The Football League and world fame: Juventus
In the first of what will hopefully become a sporadic series of sorts, Adam Digby takes a look at former Juventus greats (and not-so-greats) who have also done their time in the Football League on these shores. You can find more of Adam’s great writing, primarily about his beloved Juve, on his blog Il Tifosi.
Upon their formation in 1897, Italian giants Juventus chose pink shirts with black trim until Englishman John Savage was given the task of finding a replacement for the worn out original shirts six years later. He charged a friend in England with finding a new strip and ship it to the peninsula, and he in turn approached his local club. When the new kit arrived it was the famous black and white stripes of Notts County and – to quote the Magpies official website – ‘Juve have worn the shirts ever since, considering the colours to be aggressive and powerful.’
Intrinsically linked then to the now League One club, there are many more ties between Juve and clubs in the three lower divisions of the English football league. Due to an excessive player turnover – largely a result of a demand for the highest standards and constant success – most major clubs can count an ex-Juventus player in their ranks.
Both Manchester clubs and Liverpool currently boast former Juve men among their squads, while Chelsea, the Republic of Ireland and England are coached by men who have taken charge of the Turin giants in the past. Juve’s Champions League winning captain of 1996 Luca Vialli also coached Watford in the Championship little under a decade ago, although he failed to match the success he enjoyed at Chelsea.
It comes as no real surprise then that there have been, and still are today, players who have played for Italy’s most successful club lining up for sides in The Football League weekend after weekend. Some have made a real impact, some have come and gone overnight, others have run up rather large mobile phone bills before heading off into the sunset.
The Real Stars
Juventus will move to their new stadium in time for next season and part of this exciting new project is a Hollywood-style ‘Walk of Fame’, with a star given to the fifty best players in the club’s history. It is intriguing therefore, that of this most prestigious of shortlists there are three men who have in truth not repeated their Bianconeri glory in English football.
The first of course is a man voted Serie A’s Greatest Ever Player in a 1997 poll, Welshman John Charles – who returned from his time at Roma to see out his career at Cardiff City and Hereford United, scoring almost 100 goals in the process. Il Gigante Buono never really adapted to life back in Britain and it was no surprise that once he had retired from football he spent much of his time back in Italy.
Next, a man who played with such distinction alongside Vialli in Marcello Lippi’s magnificent mid-90’s side – Fabrizio Ravanelli. Four years after leaving Middlesbrough to avoid the consequences of their relegation, the White Feather returned to Derby County for their EPL season and played the next term in the Championship.
Last of the three is Edgar Davids, another Champions League winner – although with Ajax, not Juve – he joined Crystal Palace on a pay-as-you-play deal earlier this season, making six appearances at left back before retiring.
Another Eagle and THAT Comment
The transfer of a previous team-mate of Davids, Attilio Lombardo, to the same South London club some fourteen years earlier was even more shocking than the Dutchman’s spell, especially when he became Player-Manager. The club were still relegated from the Premier League but ‘The Bald Eagle’ stayed on, before leaving to join Lazio.
Ian Rush is undoubtedly a Liverpool legend and a man who saw out his career at various lower tier sides, but his 1987/88 season in Turin was difficult for him. Juve were in a serious slump following the retirement of Michel Platini and, despite scoring 8 goals in 29 games, Rush longed for home and returned to Anfield just a year after leaving, prompting the famous ‘like a foreign country’ non-quote.
A Few Oddities
There are a number of other former Juventus players who have featured for one of the 72:
- Liam Brady returned from Italy to play in a West Ham side in Division Two in 1990
- Vincent Péricard, currently at League One Swindon Town was at Juventus for two seasons and played in a Champions League win over Arsenal in 2001
- David Platt played one injury hit campaign for Juve in 1992/93
- Davide Baiocco has recently followed Lombardo and Davids and had a trial at Crystal Palace
- Milan youth product Enzo Maresca played 47 times for then Championship side West Brom between 1998-2000