Nowadays you’ll see Lewandowski firing it up at Bayern, Milik leaving his mark on Serie A and rising star of Piatek, looking like legitimate Lewy’s heir. But only few know that there was a striker of Polish descent who marked the football in transition of milleniums. His name was Hernan ‘El Polaco’ Crespo.
Hernan got the nickname by his grandma, who was from Poland. But, of course, with Argentinians being Argentinians, that’s not his only nickname. He was often called “Valdanito” due to his similarity to Jorge Valdano, the legendary Argentinian striker.
After debuting for River Plate at just 18 years old, he helped the team win Apertura by scoring 13 league goals. Crespo also took part in River’s Copa America triumph, and even scored two goals in home leg of the finals, at El Monumental. This alone gave him legendary status among River Plate supporters.
Move to Europe was inevitable, so after winning everything with River, Crespo didn’t hesitate after Parma came calling. Parma was gigantic club in Italy at the time, bringing in Thuram, Buffon, Chiesa and Crespo to join Baggio and Cannavaro in the title hunt. Crespo didn’t start out very well, as he couldn’t find the net in first 6 months of the season after winning the Olympics with Argentine earlier in the summer. However, Carlo Ancelotti trusted him, and Hernan gave back, scoring 12 times until the end of the season. Fans accepted him, and tormenting Italian defences was on. Parma came just two points short of winning the league behind Juventus led by Zidane, Vieri, Conte and Deschamps.
Worth noting that his pre-European career was very similar to Saviola’s; they both debuted at 18, won the league with River, and won major youth tournament for Argentina.
After Crespo settled in, he scored without mercy, including the goal in UEFA Cup final in 3-0 win against Marseille. Hernan scored 80 goals in 4 seasons at Parma and marked his spot among the legends of the club.
If we want to talk comparisons, Falcao comes to mind, as they both have great movement in the box and are a huge threat in the air. They also both had that cool shoulder-length hair at some point of their career.
Lazio won the league in 1999/00 season, and wanted to reinforce the team. They splashed out 35m euros for Crespo, breaking the world record at the time. Laziali failed to defend the league title, but Crespo played his heart out by scoring 26 goals and becoming top scorer of Serie A, which, at the time included Sevchenko, Batistuta, Vieri, Di Vaio, Trezegeut and Chiesa.
Lazio came crashing down in 2002 with money scandals involved, and the club had to sell, which, for Crespo, meant move to Inter. Worth noting that controversial owner Lotito took over in 2004 and is at helm of the club to this day.
Crespo spent only a season in Inter, missing most of it due to injury, after which he was moved to Chelsea.
After scoring unimpressive 12 goals during his first season in England, he was moved out by Mourinho, who brought in Didier Drogba as his main striker.
Crespo reunited with Ancelotti, scoring only ten goals in 2005/06 season. He returned to Chelsea winning his first European league title, but 13 goals didn’t satisfy him, so he requested move to Inter, where he scored 29 goals in three seasons.
Highlight of his Chelsea return included season-opener beauty winner in 93rd minute
To round up his European career, after forgettable season at Genoa, Crespo joined Parma and scored nine goals in his first season.
It seems that Parma was in Crespo’s heart all along, as the fans loved him, even thought the relationship had a rough start. Parma fans even started petition to bring in Crespo as their coach, and he’s even club’s ambassador today. In his own words:
Parma is in my heart, and the fans are a part of me!
Injuries affected Crespo’s success largely, as they hit him right in his prime. However, every football fan from late 90s and early 2000s knows just how iconic Crespo was, but then again, how could a man who scored 306 goals in his career not be iconic?
It’s also worth noting that he’s 4th best scorer in Argentinian NT of all times, only behind Messi, Batistuta and Aguero.