Saturday, November 29 th, 2014
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Ince, Gascoigne, Bothroyd: British-Italian legends and losers
Cole and Richards are only the latest Brits to venture in Italy. The Island exported many talents and... some queer fishes
by Richard Clarke
This summer Serie A welcomed the arrival of two English players in the shape of Ashley Cole and Micah Richards. These transfers captured the attention of the Peninsula; not only because both defenders represent impressive captures for their respective clubs but also because both players are a rare breed – an Englishman in Serie A. Since the heady days of John Charles Brits playing abroad have been few and far between with only a brave few trying their hand in Serie A with varying degrees of success: Let’s take a look at some of the truly memorable players to grace the Italian League and also the oddities who some fans would like to forget.

John Charles.
The first Brit to ply his trade in Serie A and almost definitely the most impressive import into Calcio from the British Isles. Juventus broke the British transfer record to bring the Welshman to Italy and the striker would repay this faith with a total of 93 goals in 155 games. In his first season with Juventus Charles hit the back of the net 28 times winning the League title and Player of the Year Award in the process. He would go on to form a jaw-dropping attacking trident with the club icons Boniperti and Sivori wowing fans across Italy for years. The Welsh striker’s time in Serie A is remembered fondly by football fans ensuring his status as a true Anglo-Italian legend and pioneer; Charles was voted the greatest ever foreign player to play for the old lady in 1997. Interestingly enough the Welshmen was never cautioned or sent off in his professional career; a true gent of the game, rare breed in the modern era.

Jay Bothroyd. From the good to the bad. Jay Bothroyd, an England International and Arsenal youth product, arrived in Serie A in the summer of 2003. A leftfield signing form eccentric Perugia Chairman Luciano Gaucci the Englishmen endured a miserable debut campaign in Italy with a paltry 5 goals in 26 games. The left footed striker appeared cumbersome and sluggish in the red of the Umbrian club and struggled to make an impact against the stoic defenders of Italy’s top division. A close friendship with teammate Al Saadi Gaddafi, son of Libyan tyrant Colonel Gaddafi, did not help his cause and after 2 solemn years in Italy the striker can now be found in the where are they now section (playing in Thailand).

David Platt.
One of the most successful Englishmen to ply his trade in Serie A with a Coppa Italia and Uefa Cup to show for his time in Italy. The skilful midfielder started his European adventure at Bari were he hit an impressive 11 goals in his debut campaign, a move to Juventus followed but it was at Sampdoria that Platt really made his mark on Calcio. In Genoa the dexterous Englishman linked up with long-time admirer and club captain Roberto Mancini scoring 17 goals in two seasons with the Blucerchiati. Platt would later return to Sampdoria as manager but with differing success and a touch of controversy; it was rumoured that Platt didn’t actually have the necessary qualifications to coach in Italy and his short stint ended in resignation.

Read more about Platt's spell in Italy

Des Walker.
Another English player to disembark at Genoa, wearing Sampdoria's jersey. Des Walker was signed after the European Championships in 1992 for the princely sum of £1.5 million. The defender only lasted one year in Serie A after struggling for form. He endured a torrid debut in front of the Blucerchiati which set the tone for his time in Italy – the so called ‘best English defender of his generation’ struggled to cope with the skilful attackers on show in Serie A and appeared gnarled and lethargic in the blue of Sampdoria.

Paul Gascoigne.
One of the most memorable characters of the modern game and a phenomenal footballer to boot. He was a brilliant offensive midfielder, with enough class and technique to be considered as one of the best British talents ever. His spell at Lazio couldn't have had a better first step as Gazza scored his first goal in a derby against Roma in the 89th minute: it was the equaliser and the game ended 1-1.

However his time at Lazio was troubled with fitness problems and some off the field controversies drawing attention from his ability on the pitch. Many British fans of Calcio recall Gazza’s time in Italy fondly as the Italian Football began to achieve massive popularity in the UK; Lazio’s £7 million signing of Gascoigne had a massive role to play in heightening the interest and appeal of Serie A to British football fans. His record at Lazio is disappointing but the Biancocelesti fans remember their former midfielder affectionately; his iconic status as a ‘man of the people’ was sealed with a last minute equaliser in the Derby Della Capitale against Rome. An unforgettable player for all the right and wrong reasons.

Luther Blissett.
Luther Blissett is a name long remembered in Italy. Bought by AC Milan for a hefty £1 million in 1983 after their return to the top division of Italian football - the former Watford striker struggled to sustain the form he achieved in England and only lasted 1 year in the Serie A. A poor return of 5 goals in 30 games ensured his status as a major flop. More attention-grabbing than his on the field prowess is the fact that it has long been rumoured that AC Milan actually signed Blissett by accident; according to legend the Milanese scouting staff confused the striker with his Watford teammate John Barnes – their original target! Blissett will remembered more for his famous quote rather than his on the field prowess, ‘No matter how much money you have here, you can’t seem to get Rice Krispies’. Maybe if Luther had his favourite cereal on match day his Italian fate would have been a different story.

Ian Rush.
Like his Welsh compatriot Charles, Ian Rush Signed for Italian giants Juventus with a record breaking fee of £3.2 million. Juventus fans must have been licking their lips at the prospect of having a prolific Welshman in their side gain – their hopes would be dashed as their new striker lasted just a year after failing to adapt to the Italian game. Rush’s failure to unlock the defences of Italy remains a mystery of the modern game as the striker was remarkably prolific during his years on Merseyside. Many blame Rush’s inability to adapt to Italian culture as the root cause of his abject performances in the black and white of Juventus. He was sold back to Liverpool after one year in Turin with a solitary return of 7 goals in 29 games.

Read more about Ian Rush's short Italian story

Paul Ince.
Paul Ince arrived at Inter for £7 million after a fallout with then Man Utd manager Alex Ferguson, an all too familiar story. His time in Milan was a success with some battling midfield displays endearing Ince to the Milan faithful; Ince would later declare that ‘leaving man u was the best thing I ever did’. A midfielder of international pedigree Ince did not pick up any silverware during time with Inter but he represented the archetypal battling English midfielder well in Italy. Interestingly enough Ince’s son Tom was close to following in his father’s footsteps last summer in moving to the Inter; Ince Jnr instead chose the glamour of Hull over Milan.

Overall The British contingent have had mixed fortunes in Italy; only time will tell how Ashley Cole and Richards will fare in the Serie A and whether their Anglo-Italian careers will be good, bad or downright ugly.

Wednesday, October 1 st, 2014
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