Nostalgia

Hernan Crespo: Argentina’s Gift to Italy

Hernan Crespo playing for Parma
Credit: EMPICS Sport

Enigmatic forward Hernan Crespo played for 19 years and featured for some of Europe’s greatest teams. The Argentine was the world’s most expensive player when Lazio signed him from Parma for a €56m fee and he won a plethora of accolades throughout his career, with club and country – as well as on an individual level. With 35 goals for Argentina in 64 games and 271 goals for club in all competitions, Crespo holds a place in the hearts of many and is certainly worth talking about.

Hernan Crespo’s career began with Argentine giants River Plate. Having been born in the city of Florida Este, in the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires, a move to one of the city’s historic sides was both an exciting and an inevitable prospect for a young player with Crespo’s talents. Crespo’s first season with River Plate saw him score 16 league goals in 25 games, helping the side lift the 1993/94 Apertura Argentine Premier Division. After 3 years in Argentina, Crespo moved to Parma aged 21 in August 1996.

Crespo would spend four seasons with Parma; delivering a consistent goalscoring threat and helping the team lift the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup in the 1998/99 season. In addition, the team lifted the Supercoppa Italiana in August 1999. Crespo then moved to Lazio in 2000; when the Biancocelesti broke the current world record fee to sign him. Crespo won his only Serie A Top Scorer award with Lazio in the 2000/01 season, scoring 26 league goals in just 32 games.

Financial difficulties led to Lazio selling Crespo in 2002 – when Inter Milan purchased him for €26m plus Bernardo Corradi. Ronaldo had just left the Nerazzurri and they had an enormous hole in their team to fill. In this first spell with Inter, Crespo scored 7 goals in 18 games but spent three months out with an injury at the start of 2003 and in summer 2003 he joined Premier League club Chelsea. After 10 goals in 19 Premier League games in his first season, Jose Mourinho and Didier Drogba arrived at the club and Crespo was loaned out to AC Milan. Crespo lifted the Supercoppa Italiana with Milan before returning for another season at Chelsea in 2005/06; the Argentine scoring 10 in 30 in the Premier League.

After that season, Crespo requested to leave the club to return to Italy and eventually left to return to Inter on a two-year loan, where he would score 14 and 4 league goals in the 06/07 and 07/08 Serie A seasons respectively. Crespo was then released by Chelsea and joined Inter permanently, playing 14 times in the 08/09 season, scoring just two goals. In his time at Inter, Crespo won Serie A three times consecutively, as well as the Supercoppa Italiana twice.

For the final three seasons of his career, before retiring in 2012, Crespo spent half a season at Genoa before returning to Parma, where he scored 9 in 29 and 0 in his final season before retiring. Crespo featured 64 times for the Argentine national team, scoring 35 goals; 4 at FIFA World Cups, scoring 1 in 2002 and 3 in the 2006 edition.

As to how he played, Crespo can only be defined as an instinctive and prolific goalscorer, a classic poacher with a fantastic flair and technique in terms of dribbling. Crespo combined two of the most vital traits that a forward should have, as well as being able to demonstrate a fantastic work-rate and often blistering pace on the break. The Argentine was a natural at creating space for himself; often as a result of his instinctive movement and abilities on the ball required to breeze past defenders and put himself one-on-one. Whenever given those one-on-ones, Crespo often duly delivered; finding whatever technique was necessary to slice, chip or power the ball into the back of the net.

Crespo’s highest scoring season came in 2000/01 with Lazio, when the team failed to retain the Serie A title they had held the year before. Crespo was especially effective for the Biancocelesti given the support players he had working alongside him. The forward developed a natural synergy with the likes of Pavel Nedved, his compatriot Juan Sebastian Veron and Sinisa Mihajlovic; working effortlessly with these world class creators to provide the end product. Crespo is considered a hero at several of the clubs he has played for, as well as being a prized product of his native Argentina; but his 26-goal season with Lazio stands as his best, even if the club failed to reproduce their heroics of the season before.

Crespo is still involved in the game today. He worked as the youth coach for Parma’s Primavera side in the 14/15 season, before being announced as the new head coach of Modena in the summer of 2015; after Parma’s financial difficulties led to disbandment. Crespo was sacked by Modena in March 2016. Hernan Crespo then served as vice president and later club ambassador for Parma after their revival between 2017 and January 2018 before he returned to management, taking over Argentine side Banfield in December 2018.

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