Parma week has over-run a little bit but that’s okay. I don’t exactly have a wealth of time to devote to writing at the weekend so this is bound to happen from time-to-time. I’ll be introducing this week’s feature club later today and I hope to start sinking my teeth into them tomorrow, but I wanted to complete the Gialloblu Giants series first.
I would have loved to add another 3-4 pieces to this series but I don’t want to get too bogged-down with Parma. A Buffon profile was on the cards as was a look at some Parma’s ’90’s managers and strikers, but I’m going to have to condense everything into one itty-bitty piece. These players definitely deserve a mention, and it would be criminal to close “Gialloblu Giants” without giving them their due.
Gianfranco Zola (1993-96) (forward)
Honours: UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup
An outrageously talented striker, Zola joined Parma after spells with Nuorese, Torres and Napoli and really started to grow into the outstanding player he’d eventually become while at the Tardini. His ability should need no introduction: Zola was one of the best deep-lying forwards of his generation and a wizard with the ball at his feet. Scoring 49 Serie A goals in 102 Gialloblu appearances, Zola was never more prolific than during his time with Parma. I’ll always remember him as (arguably) the best foreign player to ever play in the Premier League, but his dazzling sill first caught my eye at Parma.
Alessandro Melli (1985-94, 1995-97) (forward)
Honours: Coppa Italia, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Super Cup (x2)
Melli’s two spells at the Tardini brought him 56 goals from 241 Serie A appearances. He wasn’t exactly a goal machine, but he was an incredibly loyal servant and a vital contributor to Parma’s success in the ’90’s. I’ll always remember his partnership with Tomas Brolin, even though it was rather short-lived. Not the most outstanding individual player but a useful squad member who’d go on to serve as Parma’s General Manager.
Hernan Crespo (1996-2000, 2010-present) (forward)
Honours: Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, UEFA Cup
One of two players on this list who is still actively playing, Crespo is actually still a Parma player. He left the club in 2000 to enjoy gold-filled spells with Lazio, Inter, Chelsea, Milan, Inter again and Genoa before returning to the Tardini in 2000. Crespo was a very capable advanced striker in his day and a very prolific goalscorer. Usually averaging about a goal every other game wherever he goes, Crespo will still be scoring when he’s 50. A return of 10 in 42 since his Gialloblu return shows there’s still life in this old dog yet.
Faustino Asprilla (1992-96, 1998-99) (forward)
Honours: UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Super Cup, UEFA Cup (x2)
Tino was around for both of Parma’s UEFA Cup victories even if his second spell was nowhere near as productive at first. As a Newcastle fan I am naturally biased towards Tino. He was a big favourite of mine, and I was delighted when my team signed him from Parma in 1996. On his day he was unplayable. Genuinely one of the most talented players I’ve ever seen, Asprilla unfortunately lacked the mental strength to match his sublime technical and physical talents. He was equally capable of brilliance and madness, and would often show both in the same game.
Gianluigi Buffon (1995-2001) (goalkeeper)
Honours: UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana.
Buffon, like Crespo, is still an active player. I don’t think I need to explain just how good Gigi is. He’s clearly one of (if not the) best goalkeeper in the world, even if his recent form has been a tad suspect, and he’s fully justified his tag as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. Buffon has been a stalwart for Juventus and the Azzurri for years, but a lot of people forget he actually made over 220 appearances for Parma back in the day. The world sat up and took notice of Buffon’s talents during his time at the Tardini, and his reputation really went skyward after an incredible three-trophy haul in the 1998-99 season. I realise I’ve used the word “favourite” to describe quite a few players this week, but I can’t think of a ‘keeper I admire more than Gigi.
Luca Bucci (1986-87, 1988-90, 1993-97, 2005-08) (goalkeeper)
Honours: UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup.
Bucci was the man Buffon displaced as Parma’s #1 in the mid-’90’s and was a good goalkeeper in his own right. Like Melli, Bucci’s mention has more to do with loyalty than exceptional ability, but he was a solid ‘keeper who always did well when called upon. Incredibly, Bucci had four separate spells at the Tardini and ended his lengthy career in 2009 (aged 40). Bucci made a total of 181 Serie A appearances with Parma, and was considered the club’s #1 again after his return in 2005.
Nevio Scala (1989-96) (manager)
Honours: Copa Italia, UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup.
A very talented manager who is sadly no longer in the game, Scala (along with Parmalet, of course) built the foundations for Parma’s success and moulded the club into a juggernaut in the ’90’s. Scala took Parma from Serie B to European tournament winners in just four season, and was responsible for bringing through some of the greatest players in Gialloblu history. His 5-3-2 system was a Parma mainstay for years, and he deserves to go down in history as one of calcio’s all-time greatest managers.
Alberto Malesani (1998-2001) (manager)
Honours: Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana, UEFA Cup.
Current Genoa coach Malesani didn’t quite leave behind a legacy as big as Scala’s at the Tardini bt he did guide the Gialloblu to their most successful season of all-time in 1998-99. Winning three trophies in one season made him an instant favourite, but Malesani would eventually be replaced by the legendary Arrigo Sacchi in January 2001 after a poor start to the 2000-01 season. Things started to decline badly for Parma after Malesani’s departure and Parmalet’s demise, but he deserve his place in history.