JOE's Forgotten Footballers: Andrea Silenzi
In 1995 Andrea Silenzi became the first ever Italian to play in the Premier League. He turned out to be one of the worst buys the league has ever seen.
By Declan Whooley
In the summer of 1995, things were all rosy in the garden at Nottingham Forest. They had finished third in the previous season, the best of the rest after the Blackburn/Man Utd two horse title race, had an average gate of 22,000 and had qualified for the UEFA Cup, then a highly respected competition.
However, Stan Collymore’s exploits in front of goal the previous season – 22 goals in the league – saw Liverpool fork out a record £8.4 million for his services and Frank Clark needed a replacement up front. His decision to turn to Italy proved a major mistake.
Andrea Silenzi had had a solid, if not spectacular career in Italy. Top scorer for Reggiana in the second tier of Italian football in the 1989/90 season, Napoli snapped up his services at a time when Diego Maradona was on their books. After two injury hit years in Naples, he moved to Torino who had money to burn after the world record transfer of Gianluigi Lentini (£13 million) to AC Milan.
A record of 24 goals in 82 appearances was enough for Forest to stump up for the striker with a solitary international cap. His previous season was the best in his career, as he formed a deadly strike partnership with a young Benito Carbone and notched 17 goals.
Nicknamed the ‘Big Brush’, the 29 year-old struggled from day one. Despite earning £30,000 a month, a huge amount then for a side like Forest, supporters quickly saw that while his appearance was eye-catching, his performances were not.
In total Silenzi made 20 appearances at Forest and never scored in the league
His casual demeanour and poor control did not go down well with the City Ground crowd and he played just 10 games in the league before losing his place to another blast from the past, Jason Lee. He was soon loaned back to Italian side Venezia and even refused initially to return when recalled by new boss Dave Bassett.
In total, Silenzi made 20 appearances (7 starts) at Forest, never scored in the league and managed to find the net just twice, an FA Cup tie against Oxford and in the League Cup against Bradford.
Bassett allegedly tore up his contract and he cost the club £2.75 million between his transfer fee, wages and bonuses. That season Forest finished a disappointing ninth and would continue to slide until relegation in 1999.
Silenzi returned to his homeland soon after to former club Reggiana and was playing in Serie A up until 2000 with Torino. He retired in 2001 at the age of 35.
Forest have had plenty of off the field problems in recent times, and the managerial merry-go-round has turned the club into somewhat of a laughing stock, but the club has had its share of on-field disasters too.
Individually, few have been as bad as Andrea Silenzi.