Enzo Francescoli

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Enzo Francescoli
Enzo Francescoli 2011.jpg
Francescoli in 2007.
Personal information
Full name Enzo Francescoli Uriarte
Date of birth (1961-11-12) 12 November 1961 (age 52)
Place of birth Montevideo, Uruguay
Height 5 ft 11 14 in (1.81 m)
Playing position Attacking midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1980–1982 Wanderers 74 (20)
1983–1986 River Plate 113 (68)
1986–1989 RC Paris 89 (32)
1989–1990 Olympique Marseille 28 (11)
1990–1993 Cagliari 98 (17)
1993–1994 Torino 24 (3)
1994–1997 River Plate 84 (47)
Total 510 (198)
National team
1982–1997 Uruguay 73 (17)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).
This name uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Francescoli and the second or maternal family name is Uriarte.

Enzo Francescoli Uriarte (locally: [ˈenso fɾanˈseskoli]; Italian: [ˈɛntso frantʃeˈskɔli]; born 12 November 1961 in Montevideo) is a former Uruguayan football player. Francescoli was nicknamed El Príncipe ("The Prince" in Spanish) or Le Prince (in French). He played 73 times for the Uruguay national team between 1982 and his retirement in 1997, making him the most capped outfield player in Uruguayan international football at the time.[1] He is regarded as one of the greatest players of Uruguay, perhaps the greatest to have never played for the two biggest clubs in the country. He was known for his classic and elegant style, like El Príncipe, in reference to Hannibal Ciocca, a former Uruguayan player from the 1930s and 40. He later was the only Uruguayan included by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list, and was chosen by the International Federation of History and Statistics Football as the sixth greatest player of his country and 24th of South America in the Twentieth Century.[2]

He is considered a playmaker in the decadent age of Celeste. He has been in two World Cups, 1986 and 1990, when Uruguay fell in the eighth finals both times (against rival and future champion Argentina and host Italy, respectively), for which he had just arrived, in both cases, as one of the best third-placed in the first phase. When already a veteran, Uruguay failed to qualify for the world cups of 1994 and 1998. Altogether, he played eight matches in the World Cup, winning only one - against the then very inexperienced South Korea, and only 1 - 0.[1][3][4][5][6]

One of his greatest triumphs, while wearing the Celeste jersey, was saving the team in the 1989 Cup América. Francescoli played in four of the five games, winning three of those, reaching the final round, losing only to Brazil, whom had home field advantage. They placed second overall, with Francescoli scoring the first and last goal for Celeste.[1]

Francescoli admired his rival Argentina, where he felt more appreciated than in his own homeland, where none of his three titles were much celebrated. In neighbouring Argentina, where he now lives, he played for the club River Plate, being one of the biggest fans of the club, whom he played for for many years and was the lead scorer and driver for the second (and last) team win in the club's Libertadores Cup, having won a total of five Argentine titles in the six years in which he served for the team. He later enjoyed success with two teams while playing in France, despite the bad results of Racing Paris and its ephemeral passage by another, Olympique de Marseille.[7][8]

Club career[edit]

His official debut was with the Uruguayan team Montevideo Wanderers. He played several years for River Plate of Argentina where he won five league titles and the Copa Libertadores in 1996 in his two spells with the club. He also played for the French RC Paris (Matra Racing Paris at then time), Olympique de Marseille, and the Italian teams Cagliari and Torino.

Montevideo Wanderers[edit]

As a fan of Peñarol, Francescoli nearly started his career on Aurinegra, where he was well regarded after a test. However, unimpressed by the conduct of the team, where he spent more time watching than playing, he quit the club. He eventually would join one of the greatest teams, River Plate, and could have therefore also started there, where he was approved, but chose to join the football team at Salesian College while studying, in which he was a part of five collegiate championships in his time there.[8]

In his last year of high school, he received an offer from the Montevideo Wanderers, after having been scouted extensively by the team, along with several others. He postponed joining the team however, as he desired to stay committed to school and graduate. In 1980, he debuted in his first team the Bohemians, earning their best season result since their fourth and final national title in 1931 (still an amateur football league) earning second place. Besides his elegant nature that would earn him the nickname El Príncipe (a nickname inherited from Hannibal Ciocca, a former player of Wanderers), another habit he developed there was to chew gum during games; chewing caused him to salivate, thus eliminating dryness in his mouth. He stated that he became so dependent on the habit that he did not feel right when he did not have any gum before games.[8]

In 1980, the club finished third at the continental competition. In the Uruguayan Primera División in 1981, Francescoli performed well for the team, finishing behind only Peñarol and Nacional, again succumbing in the finals. Still, months later, in February 1982, he made his debut for the Uruguayan national team. Membership in the Libertadores liguilla finally came later that year, ironically after the worst performance for the Wanderers Francescoli had with the national championship - at fifth place.[9]

Vying for a spot with the 1983 Libertadores team for the cup, Enzo and his team - in which other players included Jorge Barrios, Luis Alberto Acosta, and Raúl Esnal (who would later go with him to the Copa America 1983), and Ariel Krasouski - had a respectable season, finishing first in their league, tied with the powerhouse El Nacional, and were only eliminated in the quarterfinals.[10]

River Plate[edit]

In 1983, River Plate, after witnessing his performance in the Copa America that year, signed him for $310,000, in what would be one of his best contracts. His start here, however, was irregular and peculiar. The team finished the Metropolitan Championship (the Argentine championship since 1969 was divided into two tournaments, National and Metropolitan) lower than it had performed due to complex political maneuvering and regulation changes, promoting instead one of the big five Argentine teams, San Lorenzo. By today’s method, River Plate would have finished two positions above where it did that season.[11]

The following year, Francescoli was largely passed up and was unable to show his potential, splitting time with other players and often never touching the field. He eventually saw more playing time towards the end of the season when the team made the National Championships, where the team reached the final, but was defeated by Ferro Carril Oeste, 3 - 0 in the first leg, in part by the monumental Núñez. In the Metropolitan Uruguayan championship the team finished as the top scorer with goals, but only fourth in overall points, with champions Argentinos Juniors winning instead.[12]

Still, Francescoli, as part of River Plate and team Uruguay (here he played with players like Nelson Gutiérrez and Antonio Alzamendi, among others), was voted the best South American footballer of 1984. He received an offer from América de Cali, later found to be funded by the Cali Cartel (who used the club to launder money), which was doing well that year, and would go on to be the Libertadores Cup champions between 1985 and 1987. However, eager to excel for River Plate, Francescoli opted to stay in Núñez.[8]

Although the team did not win the championship in 1985, Francescoli was officially named the best player in Argentina, and was the first foreign player to be given the honor. They finally won the Argentine title in the next championship of 1985/86 (which established a single tournament, along the lines of European rules), and ending with him as the top scorer ( with 25 goals, three of them in a frantic 5-4 shootout against Argentinos Juniors for the championship of the Libertadores Cup). In January 1986, in the final round of the championship, he scored his most famous goal; a bicycle kick for a 5 - 4 victory (obtained with three goals in the last seven minutes, including another of his) on the then respected Polish team, who participated in the tournament which the big five Argentine clubs organized that season.[13]

After winning the title, the team went on to the World Cup of 1986. However they would lose to Argentina, who would then win the next five games to win the Cup. After this, he was hired by a European league team Racing Paris, newly promoted into league two. Nantes was willing to pay 2.5 million dollars for his contract, but then River Plate president Hugo Santilli, bet that the star would fetch a greater price after Copa.[14]

International career[edit]

Francescoli played 73 times for the Uruguay national team scoring 17 goals, between 1982 and 1997. He made appearances at the 1986 and 1990 FIFA World Cups. He won the Copa América three times with Uruguay in 1983, 1987 and 1995, he also played in the 1989 and 1993 editions of the tournament.

In France[edit]

Francescoli joined this long established team from Paris, that had been in a slump since the 1950s and had recently come into a rivalry with its growing neighbor, Paris Saint-Germain (founded in 1970), which, incidentally, had won the French title the season before. Still, automotive company Matra decided to sponsor the team, which resulted in the name being changed to Matra Racing in 1987. Seeking to dominate the 1993 League One Copa UEFA Champions, automobile company magnate Jean-Luc Lagardère provided funding allowing the team to sign Luis Fernández, Maxime Bossis, Thierry Tusseau, Pierre Littbarski, David Ginola, Sonny Silooy, Eugène Ekéké and another Uruguayan Rubén Paz. In this first season, the team managed to finished 13th overall in a large part due to Francescoli’s 14 goals; he was the top scorer of league that season.[15]

Francescoli became a team idol and in 1987 was elected the best foreign player in France. For the 1987/88 season, the Portuguese coach Artur Jorge, who had previously won the UEFA championship cup, was brought to the team. Jorge would be the best technical coach for Francescoli, as he would later state. Matra had been struggling for top rankings, alternating between third and second place from the second half of the season on. However, after a series of games, the team stood eleven points behind Monaco. Francescoli scored eight times, again being the top scorer of Matra Racing. He received an offer at this time from Juventus de Turin in due to the untimely retirement of its captain Michel Platini in 1987, although he turned it down. After the championship of 1988-89 he was again the top scorer on the team and saved the team from falling into last place.[16]

The sub-par season of Matra did not prevent him from being seen as a star worldwide. He earned a spot on the international team that played against the Brazilian national team in a friendly that marked the farewell of Zico Brazil in March 1989, and scored one of the goals of the 2 - 1 victory. But he had been disappointed and frustrated in the French Cup; in the three years he was there, he never made it into the top eight of the tournament.Racing soon filed for bankruptcy and fell out of the first French league, losing the spot to the financially sound Paris Saint-Germain.[17]

In Marseille, Francescoli played for only one season when he grabbed the attention of an important fan: Zinédine Zidane. Francescoli was sorely missed on his former team Racing, which could not climb past relegation without him that season. Ironically, the two teams met in the semifinals of the French Cup, although Paris ended up winning. In the next round, the team lost, although under odd circumstances. Francescoli has scored a goal in the last eight minutes that would have tied it up, although it was not counted due to a technicality and the team lost. [18]

In Italy[edit]

After the World Cup of 1990 held in Italy, they arrived to face the hosts themselves in the tournament. Along with José Oscar Herrera and Daniel Fonseca, he was signed to Cagliari Calcio, where he initially struggled relegation in his first two seasons at the new club, in which he totalled only four (1990/91) and six goals (1991/92) in the Italian Serie A. In the tournament, Cagliari Calcio also did not fare well in the Cup, being eliminated in the first round.[19]

His third season in Italy was by far his best. In the Italian Cup tournament, he scored three goals before the team was eliminated in the quarter finals against Milan. In Serie A, the team earned a surprising sixth place, with a spot in the UEFA Cup with Francescoli scoring seven goals, his highest in a single season in Serie A. Francescoli accepted an offer from Turin and moved to Torino F.C., the recent champion of the Coppa Italia.[19]

With Francescoli, the team again was close to earning the title, but Ancona defeated them in a semi-final upset. The season in Serie A, however, was more eventful, with a heavily contested championship. Torino deviated from relegation for a spot in the UEFA Cup; the club earned four points above the required amount to enter the tournament. Already in the European Cup Winners' Cup, in which they had taken first in the 1993 Italian Cup, the team was defeated in the quarter-finals against eventual champions, Arsenal.[19]

In the 1993 Italian Super Cup 1993, he was the closest to ever winning the trophy, ultimately losing to Milan. He did not perform as well as other season, scoring his lowest number of goals in four seasons of the Italian league: only three.[20]

Return to the River[edit]

Now 33 years old, after an uninspiring career for Torino and Europe, he decided to return to River Plate. Despite his age, he was determined and performed well in the Apertura championship team that year (the Argentine season returned to being divided into two separate tournaments, Apertura and Clausura, in 1990/91), it being his third time in this tournament. This was also the first time the River went undefeated to become the national champions.[21]

The team had a less exciting season in 1995, finishing tenth in the Clausura and seventh in the Apertura in and then falling in the semifinals of the Libertadores Cup against Colombia's Atletico Nacional. The team had exceptionally high penalties that caused it to suffer in the season, and it was eventually eliminated in the semifinals by future champions Independiente in the Supercopa Libertadores, in which Francescoli played as gunner. That year he was voted best player in South American. He also received the title of Argentine player of the year, ten years after first receiving it.[22]

The next year, he retired from Celeste to devote himself entirely to the River. The first season was the most important; Francescoli led a youth team (among them: Ariel Ortega, Matias Almeyda, Juan Pablo Sorin, Hernan Crespo, and Marcelo Gallardo), to win the title of the Libertadores Cup in 1996 - the second division in the league, briefly tying the Boca Juniors 15. Until 2013, it was the last time the team finished number one in the group in the tournament. The team had impressive, albeit not as stellar, performances after the 1996 season, which ended a series of bad performances in the Argentine championship.[8]

At the end of the year, he returned to Uruguay, rejoining River and defeating Juventus in the Intercontinental Cup, having the chance to defeat the Boca Juniors for the trophy, but ultimately losing to Italy. On the opposing team was a substantial fan of Francescoli, Zinédine Zidane. Zidane commented "when I saw Francescoli play, he was the player I wanted to be. He was the player that I saw and admired at Olympique de Marseille -.. My idol; I played against him when he was at Juventus... Enzo is like a god,".

With the disappointment of losing the Intercontinental at Monumental in the eighth-finals with the Libertadores and an early ejection due to penalties Racing was fortunate to follow with a "tricampeonato"; three consecutive tournaments championships at Clausura, Apertura, and the Supercopa Libertadores the next year.

Francescoli announced he would retire in early 1998 - Uruguay not had qualified for the World Cup that year - refusing an offer of roughly a million dollars to continue, feeling he could not play another year. Poor sleep caused by stress forced him to seek therapy since 1996. His legacy was already next to other soccer legends: Angel Labruna, Alfredo Di Stéfano and others playing for the Torcedores.


Francescoli's identity card at Montevideo Wanderers

He was noted for his grace and fluid abilities on the ball. These qualities would later influence the style of French midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who has stated that Francescoli was his favorite player as a young boy and even named one of his sons Enzo as a homage to him. Furthermore, Diego Milito, has also been given the nickname "Il Principe" by Inter fans, due to his physical resemblance with him.

He was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004.

In July 2012 in Ariel Ortega's testimonial, Francescoli scored 4 goals at the age of 50, the last of which was a bicycle kick in the penalty area.[23]

Career statistics[edit]

Club performance League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Season Club League Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Uruguay League Cup League Cup South America Total
1980 Montevideo Wanderers Primera División 26 3 26 3
1981 22 7 22 7
1982 26 10 26 10
Argentina League Cup League Cup South America Total
1983 River Plate Primera División 27 11 27 11
1984 49 29 49 29
1985 5 3 5 3
1985–86 32 25 0 0 32 25
France League Coupe de France Coupe de la Ligue Europe Total
1986–87 RC Paris Division 1 35 14 1 0 36 14
1987–88 28 8 1 0 29 8
1988–89 26 10 2 0 28 10
1989–90 Olympique Marseille Division 1 28 11 4 0 8 0 40 11
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
1990–91 Cagliari Serie A 33 4 33 4
1991–92 33 6 1 0 34 6
1992–93 32 7 32 7
1993–94 Torino Serie A 24 3 6 2 3 0 33 5
Argentina League Cup League Cup South America Total
1994–95 River Plate Primera División 27 17 11 6 38 23
1995–96 20 10 19 13 39 23
1996–97 31 19 2 1 33 20
1997–98 6 1 4 0 10 1
Total Uruguay 74 20 74 20
Argentina 197 115 36 20 233 135
France 117 43 8 0 8 0 133 43
Italy 122 20 7 2 3 0 132 22
Career total 510 198 15 2 47 20 572 220

International statistics[edit]


Uruguay national team
Year Apps Goals
1982 4 0
1983 4 1
1984 1 0
1985 11 5
1986 6 1
1987 4 0
1988 1 2
1989 9 3
1990 6 0
1991 - -
1992 - -
1993 9 2
1994 - -
1995 9 3
1996 3 0
1997 6 0
Total 73 17

International goals[edit]



River Plate
Olympique Marseille

National team[edit]



  1. ^ a b c d "Enzo Francescoli – International Appearances". RSSSF. Retrieved 4 July 2012.
  2. ^ STOKKERMANS, Karel (2000-01-30). "IFFHS' Century Elections". RSSSF. 
  3. ^ "World Cup 1986". RSSSF. 01/03/2011. 
  4. ^ "World Cup 1990". RSSSF. 01/03/2011. 
  5. ^ "World Cup 1994 qualifications". RSSSF. 01/03/2011. 
  6. ^ "World Cup 1998 qualifications". RSSSF. 
  7. ^ PERUGINO, Elías (novembro de 2010). Enzo Francescoli. El Gráfico Especial n. 27 - "100 Ídolos de River". Revistas Deportivas, pp. 34-35
  8. ^ a b c d e "Palabra de ídolo". El Gráfico. 2008-09-19. Retrieved 01/03/2011. 
  9. ^ ANTOGNAZZA, Diego; TABEIRA, Martín (10/01/2004). "Uruguay - Liguilla Pre-Libertadores All Results". RSSSF. 
  10. ^ BEUKER, John (2005-03-18). "Copa Libertadores de América 1983". RSSSF. 
  11. ^ BORINSKY, Diego (maio de 2010).¿Se puede ir a la B?. El Gráfico n. 4398, pp. 64-68
  12. ^ SERNA, Emmanuel Castro (09/07/2009). "Argentina - List of Topscorers". RSSSF. 
  13. ^ PERUGINO, Elías (agosto de 2012). Una chilena que hizo historia y generó imitadores. El Gráfico Especial n. 39 - "River momentos inolvidables". Revistas Deportivas, p. 38
  14. ^ Francescoli, um ótimo investimento (17 de março de 1986). Placar n. 825. Editora Abril, p. 48
  15. ^ "Saison 1986-1987". Allez Racing. 2011-03-16. 
  16. ^ ABBINK, Dinant; PAURON, Frédéric (08/04/2004). "France - Cup History 1917-1997". RSSSF. 
  17. ^ C MERA, Mário (fevereiro de 2012). No olho da rua. Revista ESPN n. 28. Spring Editora, pp. 62-65
  18. ^ BONAGUIDI, Fernand (11/03/2010). "Il y a 20 ans, l'injustice". RSSSF. 
  19. ^ a b c MARIANI, Maurizio (03/04/2009). "Coppa Italia History". RSSSF. 
  20. ^ AROTARITEI, Sorin (2010-09-17). "Italy Super Cup Finals". RSSSF. 
  21. ^ PERUGINO, Elías (agosto de 2012). También fue campeón invicto. El Gráfico Especial n. 39 - "River momentos inolvidables". Revistas Deportivas, p. 32
  22. ^ GORGAZZI, Osvaldo José; KURHY, Víctor Hugo (2004-03-27). "Final Tables Argentina 1991-2000". RSSSF. 
  23. ^ "Today on YouTube: 50-year-old Uruguayan legend Enzo Francescoli's blissful bicycle kick". The Daily Telegraph. 16 July 2012. Retrieved 6 June 2014. 

External links[edit]