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OPINION Italy will rue Hubner rejection

Thursday 4th April 2002

By Simon Kuper

Dario Hubner used to work as a house painter, a baker, and in a factory making French windows. He had trouble getting time off for training, and he smoked, ate and drank too much. At the age of 21 he was still playing for his home village of Muggia in the Italian sixth division. Aged 30, he had yet to play a single match in Serie A.

Now he is 34 and Italy's highest scorer. His 21 league goals for Piacenza so far this season are more than those of all his team-mates put together, not to mention more than Gabriel Batistuta or Andriy Shevchenko. Hubner is a one-man indictment of professional football.

We like to believe that people in football know a good player when they see one. We think of the transfer market as mostly rational. And then the best clubs in Italy go and overlook a man like Hubner for nearly 15 years.

"I don't know why anyone didn't buy Hubner," admits the Roma manager Fabio Capello. Economists would call it market failure.

His intrinsic talent was not sufficient a giveaway even when accompanied by massive clues like scoring statistics. Hubner has scored at least 15 goals in each of his last eight seasons, and 100s over his career. Last year he netted an amazing 17 goals for little Brescia. His reward: to be sold to Piacenza when (quite reasonably, one would have thought) he asked for more money.

It seems that footballers, like bankers or soldiers, are hired less for their actual achievements than because they look the type and have the right CV. For years no Serie A club would buy Hubner simply because he had never played in Serie A: he had the wrong CV.

Then there was his type. Everything about Hubner reeks of a regional, lower-division footballer. He is a shy country bumpkin, who once turned down Napoli because he wanted to continue to live in the village of Crema.

"I don't like parties and big cities," says The Bison. "I'm just Dario. I love my job. I just try to do my best every day." He amuses himself with his sons and his computer football (at which he admits to cheating occasionally).

Roberto Baggio, a team-mate at Brescia, recalls: "I was very amused when he had trouble expressing a concept. In the end he would get angry and say in his dialect: 'In Trieste we used to say it that way.' He is a good player and a great man."

But that is not enough. Just as Baggio or Paolo Maldini look like stars, Hubner, with his antiquated hairstyle, still looks like the centre-forward of the village team, and he is treated that way.

Hubner is all too easy to under-estimate. He is no great stylist. At a big club he would probably be embarrassed at practice sessions. He packs a hard shot in both feet, is fast, has a nose for space, and is stimulated rather than scared by the sight of goal. That is about all he has.

Nor has he learned the art of self-promotion. Hubner specialises in humility, even when he is talking about how he has got better: "My heading, for instance, I didn't learn at the beginning of my career, because I started at a small club where the coaches did not find the time to work a lot with young players. I jump very high, but often I miss the timing to head the ball. I can definitely improve."

Yet you would have thought some big club would buy him. Thirty-four-year olds come cheap, are unlikely to succumb to pressure, and Hubner is a guarantee of goals. What a great man to have on the bench and send on when you need to score in the last 20 minutes. Hubner would not complain. He says he would love to play for a big club, if only to see what it is like, and now is his last chance. "I wouldn't expect to be in the line-up often, I would just like to have an experience of the big-club environment."

He is an Internazionale fan, but beggars can't be choosers, and earlier this season he got excited when AC Milan came sniffing. Then they went off again, presumably in search of some more over-priced young foreigners.

They should have signed him. Furthermore, Italy should take him to the World Cup. "I think it is more likely that I will be going to the seaside in June, but I plead with Trapattoni not to think to my age," says Hubner.

But Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni, after uttering a few kind words about the striker, went on to say he was too old for a World Cup, where players had to be able to cope with a game every three days.

This is transparent nonsense. A World Cup squad consists of 23 players. There is no question of Hubner playing a full game every three days. Italy need him as a pinch-hitter.

Hubner may not look a great striker, but he has proved he is one. What more does he need to do?
 

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i personally do not agree on bringing him in to the world cup. for me, if everyone was fit and in form, i would bring vieri, del piero, baggio, chiesa and montella. that would be ideal for forwards.

but unfortunately we havent got baggio, chiesa....however, we have the likes of di vaio who has scored many goals this season and hubner of course.

however, trapps seems to feel that a player like del vecchio, who hasnt scored at all this season and inzaghi who has missed the whole season are better options.

for me, i would rather see hubner and di vaio in teh world cup than del vecchio and inzaghi. at least they are inform and they have some dribbling skills and are fast and actually bloody do something.
 

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Hubner over delvecchio anyday

chiesa, he hasnt played since go knows when
inzaghi has been good since he came back and is carrying the milan frontline


But my choice is Hubner, Vieri, Montella, Totti, Inzaghi


Lav
 

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Trap wants someone that is with European experience, especially the goal-hunter. Hubner is good...but still a gamble.

A. Del Piero, Vieri, Montella, Totti----FIXED unless Broken

(Baggio/Inzaghi/DiVaio/Delvecchio) in that order.
 

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The most certain choises are: Vieri, Delvecchio, Montella, Delpiero and Totti ( but he'll be used as a playmaker i hope)
 
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