667: Mavericks: Fernando Redondo, A
by : Daniel Ruiz
One of the most gifted players of this or any other generation, the Argentine midfielder has long courted controversy. He declined to appear in Carlos Bilardo’s Italia ’90 squad as Argentina prepared to defend their title because he wanted to finish his studies.
Four years later, Redondo did make it to the World Cup, where Argentina, their fallen idol Diego Maradona back to lead them, were expected to mount a serious challenge.
Redondo shone in US ’94, but after Maradona was expelled for failing a drugs test, even the sublimely-gifted playmaker was unable to prevent the two-time world champions from falling at the last sixteen, their 3-2 defeat at the hands of Hagi’s Romania lauded by many as one of the great World Cup games of any era.
On returning from the World Cup, 4 impressive seasons with Tenerife earned him a move to Real Madrid. At the Bernebeau, Redondo was at the heart of the Real revival, as the fallen giants set about first, returning to the top of the domestic tree, not an easy task given that Johan Cruyff’s “Dream Team” had won four back-to-back titles, and then conquering Europe.
In 1998, Real defeated favourites Juventus to take the Champions League, Redondo outplaying and outfighting his Juve counterpart (and future successor at the heart of the Real midfield), Zidane. But by then, though many experts had acknowledged him as perhaps the world’s finest midfielder, Redondo’s international career was in tatters after the new national coach, the disciplinarian Daniel Pasarella ordered him to cut his hair. Redondo told his new coach in no uncertain terms what he could do with the request, and by the time he did get his trim, it was too late. Pasarella was in no mood to forgive.
Two years later, after inspiring and captaining Real to their eighth European Cup win (a UEFA panel voted him the best player of the tournament), Redondo was unceremoniously bundled out of the club by new President Florentino Perez, who deemed the Argentine too influential a figure in the dressing room. On moving to new club Milan, Redondo ruptured his cruciate ligament in his right knee. Complications with the injury kept him out for two full seasons. During this absence, the new signing waived his €4.9m annual salary as a gesture of goodwill to Milan.
The player’s principals have perhaps cost him the acclaim his talents truly deserve, for this was a man who would have out-galacticoed the galacticos amassed by Perez after his departure.