Coral’s Serie A throwback: Parma legends all-time XI picks
For Coral writers, fallen giants Parma bring back the warmest of childhood memories, of weekends sat spent watching Serie A highlights on channel four’s now defunct Football Italia.
Parma, who proffered some truly classic teams and fantastic football throughout the 90’s, were recently declared bankrupt, and the Gialloblu’s entire future now looks uncertain.
With relegation from Italy’s top tier appearing ever more likely, we got our thinking caps on to come up with an all-time Crusaders starting XI.
Here’s who made the final cut from a host of top class alumni:
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
Prize Parma academy product Buffon began protecting Stadio Ennio Tardini posts aged just 17, and quickly developed into one of the game’s top stoppers.
After lifting a UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia, Italy number one Buffon left his boyhood club to become the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, joining giants Juventus for around £32.6m.
Check out Buffon’s top stop against Bulgaria here:
Right back: Lilian Thuram
Guadeloupe-born France international Thuram truly established himself at the Tardelli, where he was also a key cog in the 1998/99 cup double dream team.
Able to play across all defensive positions, flexible Thuram’s perfect mix of pace, power, intelligence and technique also saw him snapped up by talent magpies Juve.
Centre back: Fabio Cannavaro
Yet another eventual Old Lady acquisition, controversial Cannavaro, nicknamed “the Berlin wall”, spent seven successful seasons at Parma.
The composed and classy centre half made over 250 appearances for the Crusaders, even becoming captain, before going on to win a Ballon d’Or and World Cup.
Centre back: Fernando Couto
Couto can be considered a catalyst for Parma’s later success, after helping steer the club to their first UEFA Cup triumph in 1995, despite spending just two terms at the Tardelli.
Just over a decade after that memorable win, Portugal rearguard enforcer Couto returned to marshal the defence once more, aged 36, before retiring.
Left back: Roberto Nestor Sensini
Mr reliable, underrated Sensini was a great reader of the game, and contributed heavily to the Crusaders’ cause, lifting both UEFA Cups during his first six seasons with the Emilia-Romagna outfit.
The adaptable and tenacious Argentine then returned for a second stint with Parma after a brief spell at Lazio. His consistency and skill were not reliant upon age, so, at 39, Sensini became the oldest foreign player to score in Serie A.
Central midfield: Juan Sebastian Veron
Perhaps best known for his title heroics with Lazio, before flopping at Manchester United, Veron also spent a season propelling Parma to UEFA Cup glory in 1999.
A complete player, Veron could act as the driving force, spurring his side on with authority and tactical nous, or also pull the strings as a playmaker, with an impressive range of passing. Surely one of Serie A’s greatest all-round midfielders.
Central midfield: Hidetoshi Nakata
The first true East Asian football icon, gifted Nakata was far more than just a name to sell shirts in Japan. The patient midfield man kept things ticking over for Parma, and lifted the Coppa Italia with the club in 2002, scoring a crucial goal against Juventus along the way.
Attacking midfield: Gianfranco Zola
Before dazzling defences at Chelsea, quick-footed and creative magician Zola spent three seasons with the Gialloblu. The agile Italy international’s small stature, brilliant balance and vision helped him cause havoc in Serie A, before coach Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival saw him shipped off to England. Parma’s loss was certainly the Premier League’s gain.
Watch Zola in action for the Crusaders:
Wide right forward: Faustino Asprilla
Cult hero ‘Tito’ Asprilla is yet another who enjoyed two spells at Parma, with a Newcastle United stint sandwiched memorably in between.
While nowhere near as prolific as our next pick, Asprilla hit 25 in 84 league games during his first stay at the Tardelli, and contributed some crucial cup goals. Always remembered fondly for his all-round ability, Asprilla could be unbeatable on his day.
Centre forward: Hernan Crespo
Once the world’s most expensive players, when switching from Parma to Lazio in 2002, crafty Crespo poached 94 goals for the Tardelli team in 201 league outings, making him the top scorer in Gialloblu history.
Also Argentina’s third most lethal marksman of all-time, Crespo makes the cut in our Crusader’s XI for his simply sensational finishing ability.
Take a peek at a classic Crespo goal:
Wide left forward: Hristo Stoichkov
Tempestuous and unpredictable, spellbinding Stoichkov spent just a season in Serie A. Whilst with Parma ‘the gunslinger’ was far from in top form, but his undeniable ability sees him make the grade here. A joy to watch, the Barcelona and Bulgaria hero demands inclusion.