Parma: 15 Greatest Players of the Parmalat Era

Rob GuestContributor IIISeptember 6, 2011

Parma: 15 Greatest Players of the Parmalat Era

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    Fifteen years ago, Parma embarked on their most successful season in Serie A to date, as they finished second to Juventus.

    To this day, the end to the 1996-97 season still irks fans of the Ducali, after a dubious penalty awarded at the Stadio delle Alpi cost Carlo Ancelotti’s men their very first Scudetto.

    The tale of Parma is a rags-to-riches story, as they went from a provincial team to a European powerhouse in no time at all. The club, who were 98 percent owned by Parmalat, owed all their success to the Tanzi family, as they pumped countless amounts of money into the club.

    At the time, it may have seemed too good to be true, with the likes of Zola, Stoichkov, Crespo and Thuram on the pitch at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, but it all came crashing down and left the club operating in controlled administration until the start of 2007.

    At the start of the 1990s, nobody could envisage what was going to happen at Parma, as they had just reached Serie A after a successful season under Nevio Scala. The Tanzi family pumped money into the club, and that brought success as they won the UEFA Cup, European Cup Winners’ Cup and Coppa Italia during a glory-laden spell in the ‘90s.

    With the Parmalat millions behind them, Parma looked like they were going to dominate Italy and the rest of Europe, but then the club was deprived of their main source of income, as the Parmalat scandal broke with the company collapsing due to a £13 billion hole in its accounts.

    The club fought back from the brink of abyss and are now back as an established Serie A team after a spell in Serie B.

    Parma truly were a 1990s phenomenon. Here’s our list of their 15 greatest players during the Parmalat era.

Faustino Asprilla

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    What can you say about Faustino Asprilla? A player with all the skills and talent in the world, but all the trouble to go along with it.

    Asprilla spent his career at a number of different clubs across the world, but it will be his spell in Italy for which he will be best remembered. 

    Parma brought the controversial striker to the Stadio Ennio Tardini in 1992 after he caught the eye whilst playing for Atletico Nacional back in Columbia.

    In his first season with the club, the striker ended AC Milan’s 58-game unbeaten streak with a majestic free-kick and adhered himself to the Ducali fans.

    Asprilla scored a number of goals for Parma, most notably a brace in the 2-1 semifinal win over Atletico Madrid in the Cup Winners’ Cup, but it was his off-field antics that normally caught everyone’s attention.

    The Columbian international was part of the Parma teams that won the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, Super Cup and the UEFA Cup twice. Asprilla would return to Emilia following his spell with Newcastle United, but that spell with the club would not be as memorable as his first one.

Dino Baggio

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    During his seven years with the club, Dino Baggio became a mainstay in the Parma midfield after agreeing to a move to the Stadio Ennio Tardini at the second time of asking.

    Baggio had impressed for Juventus and at the 1994 World Cup, and Parma wanted to bring the midfielder to Emilia, but he rejected the offer. Juve then offered Alessandro Del Piero to the club, and with the striker ready to sign on for the Ducali, Baggio changed his mind. It would not be a deal the midfielder regretted, as he helped his new side win the UEFA Cup over former club Juve with two goals in the 2-1 aggregate win.

    Four years later Baggio, lifted the UEFA Cup once again as Parma beat Marseille 3-0 in Moscow, as they added the trophy to the Coppa Italia.

    In 2001 Champions, Lazio made a move for Baggio, it was an offer too hard to resist for the midfielder, and he cut his seven-year association with Parma to move down south.  

Antonio Benarrivo

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    Antonio Benarrivo was considered to be one of the best attacking full backs during the 1990s in his time with Parma.

    Bought from Padova at the start of the Parmalat era, the Italian saw the club conquer Europe before falling to its knees at the start of the millennium.

    The defender was brought to the club in 1991 by Nevio Scala and helped his new team qualify for the UEFA Cup. During his time with the club, the attacking full back won honour after honour in Europe, which included two UEFA Cups, one European Super Cup and the Cup Winners’ Cup.

    Whilst Benarrivo never won a Scudetto, he played a massive part in Parma’s title races, most notably in 1997.

    The Italian international finally left the club in 2004 amidst crisis, but it was a roller-coaster 13 years with the club he would never want to forget.

Tomas Brolin

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    Tomas Brolin’s spell in England with Leeds and Crystal Palace may have tarnished his reputation as one of the greatest players of the early 1990s, but he will forever go down a legend in Parma.

    Following a bright opening to his Serie A career, he found first-team opportunities hard to come by, especially after the signings of Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla.

    Despite his limited starts, Brolin was part of the teams that won the European Cup Winners Cup, Super Cup and UEFA Cup.

    Prior to the start of the 1995-96 season, Parma pulled off a massive coup as they signed Bulgarian Hristo Stoichkov, and that further limited Brolin’s first team chances.

    The player decided he needed to leave the club to gain first-team action and headed to Leeds United in 1995.

    It would not be the final time Parma fans would see him wear the famous jersey, as he returned for a loan spell in 1997, but his second spell at the club would not turn out to be as memorable as the first.

Gianluigi Buffon

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    Since starting his career with the Ducali, Gianluigi Buffon has become one of the most recognisable goalkeepers in world football.

    Buffon worked his way through Parma’s youth team, and in 1995 at the age of 17 he made his debut against AC Milan. Despite his tender years, the goalkeeper made a further nine appearances for the club during the 1995-96 campaign.

    The following season saw Buffon become the club’s first-choice goalkeeper, and one season later he made his first appearance for the Italian national team against Russia.

    Buffon was getting rave reviews for his goalkeeping, and in 1999 he helped his club win the UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana. The 1999 season became a year to remember for the youngster, as he won the prestigious Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year award.

    In the summer of 2001, Buffon ended his long association with Parma as he left to join Juventus for a world-record £32.6 million fee for a goalkeeper.

Fabio Cannavaro

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    After lifting the 2006 World Cup for Italy, Fabio Cannavaro will always be fondly remembered by all Italians.

    The defender started his career with hometown club Napoli, but with the club in desperate need for cash he transferred to Parma in the summer of 1995.

    Cannavaro became an instant hit at the Stadio Ennio Tardini and became an important figure in Parma’s strong defence, which also included Gianluigi Buffon, Lilian Thuram, Luigi Sartor, Roberto Mussi and Nestor Sensini.

    During his time with the club, the defender won the 1999 UEFA Cup and twice won the Coppa Italia before transferring to Inter Milan in 2002 for a fee of €23 million.

    The defender ended his time with Parma playing alongside his brother, Paolo, before he left to sign for Inter.

Enrico Chiesa

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    When Enrico Chiesa was teamed up with Hernan Crespo at the start of the 1996-97 season, there was only going to be one outcome, goals. When teamed up, the pair made a potent strike force, and their partnership was one of the main reasons for Parma challenging Juventus for the Scudetto in their debut season.

    The Ducali pulled off a major transfer coup when Chiesa joined from Sampdoria in 1996. Chiesa had scored 22 goals in 27 games for Sampdoria after teaming up with Roberto Mancini.

    Whilst he may not have lived up to the heights he set up for himself the previous season, Chiesa finished the season as top scorer for Parma with 14 league goals.

    Chiesa would only spend three years at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, but his final season for the club would be a memorable one. The striker helped Parma win both the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia, and he and Crespo found the net during the 3-0 win over Marseille. It would turn out to be Chiesa’s final act in the white, yellow and blue of Parma as he left to join Fiorentina.

Hernan Crespo

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    Hernan Crespo joined Parma at the start of the 1996-97 season along with fellow new signings Lilian Thuram and Enrico Chiesa. The striker came to the club with a big reputation after helping River Plate win the Copa Libertadores and then finishing as top scorer during the 1996 Olympic Games.

    Crespo started where he left off from in Atlanta, as he bagged 12 goals in 27 appearances, including a first-minute opener at the San Siro against Inter. The striker was brought to the Stadio Ennio Tardini to score goals, and he duly delivered with 79 goals in 150 games for the club.

    Crespo’s most prolific season for the Ducali was during the famous 1998-99 season, as he scored 28 goals as Parma lifted the UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia.

    In the summer of 2000, Lazio broke the transfer record to take the Argentinean to the Olympic Stadium for a fee of £35 million.

    However, it wouldn’t be the last time Parma would see one of their favourites in white, blue and yellow, as he returned prior to the 2010-11 season after leaving Genoa. Crespo declared his return as "a dream," and he signed a new one-year deal going into the 2011-12 season. 

Lorenzo Minotti

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    Lorenzo Minotti will go down in Parma folklore following his goal at Wembley in the 3-1 win over Royal Antwerp in the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

    The defender was a key player between 1987 and 1996, as he saw Parma go from Serie B to European heavyweights in no time at all.

    The tough-tackling captain joined the Ducali from hometown club Cesena and quickly established himself as a firm favourite at the Stadio Ennio Tardini with his powerful displays.

    Minotti will be most remembered for his role at Wembley in 1993, as he helped Parma win their first European trophy in a memorable season for the club.

    In his penultimate season, the Italian international helped the club win the UEFA Cup before he left to join Cagliari one year later.

Roberto Mussi

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    There aren’t many players more decorated in Serie A than Roberto Mussi. Throughout his career, the defender won trophy after trophy, and that included one Scudetto and European Cup from his time with AC Milan in the late eighties.

    Prior to his spell with Milan, Mussi spent three years with Parma, during their time in Serie B before the Parmalat era had begun. In 1994, the defender would return to Parma and spend a further five seasons with the club, where he would win the UEFA Cup twice and one Coppa Italia in 1999.

    Mussi was recognised for his brilliant defensive displays, winning eleven international caps for Italy and participating in the 1994 World Cup and Euro ’96.

Roberto Nestor Sensini

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    In a career spanning two decades, Nestor Sensini will be remembered for his 15 years in Italy following spells with Udinese, Parma and Lazio.

    Sensini had two spells with Parm,a with his first the more successful out of the two. During his first spell with the club, the cultured defender helped the Ducali lift the UEFA Cup twice and win the Coppa Italia in 1999.

    The Argentinean then departed the Stadio Ennio Tardini at the end of the famous 1999 season and moved south to join Lazio, where he won his very first Scudetto with the Biancocelesti.

    Sensini returned to Parma for one more season, and he ended it in style as he helped the club win the Coppa Italia following an away-goals win over Juventus.

Hristo Stoichkov

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    Hristo Stoichkov is often regarded as one of the most talented players of his generation. The enigmatic player starred for Bulgaria at the 1994 World Cup and Euro ’96, making it into the All-Star team for both tournaments.

    It was the players' spell at Barcelona where he will be best remembered, as he teamed up with Brazilian Romario to create one of Europe’s most potent strike forces.

    Stoichkov then made the move to Parma at the start of the 1995-96 season, but he would soon be on his way back to Barcelona after only one season with the club.

    The Bulgarian netted seven goals in 30 appearances for the Ducali following a goal-scoring debut at Atalanta. Stoichkov could not help his side defend the UEFA Cup that they won the previous season, as they disappointed with a sixth-place finish in Serie A.

Lilian Thuram

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    Lilian Thuram became an integral part of Parma’s backline after transferring to the club from Monaco in 1996.

    During his first season with the club, the defender made forty appearances for the club and netted his only goal for the Ducali in the 3-2 win over Cagliari.

    Thuram spent a successful time with the club, as he helped them lift the UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana during the 1999 season.

    The defender also became a regular for the French national team throughout his time with the club, as he became a World Cup and European Championship winner.

    Clubs were starting to take notice of Thuram’s no-nonsense defensive displays, and at the end of the 2001 season he left Parma to join bitter rivals Juventus for £22 million.

Juan Sebastian Veron

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    Juan Sebastian Veron’s spell at the Stadio Ennio Tardini was only a brief one, but it was a season he will never forget. The classy midfielder was an influential force for the Ducali in what turned out to be the club’s most successful season to date.

    After Veron's impressive displays for Argentina at the World Cup, Carlo Ancelotti paid Sampdoria £15 million to bring La Brujita to Emilia. Veron repaid the fee immediately, as he led Parma to a Cup double as they secured the Coppa Italia as well as the UEFA Cup.

    Veron’s displays in midfield led to former boss Sven-Goran Eriksson reuniting with him at Lazio, as the Rome club shelled out £18.1 million to land the midfielder.

Gianfranco Zola

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    Gianfranco Zola will always be remembered for his spell with Chelsea in the Premier League, but it is his spell in Italy with Napoli and Parma that brought him to the nation’s attention.

    The diminutive forward played in the same Napoli side as the great Diego Maradona, and the controversial forward proved to be a great influence on the playmaker.

    Following four years with Napoli, Zola made the move up north to join moneybags Parma in a £9 million double deal with fellow Napoli player Massimo Crippa. Zola enjoyed a hugely successful time with the Ducali, and in his first season with his new side he helped them win the UEFA Cup as well as finishing runners-up in Serie A.

    When Carlo Ancelotti took over for Nevio Scala in 1996, Zola fell out of favour with his new manager unable to find space for him in his side.

    In November 1996, Zola moved to Chelsea for a fee of £4.5 million, but he will always be remembered for his spell with Parma.