Rovers in Italy: Famous Players


Here, we take a look at some of the more well known players to have played in the tournament, and against Tranmere. Some went on to be huge stars, others tried their hand in the English game but failed miserably.

Aside from giving many clubs their first taste of European competition, the Anlgo-Italian cup also gave the opportunity for many players to taste European action. Some of the players who played in the competition have used the experience well, going on to be massive stars, and in a couple of cases, world superstars.

In this section we look at the players that Rovers came up against that have gone on to be top names, and in one case, a player that graced Prenton Park less than three years after making headlines around the globe in a World Cup final.

Christian Vieri

What better place to start than on one of the worlds most recognisable footballers? Italian International Christian Vieri is now regarded as one of the world’s top strikers. His game is based around his awesome strength, aerial prowess and ability to take chances on either feet. The Inter Milan striker is now on a reputed £130,000 per week playing in front of big crowds and against the world’s top players every week. But it wasn’t always this way for the man from Bologna.

Despite Bologna being his hometown, the big striker has yet to play for them. After starting his career with Italian outfit Prato in the 1989/90 season, Vieri earned a move to Torino where he stayed until November 1993. After spells with Pisa and Ravenna, he joined Venezia in the summer of 1994. It was this move that brought him to play at Prenton Park, as he played for the visiting Italians in a 2-2 draw in August ’94.

After travelling around six Italian clubs, Vieri finally got the big move he hoped for when he joined Juventus in 1995. After one season he left for a 12 month foray at Athletico Madrid before returning to Italy with Lazio in 1998. Again, it was only for a season, after which he joined Inter Milan where he remains today. He has scored in excess of 150 goals in Italian football, earning more than 30 Italy caps in the process. He is expected to be named in the Italy squad for Euro 2004.

Oliver Bierhoff

German striker Oliver Bierhoff is now retired, although he will join greats such as Jurgen Klinsmann and Rudi Voller in the Germany hall of fame. Bierhoff sprang to national prominence in England when he scored the ‘Golden Goal’ winner against Czech Republic in the Euro 96 final at Wembley.

Bierhoff started his career in Germany with Bayern Uerdingen before moving on to Hamburger SV, Borussia Monchengladbach and then over the border to Austrian outfit Casino Salzburg. From here, Bierhoff decided to try his hand in Italy, and joined then Serie B side Ascoli on loan. It was at Ascoli when Bierhoff played at Prenton Park. An attendance of 4,546 turned up to see the game, and it was the Italians that took a 1-0 victory, courtesy of a Bierhoff penalty.

From Ascoli, Bierhoff went on to play for Udinese where he began to flourish in Italy’s top flight. After two seasons here, he landed a dream move to giants AC Milan. After partnering the likes of Andriy Shevchenko upfront at the San Siro, before joining Chievo Verona. Bierhoff bowed out of football at the end of the 2002/2003 season, and went out in typical style scoring a hat-trick against his former employers, Milan.

His total career stats saw him score 37 goals in 70 caps for Germany, and also saw him net 103 times in Italy’s Serie A. For a more in depth look at one of the most respected strikers of recent time, read the ‘Bierhoff bows out in Style’ article on the UEFA website.

Giovanni Bia

Giovanni Bia may not be a name many fans can relate to in England, but back in Italy it’s a different story. Bia, now 35, has played at the top level for more than a decade, yet somehow never got a single cap for Italy.

His list of former clubs is not only long, but pretty impressive. It certainly gives an idea of just how much football the Parma-born player has played. Brescia, Udinese, Inter Milan, Napoli, Cosenza, Parma, Trento and Perugia have all had Bia pull on their shirt for them.

It was in his time with Cosenza that Bia played at Rovers in December 1992. The game finished 2-1 to Tranmere thanks to goals from John Morrissey and Kenny Irons.

After more than ten years in Italy, Bia opted for a new challenge in 2001 with a move to French side St Etienne.

Marco Negri

Italian striker Marco Negri rose to prominence back home in Italy in the 1994/95 season. This season was spent with Cosenza in Italy’s Serie B. It was in this season that a young Negri came to Prenton Park, part of the same side as Giovanni Bia that lost 2-1.

Negri managed 19 goals in this season though, and was rewarded with a move to Serie A side Perugia. Despite 33 goals in two seasons at Perugia, they were relegated to Serie B at the end of the 1996/97 season. Now rated as one of the best strikers in Italy, the competition for his signature was fierce.

Scottish side Glasgow Rangers won the race though, beating off an 11th hour bid from Napoli to get the hitman for £3.7m. Negri settled in quick, scoring some 32 goals in his first season at Ibrox. The good times didn’t last though, and a bright career soon turned into more of a nightmare. Injury and a change of manager at Ibrox saw him fall out of favour making just one appearance the following season.

He was sent back to Italy on loan where he played 9 games, scoring once, in Serie A with Vicenza. They did not see it sufficient to keep him, and after returning to Rangers the injury-plagued striker was left unemployed and searching for a contract for nearly 8 months.

After numerous failed trials, including at Derby County, Bologna and Cagliari took chances on him, but his spells at the clubs were short.

Finally, in the summer of 2002, Serie B side Lovorno offered him a way back. He grabbed the chance and went on knock in eight goals for them.

Gustavo Dezotti

Argentinian International Gustavo Dezotti was, at the time, one of the most recognisable players to play in the Anglo-Italian. The controversial striker played upfront for US Cremonese in their game at Prenton Park in November 1992. A Chris Malkin goal wasn’t enough to prevent the Italian’s taking a 2-1 victory.

The real headline making moment for Dezotti came in the final of the World Cup ‘Italia 90’. Argentina faced West Germany, a game the Germans won 1-0. However, Dezotti and team mate Pedro Monzon, made history as they became the first two players to ever be sent off in a World Cup final.

Monzon was dismissed early on, followed by the controversial Dezotti in the final ten minutes. It was his fourth appearance of the tournament, his first start. He had started upfront alongside no other than Diego Maradona.

Best of the Rest!

There were of course many other players to play in the tournament that went on to be stars, or well known at least. In the 1994/95 season, hapless former Manchester United keeper Massimo Taibi starred for Piacenza against Swindon Town at the County Ground. Another player to play that night for the Italians has gone on to fare a little better. Milan and Italy striker Filipo ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi played upfront.

Another player to have played in the Anglo-Italian but failed to settle in the Premiership is former Chelsea flop Gabrielle Ambrosetti. Ambrosetti played for Brescia in the 1993/94 season, scoring the winning goal at Wembley that year for Brescia against Notts County in the final.

One of the real legends to play in the tournament pulled on the Brescia shirt in the 1994 final at Wembley. Former Romanian International Gheorge Hagi was part of the winning side that day.

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