THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Leeds Utd, Panini Football 81

sabella25 June ~ Alejandro Sabella succeeded Diego Maradona as manager of Argentina in 2010. It wasn't be the first time that the two had been associated. In the summer of 1978, with the Football League having lifted its ban on foreign players, Sheffield United manager Harry Haslam set off on a shopping trip to Argentina. His first target was Argentinos Juniors' 17-year-old striker Maradona, who made his international debut the previous year but had been left out of his country's 1978 World Cup-winning squad.

Maradona was interested in the move but his club were opposed to letting him go. Instead, Haslam bought 23-year-old Sabella from River Plate. While the uncapped midfielder didn't match the Football League's requirement that foreign signings should be "proven internationals" he had at least been a regular with River Plate for a couple of years – albeit at a time when several of their squad were away with the national team.

On arriving at Bramall Lane Sabella received the ticker-tape reception that had been a feature of the 1978 World Cup and was a big success, playing 76 games in his two full seasons. Sheffield United didn't prosper, though, and were relegated from the Second Division in Sabella's first season.

Sabella went on to be voted into the PFA's Third Division team for 1979-80 after which he spent one patchy season with a declining Leeds before returning home. He went on to be capped for Argentina while winning two national titles with Estudiantes and has now been in management for over 20 years. His interest in coaching was apparent in his first season in England when he used a cruet set to explain to an interviewer how Sheffield United had just been outfoxed tactically by Wrexham.

Read the original Weekly Howl

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