Bobby Moore? Call me Passarella instead please
8:00am Saturday 27th October 2012 in Newcastle United News
By Scott Wilson
Bobby Moore? Call me Passarella instead please
IT was a phrase that caused even the staunchest of Newcastle United supporters to stop in their tracks.
"I come from a famous football club in West Ham and that was like watching Bobby Moore," said Alan Pardew, when asked to reflect on Fabricio Coloccini's display in last weekend's Wear-Tyne derby draw with Sunderland. "It was terrific." Praise doesn't come much higher than that.
Now that the dust has settled, perhaps the Moore comparisons were over-egging it a bit.
But there is no denying the quality of Coloccini's defending at the Stadium of Light or the importance of his efforts given that Newcastle spent more than an hour playing with ten men.
It deserves to be acknowledged as one of the greatest derby displays of the last decade. So six days later, how does Coloccini feel about the praise it inspired?
"It would have been nice for him to say Daniel Passarella," joked the defender, who was returning from a six-week injury absence as he dominated the Sunderland attack last Sunday.
"I'm very proud that the manager compared me to Bobby Moore. Bobby Moore is an important man in England so for me it is very good to hear the manager say that.
"I have to say thank you to the manager for that compliment, he was one of the best players ever to play for the national team in England, so of course I know all about him.
"He is very famous in Argentina, he is famous all over the world because he is one of the best footballers of all time. For anyone to say I am like him makes me very proud."
Aside from his World Cup final appearance, Moore's most famous display in an England shirt was probably against Brazil in the 1970 World Cup finals, thereby enhancing his status right across South America.
Coloccini was aware of the former England skipper in his youth, although Passarella, the defensive linchpin of the Argentinian national team in the 1970s and 80s, was a more obvious role model for the Newcastle skipper.
When it came to footballing inspiration, though, Coloccini was able to look much closer to home.
His father, Osvaldo, spent more than a decade playing in the Argentinian top-flight and his experiences clearly had a profound effect on his son.
Determined to carve out his own career in order to escape from an impoverished existence in Cordoba - his father had enjoyed a reasonable standard of living during his playing days, but struggled to make ends meet when he was forced to retire - a young Coloccini would embark on a gruelling weekly excursion in order to receive the best possible tuition.
After school on a Friday, he would catch a bus to make the 500-mile, eight-hour trip to Buenos Aires. Once there, he would train with Argentinos Juniors under the tutelage of Ramon Maddoni, now chairman of the Boca Juniors youth academy.
At the age of 11, he left home to move to Buenos Aires full time. Maddoni, Coloccini's mentor, played a key role in persuading him to leave his family. But although he was in a different part of the country, the future Newcastle captain would still look to his father for inspiration and advice.
"My father was always my biggest hero," said Coloccini. "He played for 16 years in the first division in Argentina and, in my career, my aim has always been to get to the level that he was at.
"Is he better than me? That is always the question! It is maybe easy for a player to get to the first division, but it is not so easy to stay there for many years like he did. I can only say I'm better when I have played 16 years in the top division like he did."
Osvaldo played a key role in helping to persuade his son to sign a four-year contract extension in March. Having seen the reaction that greeted Coloccini's arrival at a shopping centre, he is reported to have said: "Sometimes it is not about the money you are paid, it is about the love of the people."
That love is even more intense in the wake of last weekend's derby display, and the biggest cheer as Newcastle played Club Brugge on Thursday evening was reserved for the moment when Coloccini first left the dug out to warm up on the touchline ahead of his arrival as a second-half substitute.
The centre-half helped steady the ship in the final 20 minutes of the game as Newcastle claimed the 1-0 win that takes them to the brink of qualification for the group stage of the Europa League.
He will return to the starting line-up when West Brom visit St James' Park, and while Chelsea and Manchester United are the only sides to have beaten Newcastle in the league this season, a tally of four draws from eight games means there is a pressing need for a victory tomorrow.
"Sunday is a very important game," said Coloccini. "We must look forward now - we had a very nice result against Brugge on Thursday and we are now top of our group but the Premier League is important and this is a good chance for us to try and win and go up the table."
In the meantime, Coloccini can continue to reflect on last weekend's supremely polished performance.
"I don't know if it was my best performance for Newcastle, but it was one of my most important," he said. "We had ten men and we are playing our big local rivals so I had to play well because that is an important game.
"We played with ten men for a long time but we nearly won the game - that's maybe why he (Pardew) said what he said about my performance."