Legend of Calcio: Omar Sivori
Posted on Friday, 13th January 2012 by Rob Hutchinson
Omar Sivori was the famous Argentinian inside forward who was key to Juventus’ domination of Italian football in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.
Revered for his audacious and brilliant playing style Sivori was the heartbeat of the Argentinian international team and well loved by Juventus fans. The pitch was a stage on which he displayed a staggering ability of skill and craft. His favourite move was to nutmeg defenders and run on to score, whilst his partnerships with fellow forwards terrorised defences.
Born in San Nicolas de Los Arroyos in 1935 Sivori showed promising ability at a young age and was signed up by River Plate in his teen years. His audaciousness and cheek soon earned him the name ‘El Cabezon’ (big head) which followed him to every club he played for.
Sivori helped River Plate lift the title and the Argentinian Cup in 1955 and the following year they retained the league title on the last day of the season. In the 1957/58 season at the age of 21 Sivori was signed for Juventus for a then record fee of 10 million pesos (£91,000.00). His move sparked a drastic downturn in River’s fortunes as they didn’t win another league title for 18 years, although they did get the chance to build a forth stand onto the ground with the transfer money.
Prior to the arrival of Sivori and Welshman John Charles Juventus had been going through a slump, but the pair struck up a strong partnership on the field and fired Juventus back to glory. In 1957/58 Juventus won the league and with Sivori at his best they claimed two more Scudetto’s (59/60 and 60/61) as well as two Coppa Italia’s (58/59 and 59/60).
However with the acquisition of a world class player Juventus also acquired a world class ego, with Sivori falling out with the clubs board very quickly. The on-form Sivori picked up the Ballon d’or in 1961.
That season would spark the end of Juventus’ dominance as John Charles returned to Leeds United and Giampiero Boniperti retired, leaving Sivori to carry the team. After a barren four years Sivori left for Napoli after numerous disagreements with coach Heriberto Herrera.
In 1965 Sivori helped his new team to a third place finish and to lift the Coppa delle Alpi. He enjoyed a late flourish in his career and was worshipped by the Napoli fans, adoration that was not shown again until Maradona joined two decades later.
His four years at Napoli came to an end in 1969 with his last game coming against Juventus, in which he was sent off for kicking Erminio Favalli and received a six match ban.
After this Sivori announced his retirement and returned to Argentina. He didn’t stay away from the game for long and coached four Argentinian teams including River Plate before taking charge of the national side from 1972 to 1974, guiding them through World Cup qualification.
Following his his stint as manager came to an end following a row with the Argentinian FA before the finals in West Germany which resulted in him walking out on the team, he then became a full time scout for Juventus in South America.
In his time representing his country as a player Sivori was worshipped as a God; dazzling ability coupled with cheek was what the fans looked for in an idol. Argentinians loved anti-establishment players who weren’t above cheating which is why Maradona was so popular.
With Humberto Maschio and Antonio Angellini they formed a potent attacking force and were nicknamed ‘the trio of death’, and thanks largely to their goals Argentina won the South American Championships in Peru in 1957. However the fans love affair with their idol ended sourly.
Argentina were one of the favourites for the 1958 World Cup but the year before the ‘trio of death’ all joined Italian clubs. The team suffered a nightmare campaign and lost their last game 6-1 to the Czechs before being eliminated. The fans and the FA blamed their star players for moving abroad and disrupting the team, promptly banning Sivori for playing for the national side again.
His international exile came to an end when he was picked to play for the Azzurri, however even his skill couldn’t help a dour Italian side in the 1962 World Cup and Italy were eliminated early on with Sivori failing to score a goal.
Sivori died in hospital on the 17th February 2005 after suffering from pancreatic cancer. He is still remembered fondly for his sublime skill even though his career ended over 40 years ago.
Love this guy. Favourite player of all-time. And played for my two favourite clubs River and Juve. His ball skills were incomparable. Could dribble through anyone. It just just shows his influence that when he left River, they didn't win another title for 18 years. Should never have joined Naples though.