An Argentinian Paul Pogba wouldn’t have thrived on the international scene 20 years ago.
Of course that’s nonsense, because he’s a 24-year-old Frenchman, but there is a bit of method to the madness.
In 1994 Daniel Passarella succeeded Alfio Basile as Argentina’s national team manager.
The ’94 World Cup was a low point for Argentinian football, with Diego Maradona bowing out after a failed drug test as Basile’s side lost in the round of 16.
Passarella, who won two World Cups with Argentina as a player and had 70 caps to his name, was brought in to lead his nation at the start of the Maradona-less years.
He wasted little time making his mark.
Passarella’s first act, with qualification for the 1998 World Cup in mind, was to ban long hair and earrings.
All good for Juan Sebastian Veron and Javier Zanetti, but a slight problem for the more maverick members of the squad, of which there was no shortage.
The first casualty was Gabriel Batistuta, who was as synonymous for his flowing locks as he was blistering finishing and blatant disregard for goalkeepers’ wrists.
Batistuta’s initial stubbornness saw him benched during qualifying with Hernan Crespo preferred up front.
Batigol eventually relented but he was still given the cold shoulder by Passarella, much to the dismay of the whole of Argentina.
Still, he sulked off to the barbers and did what was necessary to get back in Passarella’s good books.
The long locks were replaced by a frumpy mum haircut.
One man who wasn’t going to relent was Fernando Redondo.
Redondo joined Real Madrid from Tenerife in 1994, the same year Passarella took over the Argentina reigns.
He was, in short, Passarella’s nightmare.
His hair flowed around his shoulders as he elegantly marshalled games from a defensive midfield position.
And that was exactly the problem.
Redondo was arguably the best defensive midfielder in world football at the time. Many would say that he was the most elegant player to ever carry out the role.
He was instrumental in the Madrid sides that won two La Liga titles, two Champions League trophies and an Intercontinental Cup between 1995 and 2000.
But he flat out refused to cut his hair.
Such was Redondo’s class that Passarella turned to the midfielder, locks and all, before Argentina’s crunch World Cup qualifier with Colombia, but he refused.
Speaking at the time, Redondo said: “Perhaps in five or 10 years I will regret this, but certain things I won’t compromise.
“It looks like I will be watching the World Cup from my armchair.”
And so he did.
Argentina headed to the 1998 World Cup in France without Redondo and his fellow long-haired renegade master Claudio Caniggia.
But don’t feel too sorry for Argentina.
This was still a squad carrying the mercurial talents of Batistuta, Veron, Ariel Ortega and Claudio Lopez, as well as the steel of Diego Simeone and Roberto Ayala.
Argentina topped their group, winning all three games against Croatia, Jamaica and Japan, before seeing off England in an infamous round of 16 game.
But Passarella’s side fell to Dennis Bergkamp’s 90th minute moment of genius in the quarter-final.
Would Redondo have pushed his forwards up to stop Frank de Boer’s raking pass to Bergkamp?
It’s probably too easy to say he would have done, but for the sake of narrative we’re going with it.
Regardless, he should have been on the pitch, even if his hair dropped to his ankles.
Passarella was dismissed after the World Cup exit, while Redondo went on to win another Champions League medal with AC Milan, as well as a Serie A title and the Coppa Italia.
Marcelo Bielsa took over from Passarella but by then Redondo wasn’t interested in playing for Argentina.
He retired with a criminally short 29 caps to his name, most of which were won between 1992 and 1994.
Think of him next time you go to the barbers.
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