There aren’t many greater examples of a ‘complete striker’ than Hernan Crespo. Leaving River Plate and his beloved nation of Argentina to sign for Parma in 1996, his adventure as a world class striker began. Crespo scored a variety of goals, from diving headers to composed chips over goalkeepers.
The career of Crespo certainly caught the eye of many. These 10 goals sum up the all-round game of one of the finest centre-forwards the football world has witnessed in the last 20 years.
10. PARMA 3-0 Marseille, UEFA Cup 1998/99
The Argentine would get the ball rolling for his team as Parma won a one-sided UEFA Cup final against Marseille. Juan Sebastian Veron aimed a header towards his fellow countryman but it was Lauren Blanc’s mistimed header back to Stephane Porato that saw Crespo lob the ball on the bounce into the net.
The goal was more about its importance than anything else, but it did require pure composure, one of Crespo’s best traits. It would be the then 23-year-old’s first and only silverware in a European cup competition but the memory of this goal in Moscow will stay with him forever. Crespo’s impact in big games was starting to get noticed as this wouldn’t be the first final of a competition he would score in.
9. PARMA 1-0 Milan, Serie A 1999/00
Having a great first touch is something that is instilled within an Argentine forward and Crespo produced this ability in this game at the Stadio Ennio Tardini. Milan captain Paolo Maldini was fooled by the magnificent touch as Crespo took the assailing ball in his stride and seconds later, the home fans were jubilant.
Christian Abbiati just watching the ball rocket into the bottom corner makes this goal that had plenty of ingenuity even better. This match-winning strike would be Crespo’s 18th league goal of the season as he was in the race to win the Cappocannoniere ahead of Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko and Fiorentina’s Gabriel Batistuta.
8. Bordeaux 2-1 PARMA, UEFA Cup 1998/99
In the first leg of this quarter-final tie, Crespo scored the away goal at the Stade du Parc Lescure when the Ducali were 2-0 down until this consolation goal. It all came about when Enrico Chiesa stormed down the right wing and picked out his partner in crime with a driven cross as Crespo elegantly flicked the ball from an acute angle into the opposite corner. In modern times, we’ve seen this kind of goal scored more often, but in 1999 it was a rarity.
To have the audacity to score such a unique goal as the time was stupendous. This goal seemed crucial at the time but it ended up being insignificant as Parma won the second leg 6-0. Of course, this tie would be part of a memorable season for Alberto Malesani’s team as they went on to achieve a cup double later in the season.
7. LAZIO 3-2 Lecce, Serie A 2000/01
Crespo and Veron were always on the same page on the pitch. That may have been for Parma, Lazio or in England at Chelsea. The great connection between the pair was on display in this goal. Veron found Crespo with a sharp pass just inside the box as Lazio’s No.10 swivelled and opened up space to rocket the ball into the top corner.
This goal showed the strength and physical nature of Crespo and that he could be utilised as a target man striker. In just his first season since joining the then defending champions, Crespo was already justifying his world record transfer fee of £35million. His two goals in this game were enough to earn the three points against a spirited Lecce side.
6. LAZIO 3-1 Udinese, Serie A 2000/01
Lionel Messi and Diego Maradona would be proud of their compatriot’s goal in this game. Crespo received the ball just outside the box. But instead of shooting first time, the Argentine dummied defender Andrea Sottil, held onto the ball and then went round the goalkeeper as he finished from a tight angle.
It was an example of the composure Crespo had and painting a mental image of what he was going to do. Whilst many strikers would have shot first time and not have the same patience Crespo did in front of goal. It would be a fantastic first season for him at Lazio as he won the Capocannoniere with 26 goals ahead of Shevchenko’s 25. Crespo didn’t know it yet but he would be halfway through his short spell at Lazio.
5. Venezia 0-2 PARMA, Serie A 1999/00
This was a goal of real finesse and flair from Crespo going back to his time in Parma. The then 24-year old got the ball from the edge of the box and nutmegged not one but two players before finishing past the goalkeeper. The defence of the Arancioneroverdi just couldn’t deal with Parma’s number nine even with Veron and Chiesa’s absence. It was the sort of goal that you dream about scoring against your mates in a 5-aside match.
This goal saw his transfer value and profile rise. Crespo didn’t score many goals like this, but it was one that showed his South American flair. Especially later on in his career, when he conserved his energy as he didn’t have the same pace and sharpness he used to.
4. PARMA 3-1 Venezia, Serie A 1999/00
In the reverse fixture later that season, Crespo would score an even better goal than the one at the Stadio Pierluigi Penzo. After a searching cross was played in, he had to back track and came up with the most audacious bicycle kick. The ball came spiralling off the ground, looped over the keeper and sailed into the top corner. Hitting the ball into the ground looked deliberate rather than the strike being completely mistimed.
Crespo also netted the home side’s first goal, proving that the Argentine scored crucial goals whether that was for club or country. The goal came in the dying minutes securing Parma a vital three points as they continued to battle for Champions League qualification. Venezia wouldn’t have to deal with Crespo for the following season as they were relegated to Serie B.
3. LAZIO 3-0 Fiorentina, Serie A 2001/02
Technically, this goal ranks high among the greatest goals of Crespo’s career. Filippo Inzaghi was one on one with the keeper but denied by Giuseppe Taglialatela. The rebound came all the way back to Crespo on the edge of the box as he acrobatically smashed the ball in just under the bar. Many players would have mistimed the volley, ending up with the ball in the stands.
The counter-attack from Lazio was so quick that Crespo only had a split second to set himself for the superb strike. It would be a poor season for Lazio as they finished just sixth in Serie A and Crespo scored just 13 times in the league, which was a big drop from the 26 he scored in the previous season. This would be Valdanito’s last season for Lazio after joining the club just two years ago. The Nerazzuri would come calling the following season.
2. Liverpool 3-3 AC MILAN, Champions League 2004/05
The game Milan fans will want to forget despite dominating Liverpool in the first half of the 2005 Champions League final. Crespo and his teammates were playing football out of this world in the first half. Minutes after Crespo scored the Rossoneri’s second goal, Kaka received the ball on the halfway line, turned Steven Gerrard and picked out Crespo with an eye of a needle pass as the striker on-loan from Chelsea broke the offside trap and delicately lifted the ball over goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.
This goal came minutes after the Argentine’s first strike as Milan went into the break with an unassailable 3-0 lead. However, his Milan side were denied glory in Istanbul as Liverpool scored three goals in six minutes in regular time and would win the final on penalties. The match was forgettable but that goal was memorable for Crespo.
1. Ajax 1-2 INTERNAZIONALE, Champions League 2002/03
Crespo was always an aerial threat and he put that on display at the Amsterdam Arena. The striker scored twice in as many minutes, both being headers, but his second goal was better than the first. The build up for the goal was superb as well as the finish. Crespo played a neat one-two with Domenico Morfeo before a quick pass to Christian Vieri, finding his strike partner with a searching cross.
Ajax defender Joey Didulica was beaten by Crespo’s aerial prowess as the header was directed so perfectly. Goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar had absolutely no chance. It was a goal that summed up Inter’s ability to be a threat on the counter attack against any side in the world. Any striker in the world would have been proud of that goal; it was vintage Crespo.
Words by Ben King: @BenKing96
Ben King is a sports journalism student. As well as The Gentleman Ultra, he writes for Boston Blabber and Vavel USA.