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A Playmaker that Shaped Modern Football

In 1978, the Football League lifted a 47-year ban on signing foreign players and an influx of new talent flooded England’s shores. At the forefront of this revolution was Ossie.

A Roaring Success

In July of 1978, Tottenham Hotspur announced the signing of Argentine World Cup winner Osvaldo Ardiles—an unprecedented move that changed English Football forever. Ardiles went on to win the FA Cup and the UEFA Cup during his decade in North London.

A Trailblazer

It was never a given that Ardiles could be successful in England. Latin American players tend to be more comfortable moving to leagues with similar styles of play, like Italy, Spain and Portugal. Ossie had the world at his feet. He could have gone anywhere, but he chose England, which could have been career suicide.

Thankfully, this big risk paid off. Naturally, more clubs started looking beyond their borders for new talent. Two more Argentine stars, Alberto Tarantini and Alex Sabella, arrived at Birmingham and Sheffield, respectively. Dutchmen Arnold Muhren and Frank Thijssen were signed by Ipswich and the duo would go on to win the 1981 UEFA Cup.

The Famous Five

In 1989, Ardiles moved into management, taking charge of Swindon Town. The Swindon faithful were impressed with his free-scoring football, but after some initial success, Ardiles jumped ship to join Newcastle United (where he became the first foreign manager in the team’s history). He only lasted 12 months before joining third-tier West Bromwich and helping The Baggies gain promotion.

His main breakthrough as a coach, though it was ultimately unsuccessful, came with his old club Tottenham. At Spurs, Ossie’s Famous Five—Klinsmann, Dumitrescu, Sheringham, Barmby, and Anderton—became part of the club’s folklore through their fluid, fun-to-watch style. His team was unbalanced, however, and with results turning sour, Ossie was sacked after just a few months.

An Enduring Legacy

Ardiles was a trailblazer and a revolutionary who changed English Football forever. These days, Premier League teams are brimming with foreign talent. Tottenham’s squad for their 1-1 tie with Sheffield consisted of twelve foreign players, seven of which are non-EU players.

Plus, without his legacy, it’s hard to imagine the likes of Guardiola, Klopp, and Pochettino going on to lead big clubs in the Premier League.

Illustration by @inakivector

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