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Born: Wednesday 2 October 1935, San Nicolás, Argentina
Died: Thursday 17 February 2005, San Nicolás, Argentina (aged 69)
Position: Inside Forward
One of the finest left-footed players the game has seen, Argentinian inside-forward Omar Sívori first enjoyed success in his home country and then having moved to play for Juventus, in his adopted country of Italy. He formed part of the great Juventus side of the late 1950s and early 1960s before returning home to Argentina where he coached several leading club sides as well as the national team.
Sívori was born in San Nicolás de los Arroyos on 2 October 1935 and showed from an early age that he was going to be a player of great skill and flair. He was spotted by River Plate in 1952 and within two years was making his debut in the first team at the beginning of the 1954 season. A short and slightly build inside-left, he more than made up for his lack of physical stature with an incredible range of abilities on the pitch.
Supremely gifted with the ball at his feet and blessed with an incredibly powerful shot, Sívori's flair and fondness for nutmegging opposing defenders made him popular with fans wherever he played. However, he was also a tough tackler who would often make use of his elbows in challenges, and his somewhat volatile temperament and considerable ego often caused frustration for coaches and club owners.
In his second season at River Plate, Sívori scored 11 goals as he helped the club win back the league title that they had lost to rivals Boca Juniors the year before. He again weighed in with a double-figure haul in 1956 as River retained the championship and was soon in contention for a place in the national team. Making his debut in 1956, he was selected in the squad which travelled to Peru for the following year's South American Championship and went on to become one of the stars of that competition.
After missing Argentina's first game of the tournament, Sívori scored on his first appearance against Ecuador and went on to appear in all of his team's remaining matches. He finished with three goals in five games as Argentina clinched the title with a match to spare, impressing a string of top European clubs along the way. Early in the Argentinian domestic season, Italian giants Juventus made a world record bid for him and he made the decision to leave South America.
That decision cost him his international career with Argentina, as the country's federation barred Sívori and other players who had also moved to Italy from appearing in the national team again, a move that was severely detrimental to their World Cup chances in Sweden in 1958. The move was highly successful at club level however, as Juventus paired Sívori with Welshman John Charles and between them they ushered in an extremely exciting era for the team.
Sívori's flair perfectly complimented Charles' strength and power, with both scoring in the 3-2 win over Verona which opened the 1957-58 season and the partnership bringing a total of 50 league goals as Juventus stormed to the Serie A title. Although they could not retain their title in 1959, Sívori did help Juventus to claim another major trophy when he scored the clinching goal in the 3-1 win over Internazionale in the Coppa Italia final.
The 1959-60 season was perhaps Sívori's finest, as he earned the 'Capocannoniere' title as Serie A's top scorer, his 28 goals shooting Juventus to another comfortable title win.They later went on to claim the double by beating Fiorentina in the cup final. A number of South American imports to Italian football had been drafted into the national team, so with Sívori having Italian ancestry it was no surprise when he got a call-up in the spring of 1961 as Juventus headed towards their third title in four years.
His second international debut came on 25 April 1961 in a friendly against Northern Ireland. After Italy had seen a 2-0 lead wiped out in the second half, it was Sívori who grabbed a late winner. Little over six months later, he scored a hat-trick in the 6-0 thrashing of Israel which secured Italy's place at the World Cup finals in Chile. His performances for Juventus and Italy earned Sívori the 'Ballon d'Or' as European Footballer of the Year in 1961, one of his most notable games coming when he scored six goals against Inter in the final game of the 1960-61 season, albeit in a replayed game where Inter fielded a youth team in protest at having to play again.
Having missed out on the 1958 World Cup after leaving Argentina, he finally got the opportunity to appear on the game's biggest stage in 1962. The tournament itself however was a disappointment. After appearing in the opening 0-0 draw with West Germany, Sívori missed the violent defeat to Chile in Italy's second game. By the time he returned for the win over Switzerland, which proved to be his final cap, the team were already eliminated from the competition.
At club level, Juventus were coming off a very poor 12th place finish in 1962 and with a number of leading players, including Charles, having left, Sívori's final few years at the club were nowhere near as successful. He remained at Juventus until the end of the 1964-65 season, a campaign which brought another Coppa Italia win and a run to the final of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, although Sivori's appearances were not as regular as in previous years.
That summer he moved to Napoli, where he stayed for the remainder of his playing career. A virtual ever-present in his first season as his new team finished third in Serie A, injuries soon began to restrict his playing opportunities and he appeared just seven times when Napoli ended the 1967-68 season as runners-up to AC Milan. Sívori retired from playing in 1969, his final game turning out to be against former club Juventus where he was sent off and hit with a lengthy suspension, leading him to leave Italy and return home to Argentina.
Sívori quickly moved into management, taking charge of Rosario Central for two years and then after a brief spell with Estudiantes, was appointed manager of the Argentinian national team in 1972. He successfully led his country through qualifying for the 1974 World Cup, but left his post at the end of 1973 following a row with the national federation and did not lead the team into the finals in West Germany.
Having earned a great deal of money in Italy, he did not have to remain in football to earn a living and apart from briefly taking charge of Racing Club de Avellaneda, he did not work as a coach again. In his later years, Sivori worked in television and was again employed by Juventus as a talent scout in South America. After suffering from pancreatic cancer, Omar Sívori died in his home town of San Nicolás on 17 February 2005, aged 69.
References (all accessed 28 October 2012):
- Published on Sunday, 28 October 2012 02:58