After the 1990 World Cup, the World had fallen in love with Italy and Italy had fallen in love with the foreign stars who had graced her fields. Lazio were no different and decided that after West Germany lifted the trophy in the Stadio Olimpico, that they would move for their 25-year-old striker, Karl-Heinz Riedle.
The Werder Bremen man was signed after the tournament for a fee of 13 million Deutsche Marks, a considerable fee for man who had scored 38 times in 86 times for the Bundesliga outfit. Lazio had finished ninth in the league the season before and coach Dino Zoff looked to his three foreign players to help him mount a challenge the season in the coming campaign. Riedle joined Argentine Pedro Troglio and Uruguayan Ruben Sosa in a line-up that looked like it at the very least challenge for a European Spot.
The season ended in disappointing fashion despite the Germans efforts, they finished 11th as Sampdoria won the title. The next year was a different season for Riedle altogether and whilst his team only managed a 10th place finish a special partnership blossomed. Improving from the season before, Sosa and Karl-Heinz scored 13 times each and looked at the time as one of the most promising partnerships in Serie A. Lazio’s finish was mainly put down to the poor form of their Italian players, as owner Gianmarco Calleri waxed lyrical about the impact of this three foreign purchases. Riedle worked especially well with Thomas Doll who had been brought in from Hamburg in 1991 and had an instant click with his countryman.
At this time the German International was incredibly dangerous for L’Aquile as poached goals like the bird of prey he represented. This was a man who is rarely seen in the game today, a man who was a predator in the six-yard box with only one thing on his mind, goals. The way they looked were irrelevant, there were no Rabona’s or Cryuff turns, this was a man who even at the time, was perhaps only matched for his ruthlessness by his cross town rival and compatriot Rudi Voller. Even though Giuseppe Signori (who would soon become prominent in the team) had those instincts, he still had more to his game and arguably was not as focused simply on one thing. In fact, not until Lazio found Miroslav Klose, another German, did they have a player of that type.
Rieldle’s final season in Rome was a double edged sword as despite the signings of Paul Gascoigne (from Tottenham) and Giuseppe Signori (from Foggia) added more to the team, despite the Englishman’s injuries, it did not help Karl-Heinz. The German missed his Uruguayan partner who had departed for Inter and only eight goals in the campaign showed that he wasn’t getting the chances even though Lazio finished fifth.
He moved on the season afterwards to Borussia Dortmund but remains a cult figure in Rome. When Calcio ruled the World, Karl-Heinz Riedle was deadly in the six-yard box.
By Richard Hall