One of the basic rules of summer was that any love story that arose in the summer heat should not be projected beyond the month of September. In August, with the effluvia of the sun, the beach and the alcohol of the town’s joint, all the cats are brown and that idea of eternal summer prevails from Bruce Brown’s legendary surf documentary (The Endless Summer, 1966): if you have enough money and time, the sun and happiness never end. Otherwise, the gravity of fall and the harshness of winter always show the real seams of love and the limits of our imagination. It happens exactly the same with some players who triumph in Euro and World Cups and liquidate that mirage on the bench of some unsuspecting club. Calm down, it has happened to all of us.
Totò Schillaci, a Sicilian with big eyes and more street than art, was crowned in this specialty, turning the World Cup in Italy 90 upside down. He was the top scorer of the championship (6) and its best player. So much so that that year he was also the second classified in the Ballon d’Or that was awarded to Lothar Matthaus. Schillaci was a member of Juventus at that time, but after his tremendous World Cup, a decline began that hit rock bottom when, at the end of a match against Bologna, he threatened Fabio Poli in the Sicilian way, who had been provoking him: get shot ”.
The shot was actually hit by himself. It was right on the foot that had brought him fame and money in that World Cup. Because the decline after that episode led him with more pain than glory to Inter, where he was removed from the team before ending his contract, and to liquidate his career in the Japanese Júbilo Iwata, where he returned to be an idol before ending up as a councilor in Palermo .
Every World Cup or Euro has its Schillaci. A phenomenon that is difficult to decipher scientifically because it consists of something as metaphysical as performing above one’s own real possibilities (Cholo is a master at creating that optical illusion in players who later end up at Barça). But it happens to all of us. James Rodríguez was going to eat the world. He was also the best of that World Cup in Brazil in 2014, where he scored six goals – the tournament’s top scorer – and dazzled with his vision of the game. Madrid paid 80 million until they were fed up with him and continued to pay part of his record at Bayern to end up transferring him to Everton (he has not been called up for this Copa América).
The European Cups are more modest showcases, but they also lit up fabulous fallen angels, such as the Czech Milan Baros, who stood out in the strangest in history – in 2004 Greece won and crowned forward Angelos Charisteas – or the mythical Andrei Arshavin, in 2008. The Russian astonished the world with his speed and electric dribbling in Guus Hiddink’s team. That hook was about to be bitten by Barça, but he ended up at Arsenal consuming his genius. And it’s strange, because summer amazement is a specialty at the Camp Nou. We live notorious cases, such as Rustu, who had a great Korea-Japan World Cup in 2002 with Turkey, third that year. Laporta and Rosell brought it as soon as they landed. It was the first signing of that era, but suspiciously he had the same agent as Beckham (the Israeli Pini Zahavi) and was part, without suspecting it, of the courtship of the representative who was to fulfill the electoral promise of that board to bring the husband of one of the Spice Girls. Rustu played seven games and spent only one season in Barcelona.
The spark and the dangers of summer infatuation build wonderful football (and biographical) fables like Schillaci’s. This year, in a tournament without big stars in most teams, there are already some candidates for that throne. The problem is that it is increasingly difficult to live that mirage with so many international football specialists, capable of memorizing sticker albums from seven different countries and whispering in chorus to the most unwary clubs the risks of a frustrated love story.