Those of a certain vintage need no reminding that for a long time Italy was the centre of the footballing universe. There were a number of reasons for this – the climate, the culture and the history were all major draws – but one stood out above all others: money.
In short, Italian clubs were, for many years, the richest in the world and therefore able to offer huge wages and even bigger transfer fees. However, with great wealth came gross recklessness and Serie A’s finest frittered away millions on players who were, at best, ill-suited to the Italian game and, at worst, utterly useless.
Here, we take a look at some of the most infamous purchases in the history of the Italian game.
There was a spell in the early- to mid-90s when AC Milan appeared to buy players for no other reason than to ensure that they could not line up against them.
It would be unfair to put Jean-Pierre Papin into this bracket, though the former Marseille frontman had tormented the Rossoneri when they met in the quarter-finals of the European Cup in March 1991, Papin scoring a crucial away goal in the first leg at the San Siro.
However, Papin was widely regarded as one of the finest strikers in world football at the time, having racked up 134 goals in 215 appearances for Marseille, so it came as no surprise when the Rossoneri came calling with a world-record bid of £10million in the summer of 1992. Papin seemed destined to form a formidable striking partnership with Dutch master Marco van Basten – and yet it never came to pass.
Papin struggled to establish himself in the first team and suffered the ignominy of being left on the bench for the following summer’s European Cup final showdown with his former French employers. The forward did eventually get on but he could not help his side from slipping to, what was for Papin, the most painful of 1-0 defeats.
Van Basten would eventually see his career cut short by injury, while Papin would see his time at Milan peter out, the former European Footballer of the Year moving on to Bayern Munich in 1994 after scoring just 18 goals in 40 games for Il Diavolo.