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SOCCER / GRAHAME L. JONES : World Cup Stars Scattered Across Europe

Now that the baseball players have taken a walk, what are the players who run for a living doing?

Players such as Gheorghe Hagi and Juergen Klinsmann. Players such as Claudio Caniggia and Marcio Santos. Players such as Romario and--lest we forget--Hristo Stoitchkov.

A month has passed since Italy’s Roberto Baggio blasted the final kick of the 1994 World Cup high over the crossbar, sealing Brazil’s victory.

The new season has begun in Europe, with league play already under way in France and England and soon to begin in Germany, Spain and Italy.

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Those are the five major soccer-playing powers in Europe, based upon the strength of their professional leagues. It is where the majority of the big-name clubs are located and where most of the star players earn their living.

In short, it is where to find those who enthralled U.S. fans in the summer of ’94.

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England’s failure to qualify for the World Cup appears to have had one unexpected benefit--a new willingness to accept that foreign players might be better and therefore are worth signing.

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The London club Tottenham Hotspur, better known simply as Spurs, led the way by signing two of the World Cup’s best strikers--Klinsmann of Germany for $3 million from AS Monaco of France and Ilie Dumitrescu of Romania for $4 million from Steaua Bucharest.

That puts Spurs, which is coached by 1978 World Cup winner Ossie Ardiles of Argentina, in a much better position to challenge defending champion Manchester United, which is packed with foreign talent, including France’s Eric Cantona and Wales’ Ryan Giggs.

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While Dumitrescu chose England, two of his Romanian World Cup teammates sought out the sunshine in Spain. Hagi has joined Barcelona, while Florin Raducioiu left AC Milan in Italy to sign for Barcelona’s cross-town rival, Espanol.

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Hagi’s move, which reportedly has earned him a $1-million annual salary, leaves Barcelona Coach Johan Cruyff with an interesting problem. He has four of the world’s top players under contract but can play only three foreigners in a game.

Whom does he leave out? Romario, the Brazilian goal-scoring ace? Unthinkable. Stoitchkov, the Bulgarian who is equally adept at finding the net? Not likely. Hagi, the Romanian midfielder who sets up the plays? Not a chance. Ronald Koeman, the Dutch defender with the lethal free kick? How could he?

Cruyff has coached Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish league titles by being able to make such decisions, but this season could prove to be his most challenging.

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European champion AC Milan had much the same problem over the past year or two because team owner Silvio Berlusconi, now Italy’s prime minister, insisted on buying the best players available even though it meant some would have to sit.

Like their Spanish counterparts, Italian clubs can sign as many foreign stars as they want but are allowed to play only three.

This season, AC Milan has cut its foreign contingent by sending French striker Jean-Pierre Papin to Bayern Munich of Germany; by selling Danish midfielder/forward Brian Laudrup to the Glasgow Rangers in Scotland, and shipping Raducioiu to Espanol.

In return, Coach Fabio Capello has brought Dutch star Ruud Gullit back to Milan from Sampdoria.

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Milan still has an exceptional team, but it will be quite a task to retain both its Italian and European championships and win the world club championship in December.

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South American players make a huge impact in Europe and give the game there an unrivaled edge over the rest of the world. Every World Cup sees a new influx of talent crossing the Atlantic.

The most startling acquisition made after World Cup ’94 was by the Dutch team, PSV Eindhoven, which bought 17-year-old Ronaldo from Cruzeiro of Brazil for $6 million.

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Ronaldo was on the Brazilian World Cup-winning team but did not play in any of its matches. He has been earmarked for success for some time, and PSV had to fight off strong challenges from reigning Dutch champion Ajax Amsterdam and from AC Milan to acquire him.

Look for Ronaldo to be sold to an Italian or Spanish club in a few years for considerably more than $6 million. The Dutch club is known for its wise investments; one of its former stars is Romario.

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Despite the size of the Ronaldo deal, it pales in comparison to what Genoa of Italy spent to acquire Kazuyoshi Miura of Japan from Yomiuri.

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Genoa loaned Miura, the J-League’s most popular and famous player, for one year for a reported $7.5 million. He will become the first Asian player to compete in the Italian first division.

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Among South American World Cup performers on the move in Europe are Caniggia, of Argentina, who was traded to Benfica of Portugal by AS Roma of Italy for a sum reportedly between $3.8 million and $4.2 million.

Caniggia was banned for 13 months after testing positive for cocaine in 1993 and has not played for Roma since, although he did play for Argentina in its World Cup campaign.

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Elsewhere, two of Brazil’s World Cup defenders have switched clubs.

Mazinho has been loaned by Palmeiras of Brazil to Valencia of Spain at the special request of Brazilian World Cup Coach Carlos Alberto Parreira, who left that position to become Valencia’s coach.

Parreira has been busy in the transfer market and among other players he has acquired are Russia’s Oleg Salenko, who scored a World Cup-record five goals against Cameroon, and Spanish World Cup goalkeeper Adoni Zubizarreta, from Barcelona.

The other Brazilian defender to move is Marcio Santos, who was purchased by Fiorentina of Italy for $3.2 million from Bordeaux in France.

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Meanwhile, Palmeiras also has sold Colombian World Cup midfielder Freddy Rincon to Napoli in Italy.

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Perhaps the most curious move made in the off-season was that of Irish striker Tony Cascarino, who left Chelsea in England to sign with Olympique Marseille in France.

Because Marseille has been demoted to the French second division in the wake of a bribery scandal, most of its stars have abandoned ship.

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For example, two French players, Jocelyn Angloma and Basile Boli, left to join Torino in Italy and the Glasgow Rangers in Scotland, respectively. Similarly, Yugoslavia’s Dragan Stojkovic left to sign for Grampus Eight in Japan; Brazilian Sonny Anderson moved to AS Monaco and Portugal’s Rui Baros went home to FC Porto.

Cascarino will play alongside Germany’s Rudi Voeller as Marseille attempts to win promotion back to the first division.

Soccer Notes

A first-half penalty kick by French star Eric Cantona and a bicycle-kick goal nine minutes before the final whistle by Paul Ince of England gave Manchester United a 2-0 victory over the Blackburn Rovers on Sunday at Wembley Stadium in London in the Charity Shield match, the traditional opener to the English season. . . . Hungary has hired former national team defender Kalman Meszoly as its national coach. Meszoly has held the post twice before, including during the 1982 World Cup in Spain. . . . Stefan Effenberg, the German player who was sent home from the World Cup after making an obscene gesture at fans in Dallas, has been traded from Fiorentina in Italy to Germany’s Borussia Moenchengladbach, his former club.

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Mexico will have to wait until January or February of 1996 to defend its title in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The Mexicans won the second edition of the tournament in 1993, defeating the United States, 4-0, in the final at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. But Chuck Blazer, general secretary of CONCACAF, said next summer’s international schedule is too crowded to allow the competition to be played. On tap next summer are the Copa America, or South American Championship, in Uruguay, as well as the U.S. Cup ’95 tournament and the Under-20 and Under-17 world championships.

The German Supercup was won by Werder Bremen, which defeated Bayern Munich, 3-1, in overtime in a match pitting the German Cup winner against the league champion. The result meant a losing debut for new Bayern Munich Coach Giovanni Trapattoni. . . . Italian World Cup goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca has been traded from Sampdoria to Inter Milan. . . . In Montreal today, Trinidad & Tobago plays Jamaica and Canada plays Mexico in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament for next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Championship in Sweden. . . . The reelection Saturday of Alan Rothenberg as United States Soccer Federation president also saw the election of Larry Monaco as executive vice president and Bill Goaziou as treasurer, succeeding Hank des Bordes and Richard Groff, respectively.


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