Hernan Crespo, One-on-One: "I had fun with Chelsea – I'd run all the way if I had chance to go back"

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It’s a beautiful November morning in Modena, the northern Italian city of 180,000 people where Luciano Pavarotti was born, lived and died, and where high-end sports cars are made, from Lamborghinis to Maseratis. However, the noise outside the impressive 21,000-capacity Stadio Alberto Braglia on this sunny day is not the roar of an expensive car or a tenor’s voice, but 1,000 teenagers coming from the adjacent school.

Sanctuary can be found in the bar opposite the stadium, where memorabilia in the blue and yellow of Modena FC – whose most notable trophies came from beating Poole Town and Sutton United in the finals of the 1981 and ’82 Anglo-Italian Cup – adorn the ceiling. We’re assured that Modena legends are taking their coffee right now, while Massimo Taibi, briefly Manchester United’s goalkeeper, stops to say hello.

However, we’ve come to see the Canaries’ first-team coach, who was once the most expensive player in the world. We’re here for Hernan Crespo.

Hernan Crespo

Crespo's Lazio take on Leeds; truly an image from another era

The well-educated Porteno (resident of Buenos Aires) scored more than 300 times in a professional career spanning two decades at the highest level. Only Gabriel Batistuta and Lionel Messi have bagged more international goals for Argentina than Crespo, who played in three World Cups, won three Serie A titles and picked up a Premier League crown under Jose Mourinho.

The former River Plate, Parma, Lazio, Inter, Chelsea, Milan and Genoa No.9 turned 40 in July, and is aiming for a coaching career as successful as his playing days.

As a native of the Buenos Aires suburb of Florida, have you ever been to the American state of the same name? Would you recommend your Florida as a holiday destination, too?
Adam Lewis, via Facebook

I’m from Buenos Aires and Florida is a good barrio – middle class, high middle class. I lived well. I went to a private school and grew up with no big problems, thanks to the economic conditions of my family. Buenos Aires is beautiful. Maybe it’s not like the Buenos Aires I left behind in 1996 – many things have changed with the economic crisis. But, well, it’s my city and Argentina is my country and I’m happy with that. Of course I’ve been to Florida in America. It’s completely different.


  • Full name: Hernan Jorge Crespo
  • Date of birth: July 5, 1975
  • Place of birth: Florida, Argentina
  • Height: 6ft
  • Position: Striker

Argentina is famed for its love of No.10s, but you were a great No.9 – who were the strikers you looked up to as a youngster?
Julia, via email

I was born in 1975 so it was normal for a boy of my age to open his eyes and see the great Mario Kempes. By the time I was three years old, Argentina had become champions of the world on home soil. I have some faint memories of this, but what I really remember more is Italy in 1982, particularly Paolo Rossi. All of that generation were then eclipsed by Diego Maradona – he was at another level.

I couldn’t be Maradona. Instead I fell in love, football-wise, with Gary Lineker. He was the No.9 [although Lineker actually wore the No.10 shirt] and what a player! He loved the penalty area. I was desperate to meet him, because I admired him so much. I always remember Lineker scoring goals at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico and eventually winning the Golden Boot. Football has given me a lot, and it gave me the chance to meet Lineker.  

Hernan Crespo

Portrait: Mattia Zoppellaro

How does the Superclasico compare to the big rivalries in Europe? What is your favourite memory of those matches?
Gonzalo Ortiz, Santa Fe

Being a young player with River Plate, I always played against Boca. Everything grew from that: the rivalry was second nature because we played them all the time. My first Superclasico in the first team was in 1994 when I was 18, and we won 2-0. I was nervous before the game – I could feel my legs moving and couldn’t understand why. Then I realised it was the stadium that was moving with all the people bouncing above us!

I scored. So did [Ariel] Ortega. It had been nearly five years since River had beaten Boca, so it was incredible to go and win in La Bombonera. Our supporters were high in the stands, the top tier near the sky. It was the first time my father had been to La Bombonera. Imagine what it was like for him in those stands, and to see his son score for River against Boca in Boca’s own stadium!

Crespoooooooooooo at 00:57

Was scoring two goals to win River the Copa Libertadores in 1996 the high point in your career? How crazy was the after-party?
Martin Light, via Facebook

It was the realisation of a dream. River Plate had won their first Copa Libertadores in ’86. Back then, I was a young player at the club, watching the final from the terraces of the Estadio Monumental. After seeing this, I dreamed of winning the Copa Libertadores. Ten years later, we played the same opponents in the final, America de Cali. Yes, I scored twice, but I also scored 10 goals in the whole of the Libertadores that season. The win had a huge impact on my life. I was only 20, I’d been River all my life, I was a local boy and I won the biggest trophy. As for the party, look at the videos on YouTube. Crazy!