Robert Prosinecki signing for Portsmouth in 2001 was fairly the shock, and chairman Milan Mandaric proclaimed him his ‘present to Pompey followers’.
And what higher current for talkSPORT.com to present its loyal listeners at Christmas?
That is the story of a European Cup winner, a chain-smoker, a former Actual Madrid and Barcelona star, and doubtless the one human in existence to ever be irritated with Linvoy Primus, The Nicest Man In Soccer™.
Having received the largest trophy in membership soccer aged 22, it’s affordable to recommend Croatia worldwide Prosinecki can have puzzled the place it went mistaken on February 2, 2002.
A hat-trick in opposition to Barnsley was an undoubted excessive for the 33-year-old midfielder, who dazzled at Fratton Park that day.
His second is a delight, driving ahead, foxing a defender with a feint, stumbling, producing a drag again, after which firing in off the publish from exterior the field together with his left foot.
The third? A shocking free-kick together with his proper foot, which noticed him run to the followers, level to badge in glee, earlier than being embraced by Courtney Pitt and a younger Peter Crouch. Sadly, all of it went bitter.
“It was like he was taking part in them on his personal,” Primus advised FourFourTwo. “He scored a hat-trick and we have been 4-2 up with about 10 minutes to go. Then I acquired despatched off – I can’t bear in mind what occurred, however I’m positive it was harsh – and Barnsley ended up drawing the sport 4-4.”
Prosinecki would later inform Performed Up Pompey: “How I want the match may have ended there after which, I’m positive the followers felt the identical, however there have been 21 minutes remaining and it didn’t end up that pleased for any of us.
“You marvel how one can rating three objectives and nonetheless not win a match? You don’t suppose it’s doable, however it occurred that day, and within the final seven minutes of the match. Unimaginable.
“I used to be somewhat bit indignant afterwards, I admit that, and didn’t even ask to maintain the match ball. We didn’t win so it didn’t appear proper. I used to be very irritated.
“To be 4-2 up and draw 4-Four is soccer, that’s life, however it could be the one hat-trick of my profession, the primary and final time, and I couldn’t have fun additionally getting a win. I used to be not pleased!
“I left the dressing room in a short time.”
Teammate Gary O’Neil shed extra mild on precisely how Prosinecki felt that night.
He advised talkSPORT: “Within the dressing room after the sport he simply threw his boots down and checked out us with disgust, like: ‘You lot are garbage. I simply scored a hat-trick at house and we nonetheless can’t even beat Barnsley’.
“After which he went to the equipment room with the equipment man to have a fag.”
After the match, Pompey fan Rick Jackson noticed his hero heading house.
“He was indignant – you would see it in his eyes,” he advised The Information. “He lit a cigarette and somebody purchased him a whisky.”
Crouch, simply 20 when Prosinecki arrived, was a participant to profit vastly, netting 19 objectives that season, many assisted by the Croat, incomes a transfer to the Premier League with Aston Villa.
He delighted in what his teammate was in a position to do on the pitch, regardless of having seen his profession blighted by accidents throughout his time with Actual Madrid and Barcelona.
“Robert fitted the phrase ‘maverick’ completely and the one time he wasn’t smoking a Marlboro Pink was when he was on the pitch.
“We might barely see him at coaching in the course of the week however, my God, when he performed for Portsmouth he was unbelievable.
“He had this trick the place he would form to shoot, feint after which roll his foot over the ball to depart the defender completely bamboozled.
“You knew it was coming, you would see a mile off what he was going to do, however it was simply inconceivable to cease.
“He should have been some sight in his pomp, when he performed for Pink Star Belgrade and Actual Madrid. He was a one-man band for Portsmouth, a pleasure to behold.”
Prosinecki knew himself he hadn’t hit the heights he may effectively have carried out in his profession, Actual misplaced two consecutive league titles on the ultimate day of the season in 1991/92 and 1992/93, each instances with losses to Tenerife.
Coach Benito Floro had even labelled him “one other Pele, one other Cruyff” in 1992, however his 29 appearances solely generated three objectives.
The one 12 months Actual Madrid did win the title with him on the books he was away on mortgage with Actual Oviedo, though he did at the least play in a win in opposition to his mother or father membership in that 1994/95 marketing campaign.
Looking back, although, he discovered satisfaction in his spell on the Bernabeu: “My time at Madrid may actually have been higher, seeing as individuals solely bear in mind the titles you win,” he stated.
“I established myself there at a time when overseas gamers have been restricted, and I found a special sort of soccer, regardless of accidents and misplaced titles.”
After flirtations with Atletico Madrid, he left Actual for rivals Barcelona on a free switch however accidents held him again below Johan Cruyff, a person Prosinecki tremendously admired.
Accidents struck once more although, and inside a 12 months and a half he was offered to Sevilla, starting his descent from the highest.
Prosinecki isn’t bitter about his lack of success at two international powerhouses, he insists: “All gamers dream of taking part in for Actual or Barça – I performed for each of them! And I’ve fantastic recollections of all of it.
“Above all, I really feel as if I left the individuals there with good recollections of me. I don’t suppose there are that many gamers who’ve worn each shirts and left good impressions at each golf equipment.
“Nowadays, after I see the welcome I get at each Madrid and Barcelona, it makes me suppose that my time on the golf equipment can’t have been utterly wasted.”
After spells in Croatia and Belgium, he discovered himself at Fratton Park, regardless of good shows on the 1998 World Cup, the place he scored twice.
It was an odd journey, and even his new teammates couldn’t fairly imagine what was occurring.
Might an injury-prone skilful celebrity actually hack it within the First Division? He let his ft do the speaking, that a lot is certain.
“He was historic when he got here to play for us, however he was nonetheless good,” O’Neil advised talkSPORT.
“When he got here to the membership I assumed: ‘He’s garbage! He cant run, how’s he going to play for us?’ However he’d get the ball and also you have been identical to: ‘Oh my God, this man is a genius!’
“You couldn’t get the ball off him, he’d do step overs that will idiot a whole group.
“He actually couldn’t run, it was like taking part in soccer together with your Dad!
“However he was an unbelievable participant. He educated at a tempo he wished to coach at, he’d simply play within the quantity ten and I’d do all his working, however he was breath-taking. The stuff he did was unbelievable.”
Portsmouth followers aren’t in any hurry to neglect the season a European Cup winner enraptured them.
They really completed the marketing campaign in 17th place and nearly precisely like his time at Actual Madrid, success would come as quickly as he left.
Within the very subsequent season, Harry Redknapp helped them earn promotion to the Premier League, Arsenal legend Paul Merson took Prosinecki’s position as mercurial midfielder.
The fact although, is he left a a lot greater legacy to those that ventured to Fratton Park.
He was their skilful, chain-smoking, celebrity, and can all the time be thought-about a membership legend.