Faustino Asprilla: From Colombia to England

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Life was never dull when Faustino Asprilla was at Newcastle and here we take a look back at his colourful life both on and off the field.

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Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has been lit up by a host of charismatic stars and one individual stands out for Newcastle fans is Faustino Asprilla.

Before we get into Asprilla’s Premier League exploits and his time at Newcastle United, let’s begin at the start of the Colombian’s football career and how he came to securing a move to England in the mid-90s.

Cali Produces Another Star

Asprilla’s youth career began in Cali at the famed Carlos Sarmiento Lora football school, which has produced the likes of Mario Yepes and Faryd Mondragon, before being picked up by Cucuta Deportivo for his first professional chance.

Having netted 17 times in 36 appearances, the forward was signed just a year later by Colombia’s most successful club, Atletico Nacional, enjoying a fruitful three-year spell in Medellin – winning two major trophies.

Form Leads to Italian Switch

It was clear to see Apsrilla has that star quality about him and after being tracked by a host of Italian clubs, it was Parma who managed to acquire his services in 1992 after forking out £11million.

The Colombian certainly had tongues wagging and, after just a year at the Serie A outfit, was named sixth in FIFA’s World Player of the Year Award, behind winner Roberto Baggio and fellow greats including Romario and Dennis Bergkamp.

Asprilla won the Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup (twice), Coppa Italia and European Super Cup during his time with Parma but after falling out of favour in the first half of the 1995/96 season, headed to Newcastle in February 1996 for £6.7m.

Tino Becomes Tyneside Legend

The shots of Asprilla in a snowbound Newcastle wearing a fur coat, having just arrived on a private plane to complete his move from Parma, pretty much epitomised the new exciting world of the Premier League.

Asprilla was undoubtedly an eccentric and enigmatic player during his two-year spell at St James’ Park and although he maybe didn’t hit the heights expected of him, he remains a cult hero with the Toon Army.

The Colombian often saved his best performances for the European stage and he scored five goals during the Magpies’ run to the quarter-final of the 1996/97 UEFA Cup, although his celebration against Metz in the previous round led to his suspension for the first leg of the next game against Monaco.

Asprilla’s showing against Barcelona in the 1997/98 Champions League would also go down in Newcastle history, as his hat-trick would also turn out to be his final goals for the club, who sold him back to Parma in January 1998.

International Recognition

Asprilla is regarded as one of Colombia’s greatest players and he played for his country in two World Cups – in 1994 and 1998 – while he also featured at the 1993 and 1995 Copa Americas.

The forward, who also played at the 1992 Summer Olympics, scored 20 goals in 57 caps for his country before retiring from international football in 2001 at the age of 32.

Retirement and Life Since

In July 2009, Asprilla officially called it a day following a retirement match in Medellin, Colombia. Although this marks his official retirement date, he had not been actively employed by a professional side since being at Estudiantes de La Plata in 2004.

Since hanging up the boots, Asprilla has been involved in some high-profile incidents, including in 2008 when he was arrested for allegedly firing a machine gun at security forces near his farm in Colombia. He was placed under house arrest on charges of weapons possession and criminal damage.

Asprilla has also ventured into television, appearing in various Colombian Reality Shows, such as Desafio 2005 and Nomadas.

A single-handicapper, James always offers an interesting insight to the world of golf, with extensive knowledge of both the US and European Tours. James also has a wealth of information about the domestic and international football scene.

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