rushing in from his right. Almost nonchalantly, the striker uses his left foot to stroke the ball past Maier into the net. On the mic, Finger was “going crazy”. 

His commentary has become a stuff of legend: “[Krankl] is in the box. He shoots! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! Goal! I am going crazy! Krankl has scored. It is 3–2 for Austria! Ladies and gentlemen, we are hugging each other here, Rippel, my colleague, graduate engineer Posch, we’re kissing each other … 3–2 for Austria, by our Krankl’s magnificent goal.” 

In Austria they still call this match ‘The Miracle of Córdoba’. It was possible because of the brilliance of the Austrian striker, Hans Krankl. Had this been his lone moment of glory, Krankl’s name would still have been written in golden letters in Austrian football history, such was the magnitude of this result. However, it wasn’t the only moment of greatness in a career that saw the striker become one of the prolific goalscores of his generation.

Johann Krankl was born on Valentine’s day in 1953. His father was a youth coach at KSV Tramway and under him, a young Hans picked up his rudimentary lessons of the game. By the time he turned 12, he was spotted by a scout of Austrian giants Rapid Wien and joined their youth team. It was the start of a long and fruitful relationship. 

Years later, Krankl would credit two of his youth level coaches for helping to develop his game – Sepp Petschanka and Robert Korner. The latter was a club legend having played for Rapid for 16 years and was an important part of the Austrian team that earned a podium finish at the 1954 World Cup.


Krankl continued his steady progress through Rapid’s youth ranks and was deemed a special enough talent to get a run with the senior team even before he turned 18. Gerhard Springer, the Rapid coach at that time, gave Krankl his senior league debut in March 1971 – the youngster stayed on the pitch for 90 minutes in a narrow 1-0 home win over WSG Wattens. Krankl played a few more games that season but was still considered too raw to regularly feature for the senior team. In order to aid his development, Rapid sent him on loan to Wiener AC in Austrian second division. 

In the Regionalliga Ost, Krankl exploded, notching up his first prolific season. He scored 27 goals in just 26 matches, helping WAC to score 58 goals, the best in their division. The highlight of his season came during a 9-2 thrashing of SC Hinteregger when the young Austrian registered eight goals to his name. 

The season’s end saw a change in Rapid’s coaching chair and new manager Arnošt Hložek was keen on making full use of his young prospect. In September 1972 Krankl scored his first league goal for Rapid during a 6-0 drubbing of Wiener SC. By the time the 1972/73 season had ended, he had repaid in full the faith showed by Hložek, finishing as top scorer with 14 goals. His performances in the league also saw him win a first national team call-up, for a friendly against world champions Brazil.

Krankl continued his rich vein of goalscoring form in 1973/74, picking up his first top scorer medal with a staggering 36 goals in 32 matches. His tally remarkably included six hat-tricks, the peak of which was a four-goal haul in the Vienna derby. Amidst his domestic exploits, he also opened his account for Austria, drawing first blood in an eventual 1-1 draw against a Dutch team which was on its way to wowing spectators in World Cup. The next two seasons were modest in comparison, though he finished as Rapid’s top scorer in each, tallying 37 goals in 68 matches. 

The 1976/77 season saw the Austrian striker back to his prolific best as he once again finished as the country’s top scorer with 32 goals. His and Rapid’s best game that season came on the last day during a historic result against Grazer AK. Playing in front of a few thousand people in the newly opened Weststadion, Rapid plundered 11 goals past their hapless opponents, Krankl bagged seven of them, both league records to date. Staggeringly, three of his goals came in a span of just four second-half minutes. It was just a sign of things to come. 

Even by the standards of Hans Krankl’s ridiculously goal-laden career, the 1977/78 season was a freak of nature. He struck six hat-tricks and banged in an astounding 41 goals in 36 league matches. His tally was good enough to earn him the European Golden Boot, making him the first Austrian player to receive this honour. In peak form and about to enter the most productive phase of his career, Hans Krankl was ready for the biggest stage of them all: the 1978 World Cup.

With a talented group of players at their disposal, the Austrian national team had made short work of a tricky qualification group to reach their first World Cup since 1958. Krankl had duly paid his part, scoring a double hat-trick against minnows Malta. 

When the group stages were drawn, few expected Austria to do well in the tournament as they were paired with Sweden, Spain and a Brazil team that boasted Zico, Rivellino and Toninho Cerezo. Austria began their campaign on 3 June, the underdogs against a Spanish side mentored by László Kubala and stacked with stars from Real Madrid and Barcelona.


The Spaniards were left stunned after just 10 minutes as Walter Schachner struck a fantastic individual goal to put Austria one up. Eleven minutes later Spain drew level thanks to a deflected effort from Daniel Ruiz. Austria, however, were destined to have the last laugh as Krankl displayed his poaching instincts to score the match-winner with 12 minutes left on the clock. 

Four days later he converted a first-half penalty to seal a 1-0 victory over Sweden. With a game still left to play, the unfancied Austrians had not only qualified but they had also won their group; losing to Brazil in final group game didn’t make any difference.

In the second group stage they were sadly out of their depth, pummeled 5-1 by Ernst Happel’s Netherlands narrowly by Italy. When Austria lined up against defending world champions West Germany in Córdoba they were already knocked out, but the Germans were still in with a chance to reach their second consecutive World Cup final and were locked in a fascinating three-way battle with the Italians and Dutch, who were playing each other. 

Even though the Germans had played poorly in the tournament, many back home believed that they had enough firepower to pick up a substantial victory, which would guarantee a place in the final.

The Germans sang to the script as Karl-Heinz Rummenigge initiated and finished a smooth one-two to put his team ahead in the 19th minute. Despite the early setback, the Austrians held strong and there were no more goals in first half. Around the hour mark, Berti Vogts tried to shield from Krankl a cross from the right wing and managed to put the ball into his own net. Seven minutes later, the world was in shock. 

Eduard Krieger swung in a cross; Krankl received it and then swung his left foot like an emphatic hammer blow. Sepp Meier, the reigning German Footballer of the Year could do nothing. “A magnificent goal,” beamed the BBC commentator. There was only one way the Germans could respond and they made it 2-2 in the 68th minute with a set-piece goal. 

With just three minutes left on the clock, Krankl scored the third and completed the victory. This was Austria’s first win over West Germany in almost half a century. The players had upset all the odds and knocked out one of football’s powerhouses. All along, Hans Krankl had played a key role in it. 

They returned home to a hero’s welcome. Krankl’s outstanding performance in the World Cup saw him come tantalisingly close to winning Ballon d’Or in 1978, finishing just six points behind eventual winner Kevin Keegan.

Thanks to his European Golden Boot and exploits in the World Cup, Krankl soon became a sought-after player across Europe. Valencia were the initial favourites to bag his signature and their fans were looking forward to a lip smacking partnership between Krankl and 1978 World Cup top scorer, Mario Kempes. The transfer saga would then take a u-turn as a new player entered the race. 

Johan Cruyff had decided to bring the curtain down on his legendary Barcelona stint in 1978. Newly elected president Josep Lluís Núñez and new coach Lucien Muller had the unenviable job to replace a talismanic player who had defined the way Barcelona played in the previous five seasons. The rumours linked names such as Kevin Keegan and Paolo Rossi, but Krankl’s grand show in the World Cup meant he was the man Barça wanted.

Despite his prolific track record, the Barcelona management were taking a significant risk in signing Krankl. His goals had come in one of Europe’s unheralded leagues and he was a different player from Cruyff. While Cruyff thrived in a free role and hovered in the space between midfield and attack, Krankl was a pure fox in the box. 

He was a finisher par excellence, with superb predatory instincts and an extremely strong left foot. At a shade under six foot, Krankl was strong in the air and had a sudden burst of speed that lethally combined with his intelligent movement. With short hair and an awkward moustache, he even looked different from Cruyff with his Jagger-esque swagger.

The Austrian could have easily wilted under the pressure of a big club but he was made of sterner stuff. It took him just two matches to get off the mark in the league, intriguingly against Valencia as he cancelled out Kempes’ opener in a 2-1 victory. 

In November he scored his first hat-trick for Barcelona in a 6-0 thrashing of Celta and followed it up with three more hat-tricks that season. His best performance came in January 1979 as he smashed five goals in a 9-0 win over Rayo Vallecano. He also opened his account in El Clásico, scoring once at Camp Nou to seal a 2-0 win. The drastic change of scenery had not impacted upon Krankl’s form; he maintained an almost similar record to that in Austria and finished his first La Liga season as top scorer with 29 goals in 30 matches.

Despite Krankl’s exploits, Barcelona’s league form was inconsistent. They were also knocked out by Valencia in Copa del Rey and this prompted the club’s administration to part ways with Muller. The Catalans’ only hopes of salvaging their season hinged on the Cup Winners’ Cup.

The Blaugrana began their campaign with a comfortable 4-1 aggregate triumph over Shakhtar Donetsk, with Krankl scoring in both legs. Waiting for them in the second round were defending champions Anderlecht. Coached by Raymond Goethals, who would later go on to become a European champion with Marseille, the Belgian side were one of the top dogs in the competition and boasted talents such as Rob Rensenbrink, Arie Haan and Frank Vercauteren. They laid bare Barcelona’s defensive frailties in the first leg, dishing out a dominant 3-0 win.

The Spaniards needed a mini miracle to save the tie and 100,000 people crammed into the Camp Nou in return leg, hoping for one. They needed a strong start and Krankl provided just that, cutting back from the left wing and dragging two opponent defenders away before unleashing a rasping drive from an almost impossible angle. Another beautiful goal from Juan Heredia ensured that Barcelona went into half-time 2-0 up and smelling blood. 

They continued to assault Anderlecht in the second half and levelled the tie just three minutes from time when Rafael Zuviría finished off an impressive counter-attack. The Belgians held out in extra time but could not handle the pressure of a full Camp Nou in the penalty shootout, missing twice and handing Barcelona one of European football’s greatest comeback. After scoring the important first goal of the return leg, Krankl also successfully converted the first penalty in the shootout. 

Bobby Robson’s plucky Ipswich Town came extremely close to knocking them out in quarters after a 2-1 win in England. However, the away goal made a difference as the Catalans eked out a nervous 1-0 home victory. Surprise semi-finalists KSK Beveren was dispatched with two 1-0 wins, Krankl scoring in the away leg to help Barcelona reach their first European final in 10 years. 

While rest of his teammates geared up for the final, Krankl’s life took a sudden turn. On 5 May 1979, he was sent off during an ill-tempered Catalan derby. While returning from the match. Krankl’s car crashed into another car. Initially it looked like Hans and his wife Inge were unharmed, but both were rushed to a hospital by Barcelona vice-president Joan Gaspert. In the hospital, Hans learned that his wife had suffered severe liver damage and needed a blood transfusion to survive. As requests for blood donors spread through the media, Barcelona fans arrived in hordes and his wife was eventually saved. 

As his wife recovered, Krankl took some time off from football, but after just 11 days he was back on the pitch in Basel, playing the Cup Winners’ Cup final against Fortuna Dusseldorf. Out of practice and still not mentally at ease, the Austrian looked out of sorts in an epic final. 

Barcelona’s defence struggled to handle the firepower of Wolfgang Seele and Allofs brothers, Thomas and Klaus, as normal time ended 2-2. In extra-time Carles Rexach made it 3-2 for Barcelona. Seven minutes later, Francisco Carrasco opened the Fortuna defence like a can of tuna and found Krankl free in the box. He took two touches before calmly slotting the ball away for Barcelona’s fourth goal. With Fortuna scoring one more, it was the fourth goal that made all the difference and sealed Barça’s title.

The following season, the Barcelona squad went through an upheaval. Fan favourite Johan Neeskens was replaced by 1977 Ballon d’Or winner Allan Simonsen. Krankl started the campaign poorly and scored just twice in the first half of the league season. To make matters worse, he clashed with manager Rifé, who was a strict disciplinarian. 

As a result, mere months after he finished as club top scorer, Hans Krankl was put up for a loan deal in the winter window. Rapid president Heinz Holzbach was initially interested in bringing Krankl back but when he failed to gather funds, the striker signed for First Vienna FC. Barcelona brought in Brazilian Roberto Dinamite, a striker who scored bundles of goals for Vasco Da Gama.

The contrast was evident from almost the first match. Symbolically Krankl scored the only goal in an away win against Rapid to show the management what they had missed out on. He found the net eight times in his first six matches and eventually ended the season with 13 goals from 17 matches. Dinamite, on the other hand, struggled to settle and could manage only two league goals and soon left the club. Rifé was replaced by Helenio Herrera, followed by Kubala, and Krankl was once again brought back to Camp Nou. 

The 1980/81 season was tumultuous for both Krankl and Barça. Now playing alongside Quini, a goal poacher in a similar mould, the Austrian struggled to get going. Poor results meant Kubala was sacked and Herrera again came back as coach. The Argentine preferred a more conservative system and opted to sign midfield maestro Bernd Schuster, sacrificing Krankl to free up a foreigner slot. 

The Austrian striker had scored 45 goals in 60 matches for Barcelona, a fantastic record by any scale. Unfortunately for him, constant chopping and changing of coaches meant his Barcelona career didn’t go on as long as it should have. Dismayed by the little shelf life given by big European clubs, Krankl rejected other offers to return back to his spiritual home of Rapid Vienna. 

Despite Krankl’s bounty of goals in his first stint, Rapid had not managed to win much silverware, something that Hans wanted to change as a veteran. He was soon joined by quality players like Antonín Panenka, Zlatko Kranjčar and Anatoli Zinchenko. Together they would end a 24-year barren spell for the Vienna giants and lift the league title in 1981. 

The following season was even better as Rapid finished level on points with rivals Austria Vienna but clinched the league title on goal difference – Krankl finishing as top scorer. Rapid also completed their first double in years after beating Wacker in the final of Austrian Cup. Well into his 30s now, Krankl had not slowed down and managed to score 151 goals in his six seasons with Rapid in 1980s. 

Krankl came close to winning another European title in 1985 when Rapid made their way to the Cup Winners’ Cup final. He scored three goals en route as Die Grün-Weißen dispatched Beşiktaş, Celtic, Dynamo Dresden and Dynamo Moscow to set up a final against Howard Kendall’s brilliant Everton side.

The soon-to-be English champions proved a class apart and raced to a 2-0 lead in the second half. Krankl pulled a goal back in the 85th minute but could do little to prevent a 3-1 loss. 

The following season Krankl made his final farewell to Rapid after falling out with the management regarding a training camp in Tajikistan.

He retired after spending two seasons with Wiener Sport-Club (40 goals in 60 matches) and then a final season with Austria Salzburg (later to be rechristened Red Bull). In Salzburg, the 36-year-old striker executed a flying scissor kick which would win him goal of the year award, his last piece of brilliance. 

Hans Krankl created several records as a player, some of which still stand today. He is Rapid’s all-time top scorer in the league with 217 goals in 284 matches, and the Austrian Bundesliga’s all-time top scorer with 270 goals in 361 matches. With 20 goals, he is the second highest scorer in the history of Vienna derby. 

When he retired he was the leading scorer for his national team, a record which was later bettered by Toni Polster. His 33 Cup Winners’ Cup matches yielded 17 goals, making him fifth highest scorer in the history of the now defunct competition. 

Along with his records, Krankl was also a fan favourite.

This was evident when Rapid fans selected him as one of the players in Rapid’s all-star team of the 20th century. Even Barça TV would later pay him respect, publishing a documentary titled Johann From Austria. Krankl is still remembered fondly by the Barcelona faithful even though he effectively played just one full season with them.

By Somnath Sengupta @baggiholic











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Sepp Maier, Bayern Munich and West Germany goalkeeper.  Won the lot !


During the late 1960s and early 70s, West German football was the dominant force in the game. As well as Die Mannschaft lifting the World Cup in their homeland in 1974, Bayern Munich brought three successive European Cups to Bavaria between 1974 and 1976. A number of players featured for both Bayern and the national side, and whilst some may be more celebrated – the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller spring to mind – few would have been more instantly recognisable than Josef-Dieter Maier, better known as Sepp Maier; owner of big gloves, long shorts and a goalkeeper’s cap full to the brim with medals. 

The legendary custodian is often acknowledged for his pioneering attitude to the role of the modern man between the sticks and is often particularly lauded for his agility. It’s an skill that earned him the nickname of Die Katze von Anzing – The Cat from Anzig. For all that, though, to the many millions of football fans around the world, it was the seemingly oversized gloves and long shorts Maier that made him one of the most recognisable footballers on the planet.

As his nomme de guerre suggests, there was far more to Sepp Maier than a perhaps questionable choice of attire. He was not only one of the outstanding goalkeepers of his generation, but also an indispensable member of both the club and national teams that ruled football in the 70s.

Sepp Maier was born in the small town of Metten, Bavaria, in February 1944. Growing up in a post-war Germany destroyed by conflict, and then torn asunder by allied rivalries bent on securing their own dominions, would have been a harrowing process. The young Maier had football for solace, however, and his passion for the game would bring great reward. At just eight years of age, he joined local sports club TSV Haar, where his ability was nurtured to the extent that, in 1959, he was snapped up by Bayern Munich. 

It was the beginning of a relationship with the club that would stand the test of time. A playing career spanning 18 years was later followed by a further 14 working as a coach and searching for his successor. It was a task that he excelled in, developing and mentoring Oliver Kahn, who would have 14 years with Die Bayern.

At international level, this dedication to his protégé eventually cost him his coaching position with the national team. After Euro 2004, he clashed with then manager Jürgen Klinsmann, who preferred to play Jens Lehmann ahead of the Bayern stopper. With no less 95 caps and an array of honours with Die Mannschaft to support of his opinion, perhaps Klinsmann should have taken greater heed of Maier’s more qualified counsel. He didn’t do so, though, and the two parted company. 

Starting off with Bayern’s youth team, Maier progressed through the ranks and international recognition wasn’t slow in following. From 1961 to 1962, he played 11 games for the West Germany youth team and the following year, he also featured four times in the national amateur side. There were surely bigger things ahead for the goalkeeper, now in his late teens. 

By 1962 he was in the Bayern first team and would stake a claim for the club’s number one jersey, which would last until 1979, when a car accident brought the curtain down on his career at the age of 35. With other goalkeepers of his era, namely Dino Zoff, playing past the age of 40, there would have been many more games left in Maier had the accident not occurred. In between those dates, though, he would still become one of the great figures of German football. 

Unsurprisingly, the peak years of Maier’s career coincided with the most successful periods for both Bayern and West Germany. For his club, it was an ascendancy that took root in his early years as the club blossomed in the decade between 1965 and 1975. DFB-Pokal triumphs in 1966 and 1967 were the prequel to a period of dominance to follow for Bayern.

The first of those successes opened the door to a European adventure and a run in the Cup Winners’ Cup that ended with victory over Glasgow Rangers in extra-time. A maiden success in Europe wouldn’t be Maier’s last. A league and DFB-Pokal double was garnered in the 1968/69 season, followed by another cup success the following year. By now, the league was becoming Bayern’s competition of choice and three successive titles were secured from 1972, marking them out as one of the Bundesliga’s greats.

Not only did Bayern have the estimable Maier as their last line of defence, in front of him, Franz Beckenbauer was strutting his stuff in a libero position he would redefine, ably assisted by the robust Hans-Georg Schwarzenbeck and Paul Breitner. Further forward, Uli Hoeneß and Gerd Müller destroyed opposition defences. Despite the abundance of talent, Maier statistics for the period stand out.

In the first of the three successive title seasons, Bayern conceded just 38 goals across a 34 games. It was a total only bettered by runners-up Schalke’s tally of 35. It’s worth noting that the Bavarian club’s emphasis on going forward in that season also meant they topped Schalke’s goals scored by some 33%. The difference was emphasised by Bayern’s goal difference standing at 63, a full 23 better than their rivals

In the following season, the defence, with Maier in goal, would be even stingier. Opposition forwards were regularly shut out as Maier patrolled his box. In a season of 34 games, his defence was only breached 29 times. Considerably less than a goal per game, the team still registered 93 strikes at the other end. It was a mightily impressive performance and one that would be reprised the following term. 

The dominant performances at home were echoed in Europe. Bayern’s first European Cup triumph with Maier in goal arrived in 1974. A shaky start in the first round, when only a penalty shoot-out brought victory over Swedish part-timers Åtvidaberg, preceded a 7-6 aggregate victory of East Germany’s Dynamo Dresden, before things got into gear against Bulgaria’s CSKA. In the semi-final, a 4-1 aggregate win over Újpesti Dózsa was secured thanks to Maier’s clean sheet in the home leg.

The final against Atlético Madrid was played at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels, with the first game ending in a 1-1 draw. Both goalkeepers had kept clean sheets into extra-time, but tired legs and brains were frayed around the edges as both conceded late. There were no penalty shootouts to decide the final in those days, and a replay was organised for two days later. Whilst Maier again prevented any goal being conceded, his opposite number at the other end failed to keep up the standard. Miguel Reina conceded four times across the 90 minutes as Bayern lifted the trophy.  

As holders for the following year’s tournament, Bayern had a bye in the first round before facing East German opposition for the second time in two years in the shape of Magdeburg. This would be a different proposition from the games against Dynamo Dresden. Under the canny management of Heinz Krügel, Magdeburg had developed a young team driven on by a coach that, in more enlightened times, may well have made a fortune plying his trade at a top club in the west.

He had taken Magdeburg on an extraordinary run into Europe the previous season, and while Bayern were picking up European club football’s premier trophy, Krügel’s team had lifted the Cup Winners’ Cup, defeating holders AC Milan in the final. Bayern still managed to win both legs, though, to progress, underlining their mental strength as much as anything. 

The semi-final tie against Ararat Yerevan of the Soviet Union would require a robust display by Maier in both legs. Playing in Munich first, entering the last dozen minutes, the game remained goalless. In such circumstances, concede at home and Bayern may well have had difficulties. Maier kept the visitors at bay, though, and two late strikes gave Die Roten something to defend when they travelled east. 

Despite strong home pressure and the roar of 70,000 spectators in Yerevan’s Hrazdan Stadium, Maier and his defence kept the Armenian team to a single goal as Bayern squeezed into the last four and a semi-final against France’s Saint-Étienne.

This was a classic Les Verts vintage. Robert Herbin’s team was full of attacking potential who played with joie de vivre. They had secured the French league title by a clear eight points, winning 23 of their 38 games. In their attack they had the mercurial Dominique Rocheteau, an iconoclastic darling of the avant-garde left and the talismanic ‘Green Angel’ presence on the field who could intoxicate opposition defences in the same way as the spirit after which he was nicknamed. 

The first leg was to be played in France and despite the pressing of the green shirts, Maier’s back line stood firm. Returning with a goalless draw was a highly credible result, but the job wasn’t yet done. Concede at home and Bayern would need to score twice to get into their second successive final. An early Beckenbauer goal eased the nerves of the home fans, but still a French strike would see them eliminated. Maier didn’t buckle, though, and when Bernd Dürnberger hit the second goal, with the home defence’s record still intact, the tie was done. 

Going into the final, Maier and his defence had kept a clean sheet in five of the previous six European Cup games. Facing Leeds United in the final would be a challenge and a repeat of Maier’s achievements would come in very useful. Late goals from Franz Roth and Müller settled the game in Bayern’s favour as Maier ticked off another clean sheet. Bayern had retained the trophy in some style. 

They went into the following year’s tournament having not secured domestic silverware for two seasons. Lose out in this competition and suddenly, the Bayern cupboard would begin to look a little bare. The club were also embroiled in the Intercontinental Cup. Pitched against Brazilian champions Cruzeiro, the first leg was played in Munich on 23 November. Yet another Maier clean sheet, coupled with late goals from Müller and Jupp Kappellmann, gave Bayern a two-goal lead to take to South America.

It would take a sound defensive performance in Brazil to keep the home team at bay. In front of 123,715 fans, the German nerve held and a goalless draw – and yet another clean sheet – made the journey worthwhile.

Borussia Mönchengladbach had won the Bundesliga and entered the European Cup as German champions, with Bayern’s place secured as holders. The Bavarians skipped through the first round, beating Luxembourg’s Jeunesse Esch 8-2 on aggregate before dispatching Malmö 2-1 to reach the last eight and a pairing with Benfica. A solid 0-0 draw in Lisbon and a crushing 5-1 home win meant another place in the last four. They would face the mighty Real Madrid. 


Travelling to Spain in March, the Bavarians were in trouble early on when Roberto Martínez achieved the feat that had eluded so many other forwards, beating Maier to put the Spanish club ahead after a mere seven minutes. All of the German back line’s fortitude would now be required to stem the flow of attacks and keep the holders in the game.

In typical fashion, the task was achieved, and when Müller levelled the scores just ahead of the break, it brought the visitors a draw that was maintained until the end. Maier shut out the Spanish attack back in Bavaria and a brace from Der Bomber finished the job. Another European Cup final beckoned. 

At Glasgow’s Hampden Park, Bayern met Les Verts again. It was hardly a classic. Bayern played solidly, comfortable in their defensive solidity, and struck at the opportune moment to win 1-0 and lift their third trophy. It had been an amazing run by the club and at the heart of it was their goalkeeper whose consistent, often breathtakingly brilliant, displays had played a fulsome part in delivering the triumph. Confidence in a secure back line had led to a pattern of play that was often more pragmatic than dynamic, but working to their strengths had brought the club ample rewards.

Maier would deliver similar assurance in the international arena. He would be selected for four consecutive World Cup squads, although his place in 1966 was merely as a back up to the established starter, Hans Tilkowski. By the time the next tournament rolled around, the position between the sticks was safely in the gloved hands of Maier. In the opinion of many pundits, the German squad that travelled to Mexico and eventually fell to Italy in what a plaque outside of the Azteca stadium describes as the Partido de Siglio (Game of the Century) was superior to the one that triumphed on home soil four years later.  

In South America, there was a dynamic style to the German play that delivered copious amounts of goals, perhaps leaving too many gaps at the back. Five games brought no less than 16 goals, but at the back, 10 were conceded. While the Germans returned with honour and Müller collected the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer, it was time for a rethink ahead of 1974.  

Before that, there was a European Championship to complete. Played in Belgium, the competition at the time was very different to the jamboree experienced these days, with just four teams playing out semi-finals and a final to establish the winner. West Germany defeated the hosts 2-1 and then trounced an uninspiring Soviet Union side 3-0 in the final. Maier had his first international trophy.

Back on home soil, the German side that featured in the 1974 World Cup had a much more pragmatic style to it compared to the one that had plundered so many goals in Mexico four years earlier. Averaging more than three strikes a game in the previous tournament, this was shaved down to slightly under two in 1974, but the goals against column showed the benefit of a more balanced team. The two goals per game conceded in Mexico was reduced to less than one. It made all the difference.

In the first group fixtures, the only goal conceded was in the game against East Germany. It was an encounter that reached beyond mere playing ability for both fraternal and political reasons, and was therefore a far from normal encounter, with East Germany’s win a blip during a glorious summer.

The iconic defeat propelled West Germany into a more comfortable second group section and allowed them to progress fairly comfortably to the final, where they defeated Johan Cruyff and the Dutch Totaalvoetbal. Franz Beckenbauer lifted the trophy and Maier had a World Cup winners medal to add the European Championship one he had gained two years earlier. 

The 1976 version of the European Championship took place in Yugoslavia and again comprised of just four teams. As in Belgium, the Germans defeated the hosts to move into their second successive final, where they would meet the tournament’s surprise side Czechoslovakia, who had defeated the Netherlands 3-1.

The Germans were twice behind in the game, before a goal by Bernd Hölzenbein squared things in the last couple of minutes. A penalty shootout would decide the event. It was here that the defining moment of the tournament occurred, when Antonín Panenka introduced his clipped penalty to the world. Whilst Maier gambled on a save, plunging to one side, a calm chip down the middle brought instant fame to the player and took the trophy to Prague. Maier had been the unwilling dupe in one of football’s famous images. 

In 1978, West Germany crossed the Atlantic to Argentina as the World Cup’s defending champions. Still the automatic starting choice, Maier was now 34, and despite the longevity granted to goalkeepers over and above that afforded to outfield players, it was inevitable that his considerable powers would be on the wane. He was, however, still favoured above Hamburg’s Rudolf Kargus and Dieter Burdenski of Werder Bremen. It was a choice that few questioned.

Belying age and perceptions of an impending loss of ability, Maier played through the entire first group stage without conceding s goal. Things would change in the second stage. After another clean sheet in a goalless draw against Italy, the Germans faced their old foes, the Dutch, whose midfielder Arie Haan had been pressed into a defensive role in the 1970 tournament. He exposed the first chinks in Maier’s considerable armour.

Firing a long-range shot past the German goalkeeper to bring the scores level and put the first goal into the German net so far in the tournament, Maier suddenly seemed fallible. A second goal conceded would follow as the game ended in a draw. In the final match, Austria rode roughshod over their neighbours, defeating Germany 3-2 and ending the erstwhile champions’ interest in the tournament. 

Perhaps the great man was on the slide, with calls from some quarters that a new goalkeeper should be tried. The debate was ended in the cruellest of ways. In 1979, a car crash delivered cruel injuries to Maier, forcing his retirement from playing. He had turned out in 536 league games, and just one short of 600 in all competitions, for Bayern Munich. He hadn’t missed a single league encounter for his club from the start of the 1966 season. He had featured 95 times for his country, was German Footballer of the Year three times (1975, 1977, 1978), was awarded the national service medal in 1978, and was recognised as Germany’s Goalkeeper of the Century. 

Big gloves are somewhat akin to big shoes and although both Bayern and Germany have seen a succession of outstanding goalkeepers step up to try and fill them – Kahn, Lehmann and Manuel Neuer to name but a few – none have assumed the stature of Sepp Maier, and perhaps no-one ever will. He remains a legendary figure in German football and one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever play the game.

By Gary Thacker @All_Blue_Daze 



Sepp Maier in action in an archive picture from the 1970s






Edited by erskblue
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vision-696x451.jpg Oleg Blokhin. Simply  a world class footballer in the 70s and 80s. In action here v East Germany .



13/08/2020 by ANDREW FLINT.       www.thesefootballtimes.co.uk

The legendary Dinamo Kyiv side marshalled by Valeriy Lobanovskyi was widely viewed as a precise, scientific machine with clearly-defined roles. But there was one spark that stood out amidst the regiment: Oleh Blokhin.

Lobanovskyi famously shouted at his players, “Don’t think! I do the thinking for you. Play!” Blokhin could certainly play, like few others, but he may well have chosen not to had he followed in his mother’s footsteps and become an athlete. With good reason; it was rumoured he was even faster than the legendary sprinter and 1972 100m gold medallist Valeri Borzov.

More than just a physical masterpiece, there was little doubt Blokhin could think too; his lightning pace and lethal finishing on the pitch were mere components that made the player, but what made the man was his sharpness of mind. He combined the two in order to break almost every record within his reach: highest Dinamo Kyiv goalscorer of all time, highest Soviet League goalscorer, highest scorer for the Soviet Union, most capped Soviet international, first Ukrainian to be awarded the Ballon d’Or, most Soviet Higher League titles. Blokhin’s CV stretches on almost beyond the horizon.

In 1975 he was named the best player in Europe after a spectacular season brought Lobanovskyi’s side Cup Winners’ Cup glory, but it was against the great Bayern Munich side of Franz Beckenbauer, Sepp Maier, Karl-Heinz Rumminegge and Gerd Müller that he conjured perhaps his most spectacular moment.

In the first leg of the European Super Cup in Munich, a Bayern attack broke down just outside of the Dinamo penalty area. As the ball was played to Blokhin, well inside his own half, only one thought crossed his mind as he glided forward into space. He carried the ball over halfway, burning Georg Schwarzenbeck, and looked up for assistance. But still he lacked supporting teammates, so he continued alone. 

By the time he cut inside on the edge of the penalty area, the Bayern defence had regrouped but Blokhin simply swerved through them, with a grace that told you it was all planned already in his mind, dancing past the statuesque Beckenbauer and sliding a tidy finish past Maier.

Such eloquence and creative courage didn’t go unnoticed, even in the closed world of the Soviet Union. Players were officially permitted to leave only once they reached the age of 29 but it didn’t stop Real Madrid sniffing around Kyiv’s finest. 

Despite two previous rebuffed attempts, in 1981 they came within a whisker of bringing Blokhin to the Spanish capital with an offer of a coaching role after his playing days had finished. Terms were reportedly agreed but, at the last minute, the Soviet authorities got cold feet about allowing their star man to leave at a crucial stage of World Cup qualification and at home he remained.

When he finally made the move to Europe, seven years later, his destination was decidedly less glamorous. By now well past his best, he arrived in Austria after almost two decades at Dinamo – still two years before the Soviet Union collapsed – to play for newly promoted Vorwärts Steyr, who just over a decade later were playing in the eighth tier having been declared bankrupt. It showed a certain individuality in breaking away from his home country, even if he was 36 and facing the end of his career.

Despite Blokhin’s genius, his career coincided with a lean spell for the Soviet Union at major tournaments. Between the Ukrainian forward debuting in 1972 and his last cap 16 years later, the USSR qualified for just two tournaments – the 1982 and 1986 World Cups – leaving his recognition to be earned solely at club level. Perhaps Blokhin was a victim of his time and circumstance. 

Given the full opportunity, he could surely have shown the whole world what Ukraine already knew; that he was one of the most supremely gifted footballers of all time.

By Andrew Flint @AndrewMijFlint

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