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Crespo stresses on observation, hard work

Retaining the passion for the game is very important, says the former Argentine striker.
Former Argentine International Hernan Crespo Speaks At The Aspire Global Summit In Doha
Former Argentine international Hernan Crespo speaks at the Aspire Global Summit in Doha. IQ Photo: Vinod Divakaran

What makes a striker tick? What is it that separates the great from the merely good or an average forward?

It is observation and practice, according to Hernan Crespo, former Argentine player who raked in goals aplenty in his career, in the leagues of Europe as well as for the national team.

Crespo, speaking as a guest at the Aspire Global Summit on Football and Science on Tuesday, touched upon his playing career while also turning the spotlight on his journey as a coach.

“You’ve to watch and study the top players. That’s important. In my time, I used to look at players like Marco van Basten and Careca, trying to replicate what they were doing, adding to my personal skills,” said Crespo.

The 43-year-old was a feared striker of his time as he plied his trade with Parma, Lazio, Inter Milan, Chelsea and AC Milan after starting out with River Plate in his native Argentina. Crespo scored 198 goals in his club tenure and 35 for the national team – the fourth highest, behind Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Batistuta and Lionel Messi.

“I was very passionate about football and was always trying to learn new things. You’ve to watch and learn. These days, there’re too many things distracting a player – money, fame, social media etc. All these could be obstacles in your career and it’ll be better if you go back to the original reason with which you started out – passion for the game. You should seek to develop your skills, only then you’ll get results. You need the players to find the soul of the game again,” he said.

For all his goal-scoring exploits, there was a time when Crespo really experienced the pain of self-doubt. He had moved to Italian club Parma from River Plate in 1996 with the reputation of being an excellent striker but the goals just will not come. He spent six months without scoring and it was only the faith of his coach that kept him going.

“It was a struggle for me, moving from South America to Europe. I didn’t speak Italian and the game also was different to the one I was used to back home. Being away from my family also affected me, but my coach Carlo Ancellotti helped me, stood by me. I was lucky to have him by my side. It had been my dream to play in Italy and I focused hard on my task, told myself that I won’t quit without accomplishing my goals,” he said.

Even in his international career, Crespo had faced speed-breakers. Despite being the top-scorer during the qualifying phase for the 2002 World Cup, he was benched by Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa during the final phase.

“It had nothing to do with my capabilities,” said Crespo.

“I was hurt by the decision, but I didn’t show my pain to the world. It was the coach’s decision and I didn’t want to react in any way, lest it reflect badly on the team.

“I held on and after the World Cup (when Argentina failed to enter the second round), I went back and cried,” he said, stating that it was important to keep working hard with discipline even in times of crisis.

“During my younger days too there were times when I had to prove myself. From the age of 8 to 15, I wasn’t a regular in my team. My friends would ask me to go out with them, but I would refuse, go home and sleep early, preparing for the next day. I got selected to the first team when I was 16 and never looked back,” he said.

Crespo is a coach now, and till recently, he was with Argentine club Atletico Banfield. He said his coaching philosophy was about helping players make quick decisions on the pitch.

“A player must build good decision-making abilities and feel confident to execute them, keeping in mind the consequences. Coaches don’t make a player – they refine and polish the qualities inside a player. The attitude towards what you do is important. If you focus and give off your best, fully aware of your capabilities as an individual, then that is commendable,” he said.