Until recently, Scottish players playing their trade in Italy was a mere memory of decades past.
Our stars headed to the peninsula in the 70s, then were back in vogue there during the 1980s. But that stopped as Serie A entered its 1990s heyday. Channel 4’s Football Italia and live match coverage opened up the European powerhouse to British fans.
Stars such as Ronaldo (the real one), Gabriel Batistuta, Juan Veron, Hernan Crespo, Roberto Baggio and their ilk lit up our screens as the cream of world football saw Italy as the place to be. The Italian top flight has since fallen behind the money-powered English Premier League and Spain’s La Liga, but still holds its own as one of Europe’s top five leagues.
And clubs are increasingly looking to the Scottish Premiership to sign its best young stars to develop them at a higher level. The idea is that they can pick up talent for a relatively lower outlay compared to signing players from other countries, then selling them on for big profits. There’s a trickle down benefit for our outfits too, with many now including sell-on clauses in transfer deals as a matter of course.
Aaron Hickey looks to have opened the floodgates after his £1.5million switch from Hearts to Bologna two years ago. Josh Doig is set to follow his path from the capital to Calcio as the Hibs left back edges closer to a £3million switch to Verona.
After Hickey departed Bologna for Brentford, another Scot is set to arrive in the shape of Lewis Ferguson. The Scotland international has agreed personal terms with I Rossoblu ahead of making the move from Aberdeen.
Scots back in high fashion in a nation that takes pride in its own sense of style. Record Sport looks at those who have blazed a trail before the current crop.
One of the greatest to ever pull on the dark blue of Scotland, Law broke the British transfer fee record when he signed for Torino in 1961. Il Toro paid £110,000 to sign Law from Manchester City, just 11 years after a plane crash wiped out their legendary squad of 1949 - a tragedy Law was apparently completely unaware of when he arrived.
His time in Italy was not a successful one. Rivals Inter tried to stop the transfer before it even happened, claiming the Aberdeen-born striker had already signed a pre-contract with them.
Law was joined at the club by Hibs’ Joe Baker, But the striker was injured after being involved in a car crash in February 1962, in which Baker was driving. Baker almost lost his life, but Law’s injuries were less serious. He put in a transfer request four months later, which was rejected. Law was then ent off in a match against Napoli and walked out and was told he would be moving to Manchester United.
However, Torino informed he was being sold to Juventus and his contract meant he had no say in the matter. Law flew home to Aberdeen to scupper the move and eventually signed for United in July 1962, breaking his own transfer record after the Old Trafford club paid £115,000 for him.
Like Law, ‘Jaws’ also made the move to Italy from Manchester. He left United in 1981 to sign for AC Milan.
His first season at the Rossoneri ended in relegation to Serie B however, with Jordan scoring twice in 22 league games. Things went better for the powerhouse front man in the second tier. He plundered ten goals as Milan returned to the top flight as Champions, finishing the campaign as the club’s joint-top scorer.
In 1983, he moved on to Doig’s future employers Hellas Verona. The UEFA Cup qualifiers wanted to add strength to their attacking line up, but Jordan only managed two goals in 24 appearances, which led to him being dropped before returning to England with Southampton.
The Liverpool legend headed for warmer climes after winning it all with the Anfield club. He joined Sampdoria in 1984 as Il Blucerchiati peppered their squad with star names such as Roberto Mancini, Gianluca Vialli and former Souness’ fellow European Cup winner Trevor Francis.
The Scot inspired Samp to win their first major honour, capturing the 1985 Coppa Italia. They played in European competition for the first time the following season. They reached the quarter-finals of the Cup Winners Cup, where they were eliminated by Benfica.
That proved to be Souness’ final season in Italy. With rumours of dressing room unrest rife, he made another shock move, joining Rangers as player/manager to lead David Murray’s Ibrox revolution.
After struggling to become a first team regular at Celtic, Henderson left Parkhead to sign for Serie B’s Bari in January 2018. However the club was declared bankrupt at the end of that season and Henderson was snapped up by Verona (there’s a theme developing here).
Henderson helped them win promotion to Serie A. He became the first Scot to play in the division since Souness did for Sampdoria over thirty years previously, appearing in their season opener against Bologna.
The Hibs Scottish Cup winning hero was loaned to Empoli in January 2020 before singing a four-year deal with Lecce eight months later. However, he is now back with Empoli after just one season with I Salentini.