Never Forget When Pelado Díaz Was Sent Packing to Make Room for Jürgen Klinsmann

The year is 1988. Twenty-nine-year-old Argentine strikeforce Ramón “Pelado” Díaz is fresh off a transfer from Fiorentina to Inter Milan on the advice of defender Daniel Passarella, his countryman and colleague at River Plate back in the day.

By this point in time, Pelado has already made a name for himself as one of the best attacking players in the history of the Argentine game. Born in La Rioja and brought up through the ranks of the River Plate youth system, he won the World Cup with the U-20s in 1979 before competing with the senior squad at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, scoring La Albiceleste’s lone goal in a 3-1 defeat to Brazil.

Negotiations with Napoli followed, and Pelado made the move abroad to play alongside the likes of Italian-Argentine winger Bruno Pesaola and prolific Dutch defender Ruud Krol. In his first stint en el extranjero, he quickly became his club’s top goalscorer, netting eight in 38 games. Despite wild success, a rough ride for the side in his second season led to a transfer to Avellino, and the melancholy mindset that transformed him into “El puntero triste.”

The melancholy mindset that transformed him into “El puntero triste.”

He called the quaint southern Italian town home for three long years – taking part in an epic 4-0 win against AC Milan, teaming up with Peruvian Gerónimo Barbadillo, scoring seven goals in his first campaign and 10 in his second. Enraptured crowds and elated season ticket holders witnessed his success, and even sparked the interest of Fiorentina, which initiated his next major move within Italian borders.

Two years with Fiorentina (1986–88), and here we find ourselves, on the brink of a big move to Inter Milan. Pelado is one of five marquee signings for Giovanni Trapattoni’s team; Nicola Berti, Alessandro Bianchi, Andrea Brehme, and Lothar Matthäus join him.

He goes on to have a stellar season, making 33 league appearances and scoring 12 en route to a Scudetto, and contributing three goals in nine varied cup matches. He’s a hit! But little does he know that Trapattoni has his eyes set on an VfB Stuttgart stud: Jürgen Klinsmann.

That’s right – despite being decisive in his first season with the squad, Pelado is sent packing to make room for Klinsmann (there’s a limit on foreign-born players at this time, and given Brehme and Matthäus’ statuses as untouchables, he’s gotta go). This is special and significant because, well, hard feelings might be harbored between the two former players and current coaches, and their managerial duties (Pelado in charge of Paraguay and Klinsmann of the U.S.) have them set to face off in Philly this June: U.S. vs. Paraguay in Copa América Centenario play.

So, that’s that. Klinsi signs a three-year deal (1989), takes the helm of the attack, and scores 13 goals in his first season with the side, finishing third in Serie A action. He proceeds to walk away from the 1990 UEFA Cup victorious, and repeats his previous league performance with 14 goals to his name. His contract is extended, but disaster strikes and plans fall through (no worries – he still goes on to win the World Cup, score in six major international tournaments, etc.). On the flipside, Pelado moves to Monaco before returning to his native land and eventually finding himself in the J-League.

The crazy thing about this throwback? Contrary to popular belief, Pelado and Klinsi never suited up together! The latter may have won the first battle back in the 80s, but surely Pelado will like La Albirroja’s chances against the red, white, and blue this summer.