Enzo Francescoli

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Enzo Francescoli
Enzo Francescoli 2011.jpg
Francescoli in 2007.
Personal information
Full name Enzo Francescoli Uriarte
Date of birth (1961-11-12) 12 November 1961 (age 58)
Place of birth Montevideo, Uruguay
Height 5 ft 11 14 in (1.81 m)
Playing position Attacking midfielder
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1980–1982 Wanderers 74 (20)
1983–1986 River Plate 113 (68)
1986–1989 RC Paris 89 (32)
1989–1990 Olympique Marseille 28 (11)
1990–1993 Cagliari 98 (17)
1993–1994 Torino 24 (3)
1994–1997 River Plate 84 (47)
Total 510 (198)
National team
1982–1997 Uruguay 73 (17)

* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.

† Appearances (goals)

Enzo Francescoli Uriarte (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈenso fɾansesˈkoli uˈɾjarte]; Italian: [ˈɛntso frantʃeˈskɔːli]; born 12 November 1961 in Montevideo) is a former Uruguayan football player. Due to his elegant style of play, Francescoli was nicknamed El Príncipe ("The Prince" in Spanish) or Le Prince (in French), and El Flaco, due to his slender frame. He played 73 times for the Uruguay national team between 1982 and his retirement in 1997, making him the most capped outfield player in Uruguayan international football at the time.[1] He is regarded as one of the greatest players of Uruguay, perhaps the greatest to have never played for the two biggest clubs in the country. He was known for his classic and elegant style, like El Príncipe, in reference to Hannibal Ciocca, a former Uruguayan player from the 1930s and 40. He later was the only Uruguayan included by Pelé in the FIFA 100 list, and was chosen by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics as the sixth greatest player of his country and 24th of South America in the Twentieth Century.[2]

An attacking midfielder, he was considered an elite playmaker in a decadent period for the Celeste. With the Uruguay national football team, he participated in two World Cups, in 1986 and 1990, where Uruguay were defeated in the round of 16 on both occasions (against South American rivals and eventual champions Argentina, and hosts and semi-finalists Italy, respectively), after qualifying for the second round, in both cases, as one of the best third-placed teams in the first round. In his later career, Uruguay failed to qualify for the world cups of 1994 and 1998. Altogether, he played in eight World Cup matches, winning only one - against the then very inexperienced South Korea, and only 1–0.[3][4][5][6][7]

One of his greatest triumphs, while wearing the Celeste jersey, was saving the team in the 1989 Copa América. Francescoli played in four of the five games, winning three of those, and helped Uruguay to reach the final round with his performances, losing only to Brazil, who had the home field advantage. The Uruguayan team placed second overall in the tournament, with Francescoli scoring the first and last goals for the Celeste.[3]

Francescoli admired his rival Argentina, where he felt more appreciated than in his own homeland, where none of his three titles were much celebrated. In neighbouring Argentina, where he now lives, he played for the club River Plate, being one of the biggest fans of the club, with whom he played for many years; he was the leading scorer and a key player for the club's second Copa Libertadores triumph, and also won a total of five Argentine titles in the six years in which he served for the team. He later enjoyed success with two teams while playing in France, despite the bad results of his first French club, Racing Paris, and his ephemeral passage with his second French Club, Olympique de Marseille, where his performances proved decisive as the team won the title.[8][9]

Club career

His official debut was with the Uruguayan team Montevideo Wanderers. He played several years for River Plate of Argentina where he won five league titles and the Copa Libertadores in 1996 in his two spells with the club. He also played for the French clubs RC Paris (Matra Racing Paris at then time) and Olympique de Marseille, and the Italian teams Cagliari and Torino.

South America

Montevideo Wanderers

As a fan of Peñarol, Francescoli nearly started his career on Aurinegra, where he was well regarded after a try-out. However, unimpressed by the conduct of the team, where he spent more time watching than playing, he quit the club.[10] Despite another successful try-out with one of the greatest South American clubs of all-time, Argentine side River Plate, whom he would later join in 1983, he chose to join the football team at Salesian College while completing his studies, winning five collegiate championships during his time with the team.[9]

In his last year of high school, he received an offer from his hometown club the Montevideo Wanderers, after having been scouted extensively by the team, along with several others. He postponed joining the team however, as he desired to stay committed to school and graduate. In 1980, he debuted with the Wanderers first team, also known by their nickname the Bohemios (Bohemians), earning their best seasonal result since their fourth and final national title in 1931 (still an amateur football league), earning a second place finish. Besides his elegant conduct and style of play, which would earn him the nickname El Príncipe (a nickname inherited from Hannibal Ciocca, a former player of Wanderers), another habit he developed there was to chew gum during games; chewing caused him to salivate, thus eliminating dryness in his mouth. He stated that he became so dependent on the habit that he did not feel right when he did not have any gum before games.[9]

In 1980, the club finished third in the continental competition. In the Uruguayan Primera División in 1981, Francescoli performed well for the team, finishing behind only Peñarol and Nacional, again succumbing in the finals. Still, months later, in February 1982, he made his debut for the Uruguayan national team. Later that year, he made his debut in in the Libertadores, ironically after his worst result with the Wanderers in the national championship - a fifth place finish.[11]

Vying for a place with his team in the 1983 Copa Libertadores, Enzo and his team - which included other notable players such as Jorge Barrios, Luis Alberto Acosta, and Raúl Esnal (who would later go with him to the Copa America 1983), and Ariel Krasouski - had a respectable season, finishing first in their group, tied with the powerhouse El Nacional, and were only eliminated from the tournament in the quarterfinal play-off match.[12]

River Plate

After witnessing Francescoli's performance in the 1983 Copa America, River Plate signed him later that year for $310,000, in what would be one of his best contracts. His start here, however, was irregular and peculiar. The team finished the Metropolitan Championship (the Argentine championship had been divided into two tournaments since 1969, National and Metropolitan) lower than it had performed due to complex political maneuvering and regulation changes, promoting instead one of the big five Argentine teams, San Lorenzo. By today’s method, River Plate would have finished two positions above where it did that season.[13]

The following year, Francescoli was largely passed up and was unable to show his potential, splitting time with other players and often never touching the field. He eventually saw more playing time towards the end of the season when the team made the National Championships, where the team reached the final, but was defeated 3–0 by Ferro Carril Oeste, in part thanks to a monumental performance at the Núñez. In the Metropolitan Uruguayan championship, the team scored the most goals, but only finished fourth in overall points, with champions Argentinos Juniors winning the championship instead.[14]

Nevertheless, Francescoli, was voted the best South American footballer of 1984, for his performances for River Plate and the Uruguayan national team, featuring alongside players such as Nelson Gutiérrez and Antonio Alzamendi, among others. He received an offer from América de Cali, later found to be funded by the Cali Cartel (who used the club to launder money), which was doing well that year, and would go on to become the Copa Libertadores champions between 1985 and 1987. However, eager to excel with River Plate, Francescoli opted to stay in Núñez.[9]

Although the team did not win the championship in 1985, Francescoli was officially named the best player in Argentina, and was the first foreign player to be given the honour. Francescoli finally won the Argentine title with River Plate the next seaason, claiming the 1985–86 Championship (which had been re-established as a single tournament, along the lines of European regulations), and ending the season as the top scorer with 25 goals, three of which came in a frantic 5–4 shootout victory against Argentinos Juniors for the championship match, qualifying for the Copa Libertadores. In January 1986, in the final round of the championship, he scored his most famous goal: a decisive bicycle kick, which gave the team a 5–4 victory (obtained with three goals in the last seven minutes, including another one by Francescoli) over the then respected Polish team, which participated in the tournament organised by the big five Argentine clubs that season.[15]

After winning the title, Francescoli represented Uruguay at the 1986 World Cup; however Uruguay were defeated by Argentina, who subsequently won their next five games to capture the World Cup. Following the World Cup, Francescoli moved to Europe, and was signed by a 1st Division French league team, Racing Paris, newly promoted from the French Second Division. Nantes was willing to pay 2.5 million dollars for his contract, but River Plate's president at the time, Hugo Santilli, bet that the star would fetch a greater price after Copa.[16]


In France

Francescoli began his European career with Racing Paris in 1986, a long established team from Paris, which had been in a slump since the 1950s and had recently come into a rivalry with its growing neighbor, Paris Saint-Germain (founded in 1970), which, incidentally, had won the French title the season before. Still, automotive company Matra decided to sponsor the team, which resulted in the name being changed to Matra Racing in 1987. Seeking to dominate the 1993 Ligue 1, the domestic cups, and qualify for the UEFA Champions League, automobile company magnate Jean-Luc Lagardère later provided funding to the club, allowing the team to sign footballers Luis Fernández, Maxime Bossis, Thierry Tusseau, Pierre Littbarski, David Ginola, Sonny Silooy, Eugène Ekéké, and another Uruguayan Rubén Paz. In Francescoli's first season, the team managed to finished 13th overall in a large part due to Francescoli’s 14 goals; he was the top scorer of league that season.[17]

Francescoli became a team idol and in 1987 was elected the best foreign player in France. For the 1987–88 season, the Portuguese coach Artur Jorge, who had previously won the European Champions Cup, was brought to the team; Francescoli would later describe Jorge as the best with whom he had worked throughout his career. Matra had been struggling to reach the top of the table, alternating between third and second place from the second half of the season onwards. However, after a series of games, the team stood eleven points behind Monaco. Francescoli scored eight times in the league, finishing once again as the club's top scorer. It was during this period that he received an offer from Turin club Juventus, due to the untimely retirement of its captain and star player Michel Platini in 1987, although he ultimately refused the offer. Francescoli finished the 1988–89 championship as the club's top scorer for the third consecutive season, also saving the team from relegation.[18]

The sub-par season of Matra did not prevent him from being seen as a star worldwide: in March 1989, he earned a spot on the Uruguayan international team that played against the Brazilian national team in an international friendly in Brazil that marked Zico's retirement, scoring one of his team's goals in a 2–1 victory. Domestically, however, he had sufferred several disappoints, and was frustrated by his team's lack of success in the French Cup; in the three years he was there, he never made it into the top eight of the tournament with the time. Racing soon filed for bankruptcy and fell out of the first French league, losing the spot to their financially sound cross-city rivals Paris Saint-Germain.[19]

Francescoli transferred to Marseille in 1989; he spent only one season with the club, where he won the 1989–90 French Division 1 title, scoring 11 goals in 28 appearances, and grabbed the attention of an important fan: Zinédine Zidane. Francescoli was sorely missed on his former team Racing, which, in his absence, was unable to avoid relegation. Ironically, Francescoli faced his former club in the semifinals of the French Cup; Paris ended up winning the match, although under odd circumstances. With eight minutes remaining, Francescoli scored a goal which would have tied the match, although it was disallowed due to a technicality, and Marseille eventually lost the match 2–3. In the final, Paris were defeated 2–1 by Montpellier HSC.[20] Francescoli also helped Marseille to the semifinals of the 1989–90 European Cup.

In Italy

After the 1990 World Cup held in Italy, in which Uruguay had faced the hosts in a round of 16 elimination, Francescoli moved to the Italian Serie A, and along with international team-mates José Oscar Herrera and Daniel Fonseca, was signed by Cagliari Calcio. He initially struggled to find form with his new club, playing in a deeper midfield role, as Cagliari fought against relegation during his first two seasons; due to his deeper playing position, Francescoli's goalscoring output sufferred, and he was far less prolific, as he totalled only four goals during the 1990–91 season, and six goals in the 1991–92 Serie A season, helping Cagliari to avoid relegation on both occasions. Cagliari Calcio also did not fare well in the domestic Cup, being eliminated in the first round of the tournament.[21]

His third season in Italy was by far his best. In the Coppa Italia, he scored three goals before the team was eliminated in the quarter finals against Fabio Capello's Milan side, who conquered the league title that year. In Serie A, Cagliari earned a surprising sixth place, earning a spot in the UEFA Cup, with Francescoli scoring seven league goals, his personal bet in a single Serie A season. In total, Francescoli managed 17 goals in 98 league appearances with Cagliari. Due to his key performances, he is regarded as one of the club's greatest ever players, and was included in the Cagliari Hall of Fame, and in the club's best ever starting XI.[22] In 1993, Francescoli accepted an offer from Turin and moved to Torino F.C., the recent champion of the Coppa Italia.[21]

The 1993 Supercoppa Italiana final was the closest Francescoli ever came to winning a trophy during his time in Italy, as Torino ultimately lost the title to Milan. With Francescoli, Torino came close to defending the title the following season, but the club was defeated by Ancona in a semi-final upset. The club's Serie A campaign, however, was more eventful, with a heavily contested championship. After initially fighting against relegation, Torino climbed the table to clinch a spot in the next season's UEFA Cup, earning four points above the required amount to enter the tournament. In the European Cup Winners' Cup, for which they had qualified the previous season as the 1993 Italian Cup champions, Torino reached the quarter-finals, only to be knocked out against eventual champions, Arsenal.[21] Despite a successful season for the team, Francescoli did not perform as well as in previous seasons, from individual standpoint, as he only scored only three goals in 24 appearances, his lowest tally in his four seasons in the Italian league.[23]

Return to River Plate

In 1994, after an uninspiring season with Torino, Francescoli decided to return to Argentina, to play for his former River Plate, at the age of 33, where he had previously expressed his best football. Despite his age, he was determined to demonstrate that he could still compete at the top level, and performed well in the Apertura championship with the team that year (the Argentine season returned to being divided into two separate tournaments, Apertura and Clausura, in 1990–91), despite it being only his third time playing in this tournament. The season also marked the first time that River had managed to go undefeated to become the national champions.[24]

The team had a less exciting season in 1995, finishing tenth in the Clausura, and seventh in the Apertura, while sufferring a semifinal elimination against Colombia's Atletico Nacional in the Copa Libertadores. The team had an exceptionally high number penalties that caused it to suffer in the season, and it was eventually eliminated in the semifinals by future champions Independiente in the Supercopa Libertadores, in which Francescoli played as striker. That year he was voted South American Player of the Year, and he also received the title of Argentine player of the year, ten years after first receiving it.[25]

The next year, he retired from the Celeste to devote himself entirely to River at club level, recapturing his best form, scoring 19 goals in total. This season was his most important; Francescoli led a young, talented, yet inexperienced team (among them: Ariel Ortega, Matias Almeyda, Juan Pablo Sorin, Hernan Crespo, and Marcelo Gallardo), to win the 1996 Copa Libertadores title, and his second division title in the league, briefly tying the record of 15 titles set by rivals Boca Juniors. Until 2013, it was the last time the team had topped their group in the tournament. The team produced impressive, albeit not as stellar, performances after the 1996 season, which ended a series of bad performances in the Argentine championship.[9]

Francescoli finished his season with River by sufferring a defeat in the 1996 Intercontinental Cup against Italian club Juventus;[26] River Plate had the chance to equal Boca Juniors with two Intercontinental Cup titles, but ultimately lost out to the Italian side. On the opposing team from Turin was a substantial fan of Francescoli, Zinédine Zidane. Zidane commented: "when I saw Francescoli play, he was the player I wanted to be. He was the player that I saw and admired at Olympique de Marseille -.. My idol; I played against him when he was at Juventus... Enzo is like a god,". At the end of the year, Francescoli decided to come out of international retirement in order to aid Uruguay in qualifying for the upcoming World Cup in France.

The following season, Francescoli sufferred further disappointment, with a penalty shoot-out defeat to Racing at the Estadio Monumental, as River were elimianted in the round of 16 of the 1997 Copa Libertadores; however, despite the early exit in the continental tournament, River Plate enjoyed much success domestically, following up their 1996 Copa Libertadores title with a fortunate "tricampeonato" (three consecutive tournaments championships) the next year: the Clausura, Apertura, and the Supercopa Libertadores.

After failing to help Uruguay qualify for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, Francescoli announced that he would retire in early 1998, refusing an offer of roughly a million dollars to continue, feeling he could not play another year due to continuing injury struggles. Poor sleeping habits caused by stress had forced him to seek therapy since 1996. His legacy had already earned a place next to that of other soccer legends: Angel Labruna, Alfredo Di Stéfano and others playing for the Torcedores.

His last two games for the River Plate Los Millonarios officers were historical: within four days they had won two titles. The first, on Wednesday December 17, 1997, was the deciding second leg of the Supercopa Libertadores, against São Paulo. It was the last ever edition tournament of the season, and one which River had never won, which presented a situation described as "now or never". The Brazilian team, who had drawn in Argentina, were beaten 1–2 at the Monumental de Núñez. On Sunday, 21 December, River drew 1–1 with the Argentinos Juniors at the Estádio José Amalfitani and became 1997 Apertura champions, concluding the Argentine tricampeonato (having won the 1996 Apertura and 1997 Clausura), beating out arch-rivals Boca Juniors, the other contender for the title, only suffering one defeat in the league. The two Olympic titles in four days is still an Argentine football club record held by River Plate, and is a source of national pride.

On August 1, 1999, he returned to the Monumental for a friendly farewell match; 65,000 spectators were present, among them the president of Argentina, Carlos Menem, and President of Uruguay, Julio María Sanguinetti, as well as some fans from his team's archrival club, Boca Juniors. The game brought together the friends of River Plate with those of the team he had hoped to play for during his childhood, Peñarol, who won the match 4–0. After the match, the field was taken by thousands of children, for whom Enzo, along with other players, signed autographs, also kicking the ball around with them.

Another River Plate legend who came from Uruguay, Walter Gomez, gave the kick-off. When approaching the day of his departure, the Argentine composer Ignacio Copani dedicated his song "Inmenzo" (a pun on "Enzo") to Francescoli, ending with the crowd requesting an encore; it is considered one of the most emotional songs written as a tribute to a footballer. Copani also performed the song in another future friendly.

After his retirement, the team were only able to succeed locally for some time, failing to impose the same international respect in previous years, later entering a domestic crisis that would culminate in an unprecedented relegation in 2011 - ironically, exactly fifteen years to the day after the team had won the 1996 Copa Libertadores with Francescoli. Francescoli is still the team's seventh all-time leading goal-scorer, with 115 goals in 198 matches, and is third highest foreign goalscorer in the history of Argentine football, behind only Paraguayans Arsenio Erico, and Delfin Benítez Cáceres.

International Career

Francescoli played 73 times for the Uruguay national team scoring 17 goals, between 1982 and 1997. He made represented his country at the 1986 and 1990 FIFA World Cups. He won the Copa América three times with Uruguay in 1983, 1987 and 1995, he also played in the 1989 and 1993 editions of the tournament.

In 1981, one year after his professional debut, Francescoli joined the Uruguayan team that won the South American Under-20 Football Championship; he was named one of the best young players in the world that year, also making three appearances in the 1981 FIFA World Youth Championship that year.[27] He made his debut for the senior team in 1982, competing in a friendly tournament in Índia. The following year, as a member of the Charrúa squad in the 1983 Copa América, he scored his first international goal in a 2–0 victory over Brazil.[3]

Uruguay qualified for the 1986 World Cup after a close match against Chile, in a qualifying group that also included Peru (after winning the vacancy came into direct confrontation with the Chileans, who had the advantage of a draw in the last round, in Montevideo). Francescoli's ability was questioned intensley by critics. However, the Uruguayan coach Omar Borrás stated "Everyone talks about Platini, Maradona, of Elkjær ... but our Francescoli has everything to be the highlight of the World Cup".[3]

Uruguay's performance in the tournament, however, was less than stellar. The team obtained two draws and two defeats, advancing to the second round only as one of the best third-placed teams, while Francescoli only scored once throughout the entire tournament, in the infamous 1–6 defeat to Denmark in the first round.[28] This tournament was seen by Enzo as his worst performance in his entire career. He stated in an interview “the only thing I ask is forgiveness from all Uruguayans." Uruguay ultimately fell to the eventual champions, continental rivals Argentina, in the round of 16, led by Golden Ball winner Diego Maradona.

The disappointment was assuaged the next year with the victory of the 1987 Copa América as defending champions. Francescoli shone for Uruguay in the semi-final against hosts and defending World Cup Champions Argentina in the Estadio Monumental de Núñez (the stadium of his former club, River Plate). A win against Chile in the final of the tournament followed, and the victory gave Uruguay their record 13th continental title.

Two years later, the Uruguayans reached the final of the tournament for the third consecutive time. The final was played against hosts and favourites Brazil, coincidentally in similar circumstances to the last round of the quadrangular final of the 1950 World Cup, in which the two teams had also faced eache other: the 1989 Copa América final was also played on the same date, the 16 July, and at the same stadium, the Maracanã. As in 1950, the Brazilians took the lead, although they were triumpthant on this occasion.

During the qualifiers for the 1990 World Cup, the Uruguayans once again needed to overcome several obstacles in order to seal qualification: Bolivia proved to be the toughest opponent in the group, alongside Peru. Francescoli and his team-mates had the task of defeating both teams in the final two games of the qualification campaign, and succeeded, ensuring their place in the World Cup play-offs, in which they overcame Bolivia to qualify for the upcoming tournament.

In his second World Cup, Enzo did not perform much better than in the previous tournament; although many analysts regarded him as one of the potential stars of the tournament, due to his talent and ability to be decisive for his team, Uruguay again did not fare very well, obtaining only one win, in a 1–0 group stage victory over South Korea, once again advancing to the second round as one of the best third-placed teams. The team were eliminated in the round of 16, sufferring a 2–0 defeat against hosts Italy, on this occasion, who went on to finish the tournament in third place. This was Francescoli's final World Cup; in total, he made 8 World Cup appearances, scoring once, appearing in each of Uruguay's four matches in both the 1986 and 1990 tournaments.[27]

After the 1990 World Cup, the national team's coach Oscar Tabarez was replaced by Luis Cubilla, who had trained the under-used Francescoli at River Plate, when Enzo had first arrived at the club years before. Cubilla brought a strong feeling of nationalism among Uruguayan fans at the time, specifically of resentment against the country's athletes who worked in Europe, and even hinted that Francescoli, and also Rubén Sosa, Carlos Alberto Aguilera and Oscar Joseph Herrera, were "dinheiristas" (mercenaris). Appalled, they refused to play if Cubilla did not recant his comments; and these players were left out of the 1991 Copa América. Without the "European" stars, Uruguay collapsed in the first round. By the time the 1993 tournament came around, the players had already been called back to the team. Although he had been called up by Cubilla, however, Francescoli was benched throughout the tournament, and Uruguay once again disappointed, sufferring a quarter-final elimination. In a friendly match later that year, Francescoli made his first appearance for the Celeste in over years. Meanwhile, South American rivals Argentina won both the 1991 and 1993 editions of the tournament, overtaking Uruguay as the South American team with the most Copa América titles (14).

Although Francescoli's role in the team was disupted during a low point in his international career, he demonstrated that he was still an important player for the national team, and appeared for Uruguay in the qualifying rounds for the 1994 FIFA World Cup;[27] Uruguay reached the final round of the South American qualifiers, along with Bolivia, Brazil, and the two wildcard candidated Ecuador and Venezuela. Uruguay, Bolivia, and Brazil each had ten points in the group, and Brazil and Uruguay faced each other at the Maracana on 19 September 1993. Uruguay lost the match 2–0, as Brazil topped the group to qualify for the upcoming tournament; as Bolivia was able to earn a draw in their fixture, the Orientales came third in the group, failing to qualify for the competition. Although the team failed to qualify for the upcoming World Cup in the United States, Francescoli overcame one of his biggest struggles throughout his career, as, after two years, the national team's coach Cubilla was relieved of his position. After the defeat against Brazil at the Maracana stadium, in Uruguay's final qualification match, Cubilla had said of Francescoli: "That man is a traitor to his country, so take away his passport!"; Francescoli later stated in a 2008 interview that this was a low point in his career, and that his coach's comment caused him sit in a corner of the Maracana stadium and cry.[29]

The 1995 Copa América on home soil. under Uruguay's new head coach, Héctor Núñez, was a breath of fresh air for Francescoli. After not featuring in the previous two editions of the tournament (although he was named to the squad in 1993, he did not play a single match), Francescoli carried his team to the Copa América final against Brazil, at the Estadio Centenario in Montevideo. Uruguay won the hard-fought final 5–3 on penalties, after a 1–1 draw, with Francescoli converting his team's first penalty, as he lifted the title for the last time.[30] As a result, Uruguay equalled Argentina as the South American natioanl team with the most Copa América titles (14); Uruguay later broke the record in 2011, with the victory of their 15th Copa América title. Francescoli was once again named plaeyer of the tournament, and was also elected the best player in South America, at the age of 34, eleven years after having first received the same honour.[31] In the tournament, he also scored his final goal for the national team, which came in the group stage, in a 1–0 win against Paraguay.[32] In total, Francescoli made 16 appearances over five editions of the Copa América, scoring 5 goals, and reaching the final on all four occasions in which he played.[33]

Francescoli announced his retirement from international football after winning the Copa América for the third time. However, he briefly came out of international retirement during Uruguay's qualifying campaign for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, after his teammates had persuaded him to return, with the Uruguayan president himself, Julio María Sanguinetti, also asking him personally. In October 1996 he returned to play for the national team, although he did not take part in the 1997 Copa América. He played in eight games in June of that year,[27] after the continental tournament. His last two games with the Celeste came in July and August of 1997. The Uruguayans still had three World Cup South American qualifying matches remaining, but reached the last match with no mathematical chance of qualifying for the tournament, finishing seventh in their group.

Francescoli made 73 official appearances for his country, with 37 wins, 18 draws and 18 defeats, scoring 17 goals.[34] He was praised for his performances in a difficult period for the national team, retiring as the player with the second most appearances for Uruguay, only four games behind the record holder at the time, goalkeeper Rodolfo Rodríguez, despite the three years in which he had been disowned by the national side, and another in which he had voluntarily retired. Later, his record would be surpassed by goalkeeper Fabián Carini and also by striker Diego Forlán.

Outside of football

Francescoli is married to Mariela Yern since 1984 and has two sons with her, Bruno and Marco. His wife is a psychologist, which he stated was of great value to their marriage: as a soccer player he required emotional sympathy, he stated in an interview program in 2000. Bruno studied law, while Marco tried to follow father's footsteps, eventually playing for Cagliari, where he played for three years, and then Estudiantes La Plata, but did not get much further. One factor for his retirement from soccer was his desire to be closer to his two sons. Enzo has two brothers, Luis Ernesto, two years older, and Pablo, thirteen years younger.

Francescoli was born in Montevideo, into a family of Italian origin.[35] Since childhood he was known as a shy and reserved person, who spoke little and, in what he regarded as a virtue, was very observant, being regarded by those who knew him as phenomenal in and out of the field. He was made the Uruguayan ambassador of UNICEF succeeding Diego Forlan in 2002, and went to live with his family in Miami, where he would create with former manager Paco Casal, the station Gol TV. Francescoli returned to Buenos Aires five years later, although Enzo still travelled monthly to the United States because of his activities there. In 2010, he coached the Channel 7 team, Argentina's state broadcaster, in the transmission for the World Cup.

Since his retirement, he has only returned to the pitch for festive games, such as those celebrating the retirement of Juan Pablo Sorin, Victor Aristizabal and Diego Maradona, considered by him to be the greatest players he witnessed, and friends. Maradona almost did not participate in the match since the River Plate fans were strongly opposed to it. "There was no problem for me. There are three things I do not discuss nor with my best friends: Religion, politics and football.. things in that person, mistaken or not, advocates a cause," Enzo said. He stated "you'll never hear me saying 'I live and die by the River', though I may be much more that way than other fans who say they are".

The second greatest player he stated he had seen, was Zinédine Zidane, an opinion he admits was heavily influenced by emotional reasons. Zidane was a big fan of Francescoli, and baptized a son named Enzo. The Uruguayan learned of the honor just before Zizou played in the Intercontinental Cup of 1996, and so the two players swapped jerseys at the end of the match. The piece became a favorite of Zidane's to wear. He also travelled to Buenos Aires to publicize the new idol to the River in 2008. Subsequently, the two arrived to present Football Cracks, a reality show that sought to discover new football talent in Spain. His great admiration for Zidane extended to other French players: Francescoli stated he felt more respect from French fans then than he had while playing there.

Another famous player to have been named after him is the Argentine Enzo Pérez. He is also related to another Argentine, Diego Milito, who is known to resemble Francescoli in appearance, who has joked saying that neither of his sons resemble him as much, both in physical appearance and in their walk. Milito was also known as El Príncipe. Since leaving television presenting, Francescoli was asked several times to coach the River, but he never accepted, stating instead that if asked to be manager of the club, he might accept, since he could employ the lessons that had learned as an entrepreneur. Away from soccer, he also enjoys smoking cigars, a habit that he has had since 16 years old, and plays golf.

One factor, however, that prevented him from having more prestige in Uruguay was his relationship with Paco Casal. Rumors about Celeste in the hiatus in which Enzo and other key Uruguayan players who played in Europe claimed that crossed were not playing, in response to arguments they was facing behind the scenes of the Uruguayan Association of Futebol.There was controversy over the Tenfield company which sought to control the club. Some colleagues were critical of the deal: "the contract with the company Tenfield SA (...) has been detrimental to Uruguayan football. Players earn ever lower wages, clubs are bankrupt, but entrepreneurs are getting richer. Only journalists who support the contractual relationship between the AUF and the Tenfield are those who work for the company, which has a monopoly in the country." After this outspoken criticism and leadership changes, the club did begin to improve after this.

Francescoli said of new owner Paco "He is the most important businessman in my country, and built (his power) from nothing. He is involved in things that generate passion for football and carnival, and this creates divisions (of opinions) (..... ) he is a good person. The man helps more than believes, "he said. "Paco did not get up one day and said 'I want to be owner of Uruguayan football. Paco was given ownership because the leaders were not able to sell the players that developed," he added.

River Plate leadership

After iconic wins, titles and trophies with River Plate as a player, he was back with the team in a leadership role under Rodolfo Raúl D'Onofrio. Francescoli became the Head of Player Personnel for Club Atlético River Plate. It was his decision to bring on board a young coach: Marcelo Gallardo, after the departure of the Iconic Coach: Ramón Diaz. After the hiring of Gallardo, River Plate had immense international success. The team conquered all continental/CONMEBOL trophies: Copa Sudamericana 2014, Recopa Sudamericana 2015 & Copa Libertadores 2015, one after the other, the first time in CONMEBOL history. On the mix of things, River Plate traveled to Japan and achieved River's first Suruga Bank Cup in 2015.

Under Enzo Francescoli's leadership River Plate was the Champion of South America 2014/2015. Therefore, River Plate became eligible for the FIFA Club World Cup. Defining the Club World Title will be disputed by the end of 2015, hosted by Japan.


Francescoli's identity card at Montevideo Wanderers

An elegant, creative, and technically gifted advanced midfield playmaker, who was also capable of playing as a second striker, Francescoli was noted in particular for his control, grace, fluidity, and ability on the ball.[36] These qualities would later influence the style of French offensive midfielder Zinedine Zidane, who has stated that, along with compatriot Michel Platini, Francescoli was one of his favorite players as a young boy, and often watch him train with Marseille; he even named one of his sons Enzo in homage to him.[36] Argentine striker Diego Milito has also been given the nickname "Il Principe" by Inter fans, due to his elegant style of play and physical resemblance with Francescoli.[37] Furthermore, Argentine attacking midfielder Javier Pastore, who was also a fan of Francescoli as a youngster, was given the Uruguayan's nickname "El Flaco", due to their similar style of play as well as their slender build.[38]

In recognition of his talent, Francescoli was the only Uruguayan footballer to be named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004.[39]

In July 2012 in Ariel Ortega's testimonial, Francescoli scored 4 goals at the age of 50, the last of which was a bicycle kick in the penalty area.[40]

Career statistics

Season Club League League Cup League cup Continental Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Uruguay League Cup League Cup South America Total
1980 Montevideo Wanderers Primera División
26 3 26 3
1981 22 7 22 7
1982 26 10 26 10
Argentina League Cup League Cup South America Total
1983 River Plate Primera División
27 11 27 11
1984 49 29 49 29
1985 5 3 5 3
1985–86 32 25 0 0 32 25
France League Coupe de France Coupe de la Ligue Europe Total
1986–87 RC Paris Division 1 35 14 1 0 36 14
1987–88 28 8 1 0 29 8
1988–89 26 10 2 0 28 10
1989–90 Olympique Marseille Division 1 28 11 4 0 8 0 40 11
Italy League Coppa Italia League Cup Europe Total
1990–91 Cagliari Serie A 33 4 33 4
1991–92 33 6 1 0 34 6
1992–93 32 7 32 7
1993–94 Torino Serie A 24 3 6 2 3 0 33 5
Argentina League Cup League Cup South America Total
1994–95 River Plate Primera División 27 17 11 6 38 23
1995–96 20 10 19 13 39 23
1996–97 31 19 2 1 33 20
1997–98 6 1 4 0 10 1
Total Uruguay 74 20 74 20
Argentina 197 115 36 20 233 135
France 117 43 8 0 8 0 133 43
Italy 122 20 7 2 3 0 132 22
Career total 510 198 15 2 47 20 572 220

International statistics


Uruguay national team
Year Apps Goals
1982 4 0
1983 4 1
1984 1 0
1985 11 5
1986 6 1
1987 4 0
1988 1 2
1989 9 3
1990 6 0
1991 - -
1992 - -
1993 9 2
1994 - -
1995 9 3
1996 3 0
1997 6 0
Total 73 17

International goals



River Plate
Olympique Marseille

National team



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External links