With all the recent speculation about Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona, it’s been something of a reminder that football careers are fleeting. The great Argentine can’t go on forever, and while he has a few years left at the top, it’s inevitable that even his powers will decline. He will leave a legacy as one of the all-time greats, and you can be sure that today’s fans will be telling their grandchildren about the diminutive magician.
And yet, many talents do get forgotten about over time. Great players, for a variety of reasons, can escape the collective memory of football fans. Below we are going to have a look at five players from the 90s who perhaps deserve a little more recognition today. Maybe they weren’t in Messi’s class (who is?), but this quintet could play:
Remember when footballers could sport a bald pate? As we now live in an era where every footballer seems to be primed and manicured to instagrammable perfection, it’s refreshing to look back to see players who looked, well, normal. Letchkov, with his Atillio Lombardo hairstyle, looked more chartered accountant than star footballer, but the man nicknamed “The Magician” was every bit the graceful swan. Blessed with great vision and technical ability, and with a dollop of aggression thrown in, Letchkov was unfortunately overshadowed by his contemporary and countryman, Hristo Stoichkov. Letchkov’s temperament arguably contributed to a mixed club career that included stormy spells at Hamburg and Marseille. Just 45 caps earned over 12 years for Bulgaria, but everything came together when he and Stoichkov stole the show at the 1994 World Cup.
Where is he now? Letchkov is doing a bit of everything, really. He is reported to own a series of luxury hotels; he had a successful political career as mayor of his home city, Silven – although, it does seem his political career is as tumultuous as his football career. For a time, he was also vice-president of the Bulgarian Football Union.
Here’s an answer to the question in your next pub quiz: who was the last German player to win the Ballon d’Or? Sammer is that man with the player getting the gong back in 1996. By that time, he had converted from a midfielder into the libero role – the sweeper position made famous by countrymen like Franz Beckenbauer and Lothar Matthaus. Sammer spent his early career starring for Dynamo Dresden in East Germany, picking up 23 caps for the portioned country before unification. A successful spell at Stuttgart and a short one at Inter Milan followed, but it was at Borussia Dortmund where Sammer really made his name. Resplendent in the luminous yellow shirt, Sammer captained Dortmund to the Champions League title in 1997 – a year after winning Euro 96 with Germany. A class act.
Where is he now? Sammer had a brief spell as a manager after injury cut short his career in 1998. More recently, he has been acting as a consultant to clubs in Germany, advising both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in different spells.
Looking now at the latest football odds for betting on Serie A, where AC Milan are tipped to once again fight for scraps left by Juventus, one wonders what manager Stefano Pioli would give to have a player like Dejan Savicevic in his team. Employed either as a second striker or offensive midfielder, Savicevic wasn’t exactly a prolific scorer, but he was nevertheless full of guile and became an integral part of Milan’s success in the mid-90s – this despite having a tumultuous relationship with then-boss Fabio Capello. However, what often gets overlooked in Savicevic’s career is his time spent at Red Star Belgrade, with the Yugoslavian side winning the 1991 European Cup.
Where is he now? He’s been the president of the Montenegran FA since 2004, and has just secured a fifth term as its head.
Critics of Sonny Anderson’s career will point to the fact that he only made six appearances for Brazil. But, then again, he had the misfortune of coming of an age when la Selecäo could call upon talents like Romario and Bebeto, then later Rivaldo, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho. Anyhow, the thing about Anderson is that he won titles wherever he ended up; be that the Swiss League, Ligue 1 or La Liga. Stints with Barcelona and Lyon are remembered fondly, but we would argue that Anderson was at his best when playing for AS Monaco, finishing as top scorer in Ligue 1 as the club secured the league title in 1997.
Where is he now? To be honest, we aren’t really sure. He tried his hand at management in Switzerland in the early 2010s. Today, he seems to pop up now and again with an opinion on the Champions League and French football.
Miguel Angel Nadal
“The Beast” Miguel Angel Nadal had a career spanning so many years that he could technically cite both Michel Platini and Wayne Rooney as being his contemporaries. Wrapping up things with Mallorca in 2005, the tough-as-nails defender made well over 400 appearances in La Liga. He is, of course, most well-known for his time at Barcelona – part of the “Dream Team” of the 1990s – where he won five La Liga titles and the 1992 European Cup. He made 62 appearances for Spain, missing a penalty against England in the shoot-out of the Euro 96 quarter-finals. A superb no-nonsense defender.
Where is he now? Well, he is busy being the uncle of tennis star Rafael Nadal for one. But today he is back in his native Mallorca, where he enjoyed a brief spell as sporting director in the mid-2010s.