Marseille had paid £4.5m for Chris Waddle in 1989 – the third-highest transfer fee ever at the time – but the initial omens were not bien for the French club.
“I was struggling,” admits Waddle about the start of his career on the Med coast.
“I was homesick, and unfit because I’d missed pre-season. I wasn’t coping well with the heat, either – it’s why they call the English ‘le Rosbif’. The jury was out on me. I had a high price tag and I needed to produce something.”
But just as it was looking as though Waddle might have to run home in shame, there came a slice of sorcery that both boosted his confidence and convinced the fans that they hadn’t been sold a pup.
“It was the moment that kick-started my career there,” says Waddle of his now-fabled flick over keeper Joel Bats, which he then back-heeled nonchalantly into the net.
“The ball came to me just as the PSG defence ran out. I saw Bats bearing down on me. I thought about hitting it, but instead got my chest on the ball then flicked it over his head.
“The stadium went quiet and I thought I was offside, but I followed the ball and backheeled it in. It wasn’t the greatest contact – I almost messed it up, to be honest – and thankfully there was no offside! It’s the sort of goal players love to score, but you don’t often get the chance.”
It was the perfect fixture to do it in, too. “Marseille and PSG are big rivals. The fans loved it and it gave me hope. They showed the goal on TV for weeks, and it set up my three years there. The rest was history.”
It certainly was: Waddle won three league titles, and in 1998 was voted the second-best player in l’OM history, behind Jean-Pierre Papin. Not bad for a Rosbif.
The October 2013 issue of FourFourTwo is out now! Featuring Milan, Champions League, before-they-were-famous loanees, infighting Ultras, perky Partick, the story of floodlights, Luis Enrique and more...
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