OMAR Sivori, the Juventus legend hailed in recent years as "the Maradona of the Sixties", was mourned throughout Serie A yesterday after his death in Argentina, aged 69.
Sivori, the European Footballer of the Year in 1961, was famed for his sublime dribbling with socks at his ankles, often interspersed with keepie-uppie or a "nutmeg," as well as a volatile temperament. The Argentine was banned for 33 matches during his 12-year career in Italy.
But Sivori was the perfect foil for his striking partner John Charles when they teamed up in 1957 as Juventus tried to regain their old glory after a dry spell, finishing an unheard of ninth the previous season.
Juventus immediately won the Scudetto and went on to win two more championships in 1960 and ’61. In the classic European Cup quarter-final of 1962, Sivori outshone his countryman Alfredo Di Stefano and scored the only goal as Juventus became the first team to beat Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in the tournament.
Sivori had made his name with River Plate as part of the Trio del Muerte with Antonio Angelillo and Humberto Maschio, winning the South American championship twice. The trio were transferred to Italy where they were hailed as angeli della faccia sporca (the angels with dirty faces) and the 60,000 fee for Sivori helped River Plate rebuild their stadium, which would be the stage for the 1978 World Cup final. The trio all went on to play for Italy as oriundi (South Americans of Italian extraction), with Sivori the most successful, scoring eight goals in his nine appearances for the Azzurri.
He was top scorer in Serie A in 1960 with 27 goals in 31 games, while Angelillo still holds the record of 33 for Inter in 1959.
Of the "angels," Sivori was a "devil" on the pitch and the self-appointed protector of the "gentle giant" Charles. Gianni Agnelli, the Juve president, used to refer to him as his mio vizio (my vice).
But the mischievous extrovert was immensely popular off the pitch and became a successful TV pundit after spells as a coach with Rosario, River Plate and Argentina at the 1974 World Cup.
However, his more cerebral aspects were also acknowledged yesterday. Former team-mate Giampiero Boniperti said: "His greatest gift was that he could think faster than the others," while Sandro Mazzola called him his inspiration: "The only player of his time who knew how to play just behind the strikers. He had infinite skill."
But Juventus chief executive Antonio Giraudo paid him the ultimate accolade: "He was a great man, a great champion. He was one of the best players Juve have ever had."