Ask most football fans what the best league in the world is these days and the merits of La Liga and the English Premier League will be debated until the cows come home. However, in the early ’90s there was only one answer. As Californian songster Beck might have said, Serie A was undoubtedly where it was at. The success of Italia 90 had given the domestic game in Italy a headstart in the financial boom that was to follow football across Europe in the 1990s and the world’s best players came to Italy in their droves.
British football has never been particularly renowned for its foreign exports, with Ian Rush famously claiming that “moving from Wales to Italy is like moving to different country”, but a select few were not afraid to up sticks to pastures new at this time. One of the first of these was David Platt who moved from Aston Villa to Bari on this day in 1991 for £5.5 million.
Platt, along with Paul Gascoigne, Des Walker and Paul Ince to name a few, spearheaded British interest in Serie A, a bandwagon that Channel 4 soon jumped on, with their Gazzetta Football Italia broadcasts attracting millions of viewers. Platt was a frequent guest on the show, with host James Richardson memorably once making him dress up as the Terminator, in between sipping cappuccino and eating deserts on the various Piazza’s of Rome.
Platt was another talent that graduated from Dario Gradi’s production line at Crewe, earning a move to Aston Villa, where he would establish his reputation as hard-working goal-scoring midfielder. He really exploded onto the scene at the Italia 90, where he scored three goals, including an unforgettable volley in the last minute of extra-time against Belgium to book a place in the quarter-finals.
His first year in Italy saw Platt become a fixture in the Bari side, finishing with an impressive 11 goals, but this was not enough to stop the Galletti from being relegated. He was then signed by Juventus for £6.5 million, but did not establish himself and was again on the move the following summer, with Sampdoria being his port of call, where he became a firm favourite of the fans.
In December 1998 Platt retuned to Sampdoria to take over as manager when Luciano Spalletti was fired with Samp struggling in 14th place in Serie A. However, the rest of the league were immediately on his back, as he did not possess the relevant qualifications to coach in Italy. Doubts over his suitability for management were confirmed when he signed Lee Sharpe on loan from Leeds United. After six games and two points he stepped down and Sampdoria were later relegated, despite fielding a side with the twin attacking threats of Vincenzo Montella and Ariel Ortega.
Management didn’t go much better for Platt back home either. His spells in charge of Nottingham Forest and the England Under-21 team have seen him shun the dugout for the studio of Sky Sports these days, but never mind Platty, we’ll always have Belgium.
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