From 1980 – the year of the reopening of football frontiers after 14 years of “autarchy” – to date, the Italian league has been the receptacle of unforgettable champions and inadequate players, champions, and bronchi. Sometimes the possibility of being able to go and buy outside the national borders has allowed our Serie A to dominate in Europe and in the world, other times the charm of the exotic has pulled tricks on presidents and fans.
As always, even in this sector, there has been a bit of fashion: there was the period of the Brazilians at all costs, regardless of whether they were Maracana stars or beach after-workers; then it was the turn of the Argentines, the Germans, the Slavs, from time to time the Spaniards or the English (however few and immediately sent back to the motherland), to then start the tour again with the Brazilians.
Of all the nations, one of those that, contrary to what one might think, has given us players with greater consistency was little Uruguay, a country of just 3 million inhabitants (1 million and three hundred thousand of which crammed in Montevideo). has given Italy and world football some memorable pages.
Alcides Ghiggia, Juan Alberto Schiaffino, Michele Andreolo are just some of the natives who made Italian football great between the twenties and the sixties and who led their national team to win two World Cups, two Olympic golds, and eleven America’s Cups (today the total it has reached fifteen, more than Brazil and Argentina); but precisely, also playing on the Italian origins of many of them, the Uruguayan players have been imported continuously even in recent years, first of all by some clubs that seem to have a privileged channel with that country such as Cagliari, Genoa or more recently the Palermo.
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And it was Palermo that brought the last Uruguayan champion, Edinson Cavani, who recently flew to make Paris Saint-Germain (even more) great. But it is not strictly topical that we want to talk to you today: instead, we present five great Uruguayan footballers who left a mark on our league in the nineties, trying to recap their deeds and understand what happened after their farewell to our football.
A Uefa Cup With Inter, Many Goals With Lazio
The first noteworthy Uruguayan to arrive in Italy after the reopening of the borders was Rubén Sosa, the second fast forward that Lazio took from Zaragoza in 1988. Growing up in the Danubio, the historic Juventus team from Montevideo, he arrived in Spain at just 19 years old, in a happy period for the Aragonese team that obtained with him a fourth and a fifth place in the league and above all a King’s Cup by beating Barcelona in the final. with his own goal.
At Lazio he played 123 league games, in a period in which the Roman team regularly finished in the middle of the table, however contributing significantly to the peaceful salvation of the Biancocelesti with 47 goals in four seasons. In 1992, however, now ripe for more important stages, he was bought by Inter for two and a half billion lire, going to team up first with Salvatore Schillaci, who just arrived from Juventus, and then with Dennis Bergkamp, who came from ‘Ajax.
Coexistence with these strikers was not always easy: Schillaci did not know how to repeat the glories of Italy ’90 and was physically too similar to Sosa; with Bergkamp, on the other hand, character conflicts also emerged on the pitch. In any case, he remained in Milan for three seasons, until 1995, collecting 76 appearances and even 44 goals (after Cavani he is the most prolific Uruguayan in the history of our championship) immediately bringing Osvaldo Bagnoli’s Inter to fight for the first year. scudetto, even if Capello’s Milan dominated the league.
Much worse went the following year, when the team crashed into the relegation zone (closed with only one point ahead of the fourth to last) but consoled themselves by winning the Uefa Cup. In 1995 he was sold to Borussia Dortmund, where he won his first Scudetto by pairing with his old Lazio teammate, Karl-Heinz Riedle. After just one season, however, he returned first to Spain at Logroñés and then to Uruguay, where he won three championships with the Nacional. He retired in 2005, at 39, after an appearance also in China. Today he works in the technical sector of the Nacional.
Carlos Alberto Aguilera
The Genoa Striker Who Scored at Anfield
The good investment made by Lazio first and then by Inter in Rubén Sosa opened the doors of Italian football also to other Uruguayan players, convincing the presidents that the players of that country cost little and made a lot. Genoa in 1989 bought even three in one stroke: José Perdomo, which would last only one season and would return almost immediately to South America after two quick attempts in England and Spain; Rubén Paz just elected South American footballer of the year but also immediately sent back from where he came from; and finally Carlos Alberto Aguilera, the only one who managed to establish himself in our championship.
And he imposed himself: in three years the newly promoted Genoa took home a memorable fourth place in the year of the Sampdoria championship, the best result of the whole post-war period, thanks to a team led once again by Osvaldo Bagnoli who also fielded Tomáš Skuhravý (with Aguilera the two scored 30 goals in a single season), the Brazilian Branco, the captain Signorini and Stefano Eranio in midfield.
But it was above all in Europe that the team made the fans dream: in 1991/92 they landed in the Uefa Cup where they killed Oviedo, Dinamo, and Steaua Bucharest and in the quarter-finals even Liverpool going to win 2-1 ad Anfield with Aguilera’s own brace. In the semifinals, however, the Genoa players failed to overcome the Ajax of Frank de Boer, Winter, Bergkamp, and Van Gaal who would then win the cup against Turin. That defeat closed a cycle and Aguilera went to Turin, where, paired with Andrea Silenzi, he won an Italian Cup in his first season.
In 1994 he returned to Uruguay, to his old team of Peñarol, where he won another five league titles, often starting from the bench. Since then he has never seen himself again in Italy because in 1996 he was convicted of exploitation of prostitution and possession and sale of cocaine; the sentence was later pardoned in 2007.
The Myth of Zidane Who Led Cagliari
As we said at the beginning, some Italian clubs have always seemed to have a privileged relationship with Uruguay: among these Genoa, which as we have seen the Uruguayans bought them three at a time, but also Cagliari, which is 1990, just promoted by Serie B, did the same operation, bringing to Sardinia in a single stroke the midfielder José Herrera, who for the rossoblù would have played almost 150 times, the striker Daniel Fonseca, who would also have played at very high levels, and the second striker Enzo Francescoli, then considered the most talented Uruguayan player of the last decades.
El Flaco already boasted a championship won with River Plate in Argentina, as well as two top scorer titles and a South American footballer of the year award; he then moved on to France, where he won the championship in Marseille, enchanting, among other things, the eighteen-year-old Zidane who, years later, would give the name of Enzo to his son in his honor.
In Cagliari, Francescoli did not manage to score with the continuity of the previous seasons, but he nevertheless became the leader of the team coached by Claudio Ranieri; moreover, after the change on the bench with the arrival of Carlo Mazzone and his entry into the squad of Luís Oliveira, he also dragged Cagliari to the exploit of 1993, when they finished sixth in the league.
However, he could not compete in the Uefa Cup he had just won because at the end of that year he was sold to Turin, where he played only one season before returning to the River, now thirty-three. In Argentina, however, he knew a second youth, winning four other championships and a Libertadores Cup. Between 1983 and 1995 he also led his national team, with 73 appearances, to the conquest of three America’s Cups.
The Rocky Defender of Atalanta and Juventus
Among the many forwards who have made the history of their respective Italian clubs, however, we must mention at least one defender: Paolo Montero, column first for Atalanta and then for Juventus. Born in 1971, he grew up in Peñarol but arrived in Italy very young, just twenty-one, as part of the renewal project wanted for Atalanta by the new president (and former Nerazzurri player) Antonio Percassi.
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Here he found a young Marcello Lippi on the bench, as well as other future Juventus teammates such as Sergio Porrini and Alessio Tacchinardi: the team immediately ranked seventh, just one point from the Uefa zone, after having closed the first round even at third place. The following year, with Lippi’s farewell (and the unsuccessful arrival of Guidolin first and Prandelli then), the team crashed and was relegated, but Montero went down to B and helped his teammates to recover, bringing the team the following year. in the final of the Italian Cup, lost to Fiorentina of Toldo, Rui Costa and Batistuta.
In 1996, now mature, he was bought by Juventus: in the Juventus team, he would become the central holder together with Ciro Ferrara, strengthening his reputation as a surly and at times even foul scorer (with 16 red cards in Serie A he is a record holder in the specialty), so much so that he is sometimes remembered above all for kicking Francesco Totti or punching Luigi Di Biagio more than for his footballing prowess. Yet with Juventus, he became one of the best defenders in the world, winning four league titles plus one revoked, an Intercontinental Cup, and three Champions League finals in nine years.
In 2005, now thirty-four, he decided to return to South America, first in San Lorenzo and then in his Peñarol, where he ended his career in 2007. With Uruguay, he made 61 appearances, also becoming captain during the qualifiers for the World Cup. 2006, however, lost in the play-off with Australia. Today he works as a prosecutor for young Uruguayan footballers.
He Southpaw With Unforgettable Goals
We conclude with a player who arrived in Italy towards the end of the nineties, but who immediately left his mark not so much, perhaps, in the victories or trophies won, as in the crystalline class that he knew how to put on the field when he had the opportunity to play continuously.
Álvaro Recoba was bought just twenty-one for 7 billion by Massimo Moratti’s Inter, who had taken over the leadership of the club for a couple of seasons; a purchase that at first passed on the sly, given that that same summer for 48 billion also Ronaldo, who had just scored 34 goals in 37 official matches at Barcelona. It was Gigi Simoni’s Inter who could field Ronaldo, Djorkaeff, Ganz, and Zamorano in attack, with the young and unknown Recoba who seemed inevitably destined for the bench.
Instead, El Chino was able to immediately show off, because Inter in the first championship hosted Hubner’s Brescia and immediately went under, risking the fool: Recoba entered from the bench twenty minutes from the end in place of Ganz and within six minutes, however, he scored two long-range goals, the first from 30 meters, the second from a free-kick. After such a fantastic debut, however, he was unable to repeat himself, scoring only one more goal – albeit almost from midfield – in the whole tournament. After a start to the season again on the bench, the following year he was loaned to Venice, where he scored 11 goals in 19 games and dragged the lagoon to historic salvation, demonstrating that with continuity he could do great things.
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He, therefore, found more space for Inter because of Ronaldo’s injury, even if the passport scandal hit him and the team the incredible backhand of May 5, 2002, when Inter lost the Scudetto with Cúper on the bench. on the last day after almost sewing it on the chest. Recoba returned to being a protagonist, especially in 2002/03, the following year when he scored twelve goals and found a place next to Vieri or Crespo. In 2006 (at the table) and in 2007 he finally graduated as Italian champion but playing little. By now thirty-one, he, therefore, obtained to be loaned to Turin to find more space: even there, however, he did not go very well and therefore went first to Greece, to Panionios, and then returned to Uruguay. After a year in the Danube, he currently plays for the Montevideo Nacional at the age of 38.
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