As Brazil looked forward to the 1994 World Cup, there was excitement in the air. In the years between the Mexico 86’ and USA 94’ finals, Brazil had an abundance of striking talent, as is often the case with the Seleção. The talisman was the pint size forward, Romario. Between 1988 and 1993, he had taken the Dutch Eredivisie by storm, scoring close to a goal a game in 107 appearances for PSV Eindhoven. Next, he impressed in La Liga, joining Catalan giants Barcelona for two years, scoring 34 times in 46 appearances.
In addition to Romario, there was a new kid on the block. ‘Il Fenomeno’ had just burst on to the scene and as a 16-year-old, Ronaldo was prolific in his debut season with Cruzerio, including five in one game against Bahia in November 1993. Ronaldo’s precocious talent would see him score 14 goals in 18 games for Cruzerio before he followed in Romario’s footsteps and headed to Europe to join PSV where the rest, as they say, is history.
With all the hysteria being created by Ronaldo and the public’s eye firmly fixed, both on him and the scintillating form of Romario, another young Brazilian talent was going relatively unnoticed.
A young lanky forward by the name of Marcio Amoroso had also just got his career underway, plying his trade with Brazilian outfit Guarani FC in 1992. During his debut season, the 18-year-old was sent to Japan to gain some vital first team experience. The Brazilian exceeded expectations however, as he single-handedly fired Verdy Kawasaki to the J. League Division One title. Guarani were quick to take their prodigy back after his Japanese adventure and while the eyes of Brazil were on Ronaldo and Romario in Europe, Amoroso ended his first full season with Guarani as the 1994 Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A (the league’s top scorer). After a brief spell at Flamengo, Amoroso finally began to turn some heads and like Ronaldo and Romario, he too headed to Europe.
Amoroso made the move to Italian outfit Udinese, the Bianconeri having finished the previous season in a disappointing 11th in Serie A. President Giampaolo Pozzi was determined to improve on this, opening his cheque book for coach Alberto Zaccheroni to strengthen the squad. The Italian tactician didn’t waste any time, first recruiting Ascoli’s German bomber, Oliver Bierhoff, along with Torino forward Paolo Poggi. Still not satisfied, Zaccheroni turned to Brazil, seeking out Amoroso as the last piece to his puzzle. Quick, skilful, tenacious and an eye for goal, Amoroso had the required attributes to become the perfect foil to the German powerhouse. The Brazilian was also versatile and could play the trequartista role behind Beirhoff and Poggi if need be. In the end, all three would play together in an attacking 3-4-3 formation.
Initially, Bierhoff and Poggi hogged the headlines, scoring 10 goals between them in the opening 12 rounds.
Amoroso eventually found his feet though, the pressure of going 12 games without a goal finally lifted when in round 13, Udinese welcomed Claudio Ranieri’s Fiorentina. Amoroso stole the show, scoring twice in the opening 30 minutes to secure a 2-0 win for Zaccheroni’s men. From that moment, Amoroso never looked back and found the net a further 12 times that season, including a memorable double over Juventus at the Stadio Delle Alpi in a 3-0 rout. Amoroso’s 12 goals along with the 26 scored by fellow new recruits Bierhoff and Poggi fired Udinese to UEFA Cup qualification by securing a fifth placed finish, just nine points off a Champions League place.
With Udinese’s rise in Serie A, people were beginning to take notice. Zaccheroni’s entertaining 3-4-3 formation had people on the edge of their seats but going into the 1997/98 season, many were sceptical of Udine’s capacity to kick on and improve once again. Just 19 minutes into the new campaign, Amoroso began where he left off, putting his side 1-0 up over old foe Fiorentina, however the Viola would go on to win the game 3-2. Come round five of the campaign, it looked as though many of Udnese’s doubters were right, the Zebrette with only two wins in their opening five games, leaving them languishing near the foot of the table.
After a 4-1 thrashing at the hand of Champions Juventus – in which Amoroso got a late consolation goal – Udine turned things around however, going on a remarkable 10 game undefeated streak. But this upturn in form coincided with a downturn in Amoroso’s personal fortunes, in fact the Brazilian would only find the net five times during the 1997/98 season, with all the plaudits going to German superstar Oliver Bierhoff. The forward known as ‘Das Boot’ was in the form of his life, and that season he scored an incredible 27 times as Udinese finished third in Serie A.
Bierhoff and Udinese’s form didn’t go unnoticed as AC Milan would come calling for both Bierhoff and coach Alberto Zaccheroni in the summer of 1997. With Bierhoff out of the picture, new coach Francesco Guidolin put all his faith in Amoroso, handing him the responsibility of leading the line. The Brazilian repaid the coach’s faith almost immediately, hitting five goals in the new season’s opening three rounds. Having shown the character to put the personal disappointment of the previous season behind him, Amoroso thrived on being the superstar in Udine, going on to score 22 goals, topping the Serie A goal scoring charts.
Much like Bierhoff, Amoroso’s form didn’t go unnoticed and new UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia winners Parma came calling. The chance to play alongside the likes of Hernan Crespo was too tempting for the Brazilian to turn down, while the $30 million transfer fee ensured Udinese were willing to depart with their talisman. It didn’t take long for Amoroso to settle, as he led Parma to their first victory of the season when he opened the scoring in round four’s 3-0 victory over Hellas Verona at the Stadio Tardini. Despite the encouraging start, Amoroso was very much playing second fiddle to Crespo and Marco Di Vaio, and the Brazilian scored just four times in his first season in Emilia Romagna.
The following season was déjà vu for Amoroso. Just as Bierhoff had left Udinese during the summer of 1997, Crespo left Parma for Lazio in 2000, providing Amoroso the chance to be the main man with the Gialloblu. However, it was Di Vaio who grabbed the chance to become Parma’s protagonist, the Italian scoring 22 times during the 2000/01 season, while Amoroso’s miserable time at the Tardini continued. The Brazilian only scored seven times during his second season, his progress stymied by multiple injuries, ensuring he never truly fulfilled his potential at Parma. Despite this disappointment, his form at Udinese helped establish the Friuliani as one of Italy’s finest outfits, thereby cementing the Brazilian’s place as one of Serie A’s deadliest strikers in the late 1990s.
Follow Giovanni Dougall on Twitter: @giovannid86