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Cult Heroes: Fabrizio Ravanelli at Middlesbrough

When Fabrizio Ravanelli joined Middlesbrough in 1996 from Serie A giants Juventus, their supporters had every right to be excited, given the Italian’s track-record of firing in the goals during his career.

The forward arrived at the Riverside Stadium as a Champions League winner with his goal in the final for I Bianconeri proving to be vital in their victory over Ajax.

Yet despite enjoying a great deal of success in his home country, the fact that Ravanelli had not played in England before meant that the Smoggies were taken somewhat of a risk on the marksman.

However, from his very first appearance in the Premier League, it was clear that Boro had nothing to be worried about as he scored a sensational hat-trick against Liverpool.

Although he would be a menace throughout his debut season in the top-flight, it was Ravanelli’s performances in the cup competitions which endeared him to the club’s supporters.

By firing in eight goals in seven League Cup ties, the forward almost single-handedly took the Smoggies to the final of the competition for the first time in their history.

With Boro facing a showdown with fellow Premier League side Leicester City at Wembley Stadium, Ravanelli put them within touching distance of victory by smashing home the opener in extra time.

Yet with just minutes left to play, Emile Heskey ensured that the game would have to replayed by bundling home an equaliser.

In what was a very tight re-run of the final, Steve Claridge scored the only goal for the Foxes to secure a famous win for the East Midlands-based outfit.

Determined to bounce back from this immense disappointment, Ravanelli set his sights on FA Cup triumph.

By finding the back of the net on six occasions in the competition, he was given the shot to extinguish the memories of losing in the League Cup.

However, with Chelsea proving too strong for Boro, the forward was left heartbroken once again as he was powerless to stop his side suffering a 2-0 defeat.

Having prioritised cup success, it wasn’t at all surprising that the Smoggies struggled in the top-flight as a result.

Despite being able to call upon the likes of Ravanelli and Juninho, Boro finished 19th in the standings and were subsequently relegated to the second tier.

Although their talisman would stay for the opening two games of the 1997/98 season, the forward was eventually sold to Ligue 1 side Marseille.

When you consider that Ravanelli was bought for just £7m from Juventus (via The Independent), you really appreciate just good of a deal Boro got for the Italy international as it would virtually impossible to bring in a player of his quality for that much in the current market.

With the Smoggies’ failure to secure promotion during the 2018/19 campaign being directly linked with their inability to score goals, their supporters would have loved to have been able to call upon the services of Ravanelli who would have almost certainly been able to get their club back to the Premier League.

Cult Heroes: Fabrizio Ravanelli at Middlesbrough
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Article title: Cult Heroes: Fabrizio Ravanelli at Middlesbrough

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