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The rise and fall of Marco Negri


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Marco Negri, now aged 37 and presumably retired from professional football, continues to prove as elusive to pursuing journalists as he was to defenders at the height of his turbulent but fascinating playing career. Negri was the man brought to Ibrox by Walter Smith in 1997 with the express purpose of scoring the goals that would deliver a record-breaking 10th consecutive league title for Rangers.

For the first few months, he did all that and more. Frankly, he was a striking phenomenon who scored goals as nonchalantly as he probably brushed his teeth at night.

Negri had arrived from Perugia as a name familiar in Scotland only to keen students of the Italian game. The rest of us would soon become better informed as the goals followed in torrents, a remarkable 33 arriving in only 26 appearances, including five in one game against Dundee United.

Somewhat surprisingly, Negri greeted each notch as if an ice cream van had just run over his cat, further adding to the growing feeling that we were witnessing the work of a genuine enigma.

Negri, in fact, would become the subject of a debate similar to that which has raged around Kris Boyd during his time at Rangers, with supporters weighing up his worth in goals against his overall contribution - or lack thereof - to Smith's side.

Ewan Chester, Rangers' chief scout, saw first-hand both sides of moody Marco after travelling to Perugia to watch Negri in action towards the end of the 1996/1997 season.

"Perugia were taking on Roma desperate for a victory as they looked to stave off relegation that year," he recalls. "They had 10 men giving their all, fighting for every ball and flying into tackles . . . and then you had Marco with the beard and long hair who didn't seem to be trying at all.

"He didn't track back, wasn't pressing the Roma defence and didn't seem to be working for the team. But he just seemed to come alive in the final third.

"He scored one, set up the other and hit the crossbar as Perugia won 2-0. I came back and said to Walter: If you're going down the road of creating a hard-working team then he's not the man, but if you want a guy who will get you 30 goals a season then he's perfect'.

"It was just a tragedy when it went wrong as you couldn't help wondering what he might have become."

Negri's slide into oblivion was as dramatic as his rise to prominence. An eye injury reportedly sustained in a squash match with Sergio Porrini, his Rangers team-mate, started the decline and a stream of ailments soon followed.

He caught pneumonia, suffered a back injury and had to undergo surgery to cure a hernia problem and, with Negri sidelined more often than he was fit, Celtic eventually overhauled their great rivals to deny Rangers that much sought-after tenth consecutive title.

A new manager in Dick Advocaat seemed to offer the Italian a clean slate to recapture that early form, but he would feature only three more times for Rangers before being off-loaded to Bologna in 2001, bringing his tumultuous time in Scotland, that had started so triumphantly, to a whispering end.

Negri clearly did not subscribe to Richard Gough's theory that "the team that drinks together, wins together", eschewing team-bonding and boozy bashes for extended periods of solitude.

Jorg Albertz, the rather more gregarious German, recalls a quiet man who only really came to life on the football pitch.

"When he joined Rangers at the start he was a fantastic goalscorer and a really important player in our time. His goals were really valuable.

"He was a nice guy but very quiet in the dressing room. I didn't hang about with him much away from the stadium, but I don't think he was the kind of guy that went clubbing or anything like that.

"It was a shame when it all went wrong as we all thought he had a brilliant career in front of him. He just seemed to disappear when he left Rangers, I don't think many of the guys ever heard from him again."

After Bologna, Negri pitched up at Cagliari and then Livorno, where Roberto Donadoni, now head coach of the Italian national team, offered him yet another lifeline. In typical fashion, he scored four goals in his first three games at the Tuscan club before rapidly running out of steam.

Not even a return to Perugia, where he had made his name, could belatedly kick-start his career and he made only three appearances in Serie B before once more retreating into the shadows.

Curiously, he returned to the UK in 2004 where he attempted to earn a deal with Derby County. A reel of Negri in action had found its way to Pride Park where Steve McClaren, Derby's erstwhile assistant manager, described it as "one of the most impressive videos I had ever seen".

Steve Nicholson, County beat reporter at the Derby Evening Telegraph, remembers the case of yet another false start for Negri who, after a five-day trial, was again deemed surplus to requirements.

"At that time, County were desperately looking to bolster their striking department but had no money to spend," Nicholson said. "So they looked everywhere for a striker and one that they could get as cheaply as possible. Negri's was a name that kept popping up as a possible signing, but in the end it never materialised. I've no idea what happened to him after that."

Nicholson is not alone in that regard. Negri's trail disappears after Derby and even Lorenzo Amoruso, his one-time friend and team-mate, remains unsure of his whereabouts.

"I haven't heard from him in about eight years now. I think he's still in Italy but I've no idea what he's doing now."

Chester added: "In all my travels over the years, I've never come across anyone who has come into contact with Marco. He was such a reclusive guy, it would not surprise me if he had turned his back on football entirely."

The fairy tale that turned sour is still looking for an ending.

http://www.theherald.co.uk/sport/headlines...1830975.0.0.php

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Thats spooky reading that was just thinking bout negri the other day and wondering what might have been if he had played that whole season, whether he would've broke the record for goals in a season and we would def have got 10 in a row.

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If he hadn't got injured we could have won about 12 in a row!! He was quite simply a goal scoring machine, unlike boyd he also had a great first touch and control of the ball. I remember a 7-0 game against dunfermline that season as well where he scored a hat-trick and gazza got two as well, we made it look so easy. Have got great memories of Negri would love to know what happened to him and where he is now.

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If he hadn't got injured we could have won about 12 in a row!! He was quite simply a goal scoring machine, unlike boyd he also had a great first touch and control of the ball. I remember a 7-0 game against dunfermline that season as well where he scored a hat-trick and gazza got two as well, we made it look so easy. Have got great memories of Negri would love to know what happened to him and where he is now.

fantastic goalscorer if he had kept fit we would have won 10 in a row.

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he,s a friend of ma girlfriends brother. their italian. will find out where marco is 2moro and post it on RM. it all went wrong on a night out with AMO,PORRINI,AND RINO. seemingly negri's girlfriend at the time was accused by big amo as being an notorious good time girl with italian footballers over in there native land and when introduced to the party, big amo was diggin the big man up about this big style, to which negri took great offence. sergio took big amo's side in the forthcoming argument and it all went down from that night!!

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he,s a friend of ma girlfriends brother. their italian. will find out where marco is 2moro and post it on RM. it all went wrong on a night out with AMO,PORRINI,AND RINO. seemingly negri's girlfriend at the time was accused by big amo as being an notorious good time girl with italian footballers over in there native land and when introduced to the party, big amo was diggin the big man up about this big style, to which negri took great offence. sergio took big amo's side in the forthcoming argument and it all went down from that night!!

So there you go if Negri had a better taste in women we would have won 10 in a row ... you know it's so bizarre it's probably true

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he,s a friend of ma girlfriends brother. their italian. will find out where marco is 2moro and post it on RM. it all went wrong on a night out with AMO,PORRINI,AND RINO. seemingly negri's girlfriend at the time was accused by big amo as being an notorious good time girl with italian footballers over in there native land and when introduced to the party, big amo was diggin the big man up about this big style, to which negri took great offence. sergio took big amo's side in the forthcoming argument and it all went down from that night!!

So there you go if Negri had a better taste in women we would have won 10 in a row ... you know it's so bizarre it's probably true

It's a story i could believe.

To be honest we were struggling at that time. We we limped towards the nine in a row rather than powering our way towards it. I still blame our general buying policy - Jonas Thern, Rozental and the like

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