Words: Sam Diss
Image: Well Offside Photography
When Christian Vieri left Juventus for Atlético Madrid in 1997, he wasn’t that arsed.
“One day [Chief Managing Director Luciano] Moggi called me into his office with my agent, Bettega,” wrote Vieri in his autobiography Chiamatemi bomber (‘Call Me Bomber’). “Moggi claimed that the club couldn’t offer me more than two million lira per season while I was aware that Atlético were prepared to offer 3.5 million lira. I said to them immediately, ‘Okay, I’m off to Spain’ and that was the end of the meeting. I admit that the motivation for this move was purely economic. If I could have turned back time, I’d have stayed in Turin.”
But didn’t he do well, eh? A look through his 24 goals in 24 games for Atleti is a joyous three minutes and thirty-two seconds of Big Bobo knocking them in, set—perfectly—to Apollo 440’s ‘Can’t Stop The Rock’. Chiamatemi roccia: the big fucking meathead, an absolute steaming shagger, ‘MARBELLA’ across his belly, storming through defences and powering shots past goalkeepers, giant headers, bullying his man and showing a turn of pace that you genuinely forget all about until you see it back and realise this 6’1” lump could really shift.
His goal against Real Oviedo (at 1:28) is a rasper: a proper “the goal doesn’t move” strike, cut in from the winger, left-foot belter into the top right-hand corner, ‘keeper hasn’t a prayer the speed it’s moving. Vieri peels away, shirt under his shirt, honouring Juninho Paulista (you know, him from ‘being good at Boro’ fame) who was out injured. A delve into the comments on the video claims it was the first time a player had worn a shirt dedicated to another underneath his jersey and it might very well be.
There were a load of great goals in there that season—his half-volley lob on the run against Mérida (1:47) and the ‘ball over the top and touch on the knee and around the keeper to slot it in, are you joking me’ (2:15) two standouts as his confidence Hulked up over the season, an already assured young man engorged at the sight of bulging nets—before he returned to Italy after the World Cup to score a loads more in Serie A.
Must be nice being talented.