Cult Newcastle United hero believes he could have won Ballon d'Or

Faustino Asprilla believes he could have been voted the best player in the world if he played for bigger clubs.

There is no doubt that Colombian striker Faustino Asprilla made an impact on English football during his two years at Newcastle United - and not always for the right reasons.

He scored just eight Premier League goals during his three seasons with the club between 1995 and 1998 - and in fact became much more famous for some of his antics off of the pitch.

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Asprilla infamously adopted something of a playboy lifestyle and lived a party existence during his time on Tyneside - often going AWOL from the city and club for days on end.

Despite all this, his fiery temper and big-game mentality made him a cult hero in the North East - not to mention his fantastic European record of nine goals in 11 games.

But despite his obvious talent, it was always clear that his personality would always deny him the greatness he deserved.

This proved correct. Asprilla went on to play for eight more teams, at least, around the globe - in what became a nomadic and ill-disciplined waste of superb talent.

But the mere mention of his name still brings a grin to the face of any Toon fan. If there is anywhere where he is held in as high esteem as Newcastle - it is at Parma.

He spent two spells with the club and his popularity is so that he was asked back to the club this week for their centenary celebrations.

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Which is where Italian journalists caught up with him … and he made some quite startling comments, befitting the mercurial 43-year-old: 

“I had great qualities and if I had worn the jersey of Juventus, Milan or Inter, perhaps I’d have won the Ballon d’Or. With all due respect, if Pavel Nedved won it...Back then strikers were less protected by referees and it was tougher to play. If someone fouls Leo Messi now, everyone starts crying from Argentina to New Zealand. When they beat up me, Gabriel Batistuta or Marco Van Basten nobody complained. It’s much easier to be a forward nowadays. You aren’t confronted by players like Franco Baresi or Pietro Vierchowod. I still have nightmares about them…’’

Typically abrasive and yet amusing from this Premier League folklore legend, and despite the ludicrous nature of his claims, when you look back at his best moments - it is hard not to disagree that he had the talent to be one of the best.

Just not the mentality…

image: © jack_pickard

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