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Faustino Asprilla
  1. Football
  2. Premier League

Premier League Cult Icons: Faustino Asprilla

His genius undoubted albeit fleeting, Faustino Asprilla was the box office star that entertained Newcastle United supporters for two memorable years.

Signed from Parma for £6.7million in February 1996, Asprilla arrived on Tyneside through a raging blizzard and turned plenty of heads as he donned a large fur coat.

His flair and flamboyance made an immediate impact. He wasn't even supposed to be in the squad for his debut match against Middlesbrough but came off the bench, dropped in a Cruyff turn and helped Newcastle to a valuable win in their pursuit of a first Premier League title.

Ultimately Kevin Keegan's outfit ceded the league to Manchester United that season and while many apportioned blame to Asprilla's arrival, the mercurial talent still endeared himself to the Geordie faithful with his charisma and infectious energy.

Asprilla's exuberant talent was often blighted by his inconsistency and temperament but when he did turn it on, the Colombian was unstoppable. 

The range of finishes, the iconic celebration and who can forget the remarkable hat-trick against Barcelona in the Champions League.

Asprilla was a maverick and that's why he was adored by many. He left Newcastle in the winter of 1998 and the Premier League has never seen the like since.

Faustino Asprilla In Profile

Place of BirthTulua, Colombia
PositionForward
Premier League club(s)Newcastle United
Premier League appearances48
Premier League goals9
Premier League assists17
International caps58
Other notable clubsParma, Atletico Nacional

Journey into football

Born in the tropical city of Tulua in Colombia's Valle de Cauca, Asprilla's path into football began at Carlos Sarmiento Lora. A prestigious academy in the heart of Cali, the school has produced players in the shape of Faryd Mondragón and Mario Yepes.

He earned his first professional contract at the age of 18 with Cúcuta Deportivo and in his first season scored 17 goals in Colombia's top flight.

Asprilla's talent warranted the interest of Atlético Nacional and the forward flourished, chalking up 37 goals across three years as the Medellín club won the Copa Interamericana in 1990 and the Primera A title the following year.

Parma fended off interest from several other Italian clubs to sign Asprilla for a fee of $10.9million in 1992, where he enjoyed four fruitful years before his switch to Newcastle.

Style of play

A forward who was capable of performing in a number of attacking positions, Asprilla had the ability to unlock defences with his abundant skill and technique.

Blessed with raw speed and agility, Asprilla would dodge defenders with effortless finesse. There was an elasticity to the Colombian; he could squirm out of any situation with his nimble movement and intricate control, evading challenges with a mesmerising ease.

They were traits that resembled his nickname the 'Octopus'.

He was not a prolific goalscorer but the variety of his finishing was impressive. Whether it was a delicate dink over the goalkeeper or a ferocious first-time volley, Asprilla's improvisation was elite and so was his free-kick proficiency; he knew how to find the top corner from 25 yards out.

Newcastle United legacy

One of the memorable figures in Keegan's set of entertainers, Asprilla was symbolic of a Newcastle United side that neutrals admired and is still revered by Toon supporters.

A regular at Newcastle's famous nightclubs Julie's and Legends, his eccentric nature and fun-first attitude inspired affection from fans and colleagues alike.

If his exhilarating skill and artistry had not drawn you in then his collection of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck shirts definitely did.

He struck up a special bond with local hero Alan Shearer and was flicking the ears of teammates ahead of Newcastle's iconic triumph over Barcelona, the game famed for Asprilla's sensational hat-trick. He nearly missed that match because he was partying at his home!

Reserving his best performances for the European stage, the only major blemish to his time on Tyneside was the failure to win the Premier League.

Biggest career achievement

That he never won a trophy during his stint on Tyneside was a crying shame but Asprilla did pick up silverware across his two spells with Parma.

He was influential in Parma's consistent success in Europe during the early 90s, helping the club to their first international trophy in the 1992/93 European Cup Winners' Cup; although he missed the final after injuring himself in an altercation with a bus driver in Colombia.

Nevio Scala's side followed up their triumph by lifting the 1993 European Super Cup and they reached the final of the European Cup Winners' Cup again a year later, only to suffer defeat against Arsenal.

The following season was arguably one of Asprilla's finest, playing a pivotal role in Parma lifting their first UEFA Cup title.

Returning to Stadio Ennio Tardini following his spell with Newcastle, Asprilla played a bit part role under Alberto Malesani but still got his hands on the Coppa Italia trophy and a second UEFA Cup winners medal in 1999.

His next move to Palmeiras saw Asprilla add the Copa dos Campeões to his collection, the eighth and final trophy of his career.

Did you know?

It's not surprising that for a character as lively as 'Tino', there are a number of fascinating stories in which he features.

In fact, there's probably too many to include.

In 2002, Asprilla was paraded around the pitch at Darlington by their former chairman, the notorious George Reynolds.

Darlington, who were in the Third Division (now League Two) at the time, had also attempted to sign Paul Gascoigne but Asprilla was set to become the club's major coup.

Except when Asprilla returned to the North East to put pen to paper, the terms of his contract had changed and the Colombian ultimately opted against joining the Quakers.

Asprilla in the fourth tier of English football would have been a sight to behold.

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