Heroes In Black & White (16): Omar Sivori

Posted on 09/11/2010


This series has already discussed the exploits of John Charles & Giampiero Boniperti, two men who formed part of one of the best Juventus teams in the clubs storied history. It is arguable that none of that success would have been achieved without the contribution of El Cabezón Omar Sivori, who arrived in Turin at the same time as the Welshman for a then world record sum of £91,000.
Unlike the other members of the famous “Trio Magico”, Sivori was as far removed from the two dignified gentlemen he is forever linked with as is possible. Short, tenacious, audacious & brilliant, but not adverse to football’s darker arts, the Argentine was playing like Maradona before Diego was even born. His on-field histrionics were an anathema to his classier team-mates, Charles known to go so far as slapping his strike partner in the face during a game just to calm to fiery play maker.
Breaking into the first team as a teenager Sivori helped River Plate to three titles before his transfer to Turin, also helping Argentina to a Copa America win. Once in Italy he settled immediately & quickly impressed fans with his genius. The club had been going through an extremely barren spell prior to his arrival, but along with Charles & Boniperti he inspired the Old Lady back to her usual spot atop Serie A.
The first four years of his Juve career he was simply unstoppable, 90 league goals & another 19 in the Italian Cup, he was instrumental in three Scudetti wins & two Coppa triumphs. His great play was recognised as he was named 1961 European Footballer of the Year, the first Juventus player to earn the accolade.
Sadly that was also the last year of the great trio, as Charles returned to Leeds & Boniperti retired. Without his great team-mates to help Sivori carried Juve, most notably in their European Cup win against Real Madrid, where he scored the only goal in the first win by any Italian side at the Bernabeu.
He was adopted by Italy as rules on changing nationality were incredibly lax, & won nine caps for the Azzurri, scoring eight goals. His differences with then Juve coach Heriberto Herrera saw him leave for Napoli in 1965, where he pushed his new team the closest to winning the league they ever came until Maradona arrived.
When he left Juventus he was the clubs second highest goal scorer, behind only Boniperti, despite only playing 215 games. He has since been passed in the list by Del Piero, Bettega & Trezeguet, with the Frenchman taking his crown as highest scoring foreign player too, & is the only player with a comparable strike rate.
He would play four years in Naples, his career ending when he received a lengthy ban for kicking a Juventus player, & went on to manage a number of teams in his native Argentina. He sadly died in early 2005 after suffering pancreatic cancer for a number of months. But Enrique Omar Sivori will be forever remembered in the hearts of Juventini, a true great & a genuine legend.
Source: Il Tifosi
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