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Posts Tagged ‘Juan Sebastian Veron’

I was always going to give Enrico Chiesa some props this week. Sure, Gianfranco Zola and Hernan Crespo were probably better players, but I had too much fun watching Enrico when I was younger to pick either of them over him. Besides, I mostly know Zola from his time with Chelsea and there’s only so much I can say about his Parma career. Crespo? A great goalscorer, no doubt, but nowhere near as eye-catching or exciting to watch.

I’m going to try and keep this as concise as possible. Over-analysing Chiesa would only dilute the pure, unbridled joy I still get from watching old footage of him playing, and I really don’t want to do that. For me, watching Chiesa playing (and scoring) was pure entertainment. It was all about great moves and great goals. Some of the goals this guy scored were just perfect. Long-range drives, delicate chips, volleys, headers, toe pokes: Enrico scored them all. He was a great goalscorer and a scorer of great goals, and there aren’t many other strikers who can say that.

One goal that I always remember is Chiesa’s wonderstrike in the 1999 UEFA Cup final. Parma were already 2-0 up against French giants Marseille after goals from Crespo and Paolo Vanoli. Juan Sebastian Veron took the ball up the right flank in the 55th minute. 30 yards from goal, Veron chipped the ball towards the box. Crespo’s dummy foxed Laurent Blanc and the ball fell perfectly for Chiesa to rifle a perfect volley into the top corner from 15 yards.

The above video encapsulates everything that Enrico Chiesa was about for me. Those great, great goals. Those astonishing moments of beauty that draw us to the sport in the first place. Chiesa’s goals for Parma, Fiorentina and Sampdoria played a huge role in getting me interested in calcio in the first place, and he didn’t score many better (or more significant) than the above.

Once described as playing like “a cross between Paolo Rossi and Gigi Riva,” Chiesa was an incredibly well-rounded striker. Capable of playing advanced and dropping deep, he moved quickly and had a cannon of a right foot. When the ball landed at Chiesa’s feet you knew something exciting was going to happen. He was a game-changing forward who could turn a game’s tide in a split second, and that’s what made him so special. Enrico wasn’t a perfect player, but few could light a stadium up like him in his prime.

He played for the Gialloblu for a total of three seasons, scoring 33 goals in 92 Serie A appearances and countless more in Europe (he scored 8 in Parma’s 1998-99 UEFA Cup run alone) and domestic cups. During his time at the Stadio Tardini he broke into the Italy squad, scoring a credible 7 goals in 17 Azzurri appearances. He left Parma for Fiorentina in 1999, and had further spells with Lazio, Siena and Figline before retiring last year at the ripe old age of 40.

Chiesa is currently enrolled in a coaching course at Coverciano, the famed Italian football education centre. I can only hope that the teams Chiesa goes on to manager play with the same zest and exuberance as Enrico in his pomp.

I could waste another 500 words rambling about Enrico and his career but I’d rather not. Instead lets just sit back, relax and watch the great man doing what he did best: score goals.

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Tomas Brolin wasn’t the only excellent midfielder to strut his stuff at the Stadio Tardini in the ‘90’s. I chose Brolin because I wanted to celebrate the highs of his career. A lot of people only remember the podgy Tomas Brolin who shambled his way through spells at Leeds and Crystal Palace, but he was a great player once upon a time and I don’t think that should be forgotten.

That said, Parma also fielded a lot of top quality midfielders who made the most of their opportunities and enjoyed lengthy, successful careers. Here are a few of my favourites.

Dino Baggio

A rock-solid defensive midfielder who deserves a lot more international credit, Dino spent 7 seasons with Parma and scored 20 goals in his 172 Serie A appearances for the Gialloblu. Baggio came to Parma after the 2004 World Cup. Wanting to stay at Juventus, Baggio rejected Parma’s first contract offer but changed his mind a few days later. The move effectively scrapped an already agreed deal to take Alessandro Del Piero to Parma, but that didn’t exactly work out badly for the Bianconeri…

Baggio’s period at the Tardini was very successful and he collected two UEFA Cup winners’ medals and one for the Coppa Italia during his time there. He was a stalwart for Parma during their most successful period, and also won 60 international caps in a 9-year Azzurri career.

My first memory of Baggio comes from watching him at USA ’94. A confused 6 year old, I still remember turning to my father and saying “’Dino’? I thought Baggio’s name was ‘Roberto’?”. I’m glad I finally sussed the difference between the two as both were wonderful players in their own right.

Massimo Crippa

Read his name again: Massimo Crippa. He just <I>sounds</I> like a hard-man, doesn’t he?

Crippa, like Baggio, was a defensive midfielder but his playing style was much more abrasive. Signed from Napoli in 1993, Crippa held Parma’s midfielder together for 5 seasons before departing for Torino at the age of 33. He was a true battler: the kind of player who never gave anything less than 100%. Even when all hope seemed lost and his teammates had surrendered, Crippa puffed his chest and carried on like he could beat the opposition on his own.

But Crippa wasn’t just a pure destroyer. Sure he wasn’t quite as classy as Baggio, but Crippa was comfortable with the ball at his feet and was very adept at recycling possession. He was gritty, ferocious and strong in the challenge, but Crippa was no hatchet man and he rarely lost the ball.

In addition to winning the UEFA Cup and Super Cup with Parma, Crippa won Serie A, the Supercoppa and a further UEFA Cup with Napoli. Crippa was capped 17 times by Italy, and finished his career in 2002 after a two-year spell with non-league Canzese.

Juan Sebastian Veron

A completely different type of player to Crippa and Baggio, Veron is (was?) one of the classiest playmakers of his generation. Veron only played for Parma for a single season (1998-99) but he helped the Gialloblu scoop two trophies (UEFA Cup & Coppa Italia) that year. Because of the briefness of Veron’s Parma stay it’d be a stretch to call him one of the club’s all-time greats, but this isn’t about that: this is about my favourite Gialloblu players.

Veron, like yesterday’s subject (Tomas Brolin), endured a rough stay in England but he was always world-class in Serie A. Equally at home in deep and advanced positions, Veron’s technical quality, vision and passing made him one of calcio’s great creators. He was the heartbeat of the side spraying passes around the field and dictating the game like a metronome.

I’m sure Parma would’ve achieved even greater things if they’d been able to keep hold of Veron, but Lazio’s lure was too much for him and he left the Gialloblu in 1999 for approximately £18m. To be fair to Juan Sebastian, the move paid-off: he won Serie A, the Coppa Italia, the Supercoppa and the UEFA Super Cup in two seasons with the Aquile.

Honourable Mentions

Journeyman Stefano Fiore played for 12 professional clubs before his retirement this year and enjoyed two spells with Parma in the ‘90’s. I remember him and Diego Fuser in Gialloblu shirts crica 1998 with Fiore as playmaking and Fuser occupying the right channel. Alain Boghossian always springs to mind and not just because he has a fantastic surname: the Frenchman was real terrier around the centre circle.

Two players that I’m too young to vividly remember but definitely deserve a shout: Gabriele Pin and Marco Osio. I know that Osio in-particularly was hugely popular with the fans, and not just for his impressive Jesus-haircut/beard combo. One of Parma’s first real stars during the ’90’s.

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