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Italian Adventure

Gazza eventually signed for Lazio for a knockdown 5.5 million, even with the discount Paul Gascoigne was now the most expensive Britsh player ever.

The vibrant, obsessive Lazio fans immediately worshipped Gazza but Gazza didn’t take to Italy in the same way.

As part of a Channel 4 documentary called ‘Gazza’s Italian Diaries’, the former Spurs man gave James Richardson a candid account of his initial travails: “I thought training might have been a little easy but it started off very hard. While I was running, people were slitting my finger and taking blood samples. I thought ‘God, what’s this all about?’ And then going to test centres, head wired up, heart wired up. It was incredible. I think I was more wired up than a satellite dish.”

This was at a time where the British game had yet to catch up to the continental way of thinking, a drinking culture was still rife in England, a whole new level of professionalism shocked Gazza.

Gazza initially struggled, failing to fully settle in Italy and was beset by negative media interest which was not helped by the numerous occasions he clashed with reporters and the time when he burped down a microphone on live television. He was well received by the club’s fans, but not by the club’s owner Sergio Cragnotti, who resented him after Gascoigne greeted him by saying “Tua figlia, grande tette” (roughly translated as “Your daughter, big tits”).

The fans loved him even more.

His playing style often mirrored his excitable childlike persona which was seen as a breath of fresh air in a technically brilliant league in which defenders were celebrated as much as the creators.

Gazza’s legacy in Italy was much like his career, brilliant at times but hampered by injuries and off the field incidents.

In 1995 Paul Gascoigne signed for Scottish giants Rangers for a fee of 4.3 million.

Gascoigne was a risk The Gers were willing to take. For Gascoigne, Rangers were less of a risk for him personally, the bright lights of Glasgow were seen as less of a distraction than those of London or Rome.

Gazza needed to settle down in a league that was not under the same level of intense media scrutiny that he had been used to.

It seemed to work. Gazza and Rangers won the double in his first season, he scored 19 goals in 42 appearances and was named as both the PFA Scotland Players’ Player of the Year and SFWA Footballer of the Year.

England Again

A broken leg in 1994 meant Gascoigne was unable to play for England for 15 months, but by the time he returned to fitness, Terry Venables – his former manager at Spurs had been appointed as England manager.

Gazza and England went on to have a fantastic tournament, reaching the semi-finals.

Another narrow defeat to Germany broke English hearts but Gazza was back to something that resembled his best. His goal against Scotland being a highlight of the entire event.

The good form continued into his second season in Scotland where he scored 17 goals in 34 games but people close to Gazza were beginning to become increasingly worried about his reliance on alcohol.

Paul Gascoigne was enjoying his football but the demons were still there and during his third season north of the border the demons were allowed to surface.

Trouble Up North

First, a 5 match ban after violent conduct in an old firm derby, then in the return fixture Gascoigne courted serious controversy after he played a mock flute (symbolic of the flute-playing of Orange Order marchers) during an Old Firm match at Celtic Park.

The gesture infuriated Celtic fans who had been taunting him and Gascoigne was fined £20,000 by Rangers after the incident. He also received a death threat from an Irish Republican Army (IRA) Member following the incident. The 1997–98 season was not a success, as Gascoigne scored just three goals in 28 games and Rangers failed to win any trophies, losing the league title to Celtic.

Gazza left soon after but remains a Rangers legend.

In 1998 Gascoigne signed for Middlesbrough linking up with his old England teammate, Boro manager Bryan Robson.

Tragedy struck again before the start of the 98/99 season.  A night out with Gascoigne and his infamous friend Jimmy Five bellies resulted in the death of David Cheek who was the cousin of Jimmy.

The death was an unfortunate result of too much alcohol but again Gazza felt somehow responsible, soon after he began to suffer from blackouts.

Despite starting the season in good form his career was now on a sharp decline not helped by Gazza breaking his arm while trying to elbow Aston Villa’s, George Boateng.

Beginning Of The End

His Middlesborough career was over but a lifeline was thrown by his old Rangers boss Walter Smith, now manager at Everton. Gazza knew his career was coming to an end, in a bid to prolong the inevitable and not least sort his mental health out he booked into an alcohol rehabilitation clinic in Arizona.

credit – Getty images

On the 3rd of November 2001 Gazza score his last goal in English football for Everton away to Bolton Wanderers.

The Biggest Fight

Paul Gascoigne was finally facing up to his demons but the fight would still be a long gruelling encounter that exists to this day.

Gazza was the most naturally gifted footballer this country has ever produced. A true one-off, a huge personality loved by everyone. His skills at times were sublime but his body and brain could never keep the pace.

His naivety and his greed were all part of what made him great but also what held him back.

If you could swap the personality of a Gareth Southgate with the personality of Gazza it would not have been the same, his weaknesses were his strengths.

He played like a kid with his heart on his sleeve just in the same way he lived his life.

Gazza was a maverick and one of the greatest footballers ever, we wouldn’t change him one bit.

We wish him luck in his battle, a battle that finally he seems to be winning.

credit – evening times