A FEW days after the passing of Jack Charlton, he was followed into the pearly gates by one of his old adversaries.
Silvio Marzolini, who died on Friday at the age of 79, was Argentina’s left back in that stormy Wembley World Cup quarter final in 1966, when visiting captain Antonio Rattin was sent off and a late Geoff Hurst goal sent England through to a last four clash with Portugal.
Blonde, elegant and talented, Marzolini was chosen as the best left back of the tournament – a highpoint of an international career that lasted for much of the decade.
His last caps came as Argentina failed to make it to Mexico 70. Some of his first came in the 1962 World Cup in Chile, when Argentina were eliminated in the group phase after suffering a 3-1 defeat to England.
This time there was only one Charlton in the England line up. Jack’s international career would not get underway for another three years.
But younger brother Bobby was already one of the outstanding players of an England side that ended up losing to eventual champions Brazil in the quarter finals.
Amazingly, Marzolini and Bobby Charlton could even have become club mates – on the other side of the Atlantic.
During the World Cup in Chile, Charlton received a backdoor approach from Buenos Aires giants Boca Juniors.
He mentioned that his wife was pregnant with their first child – and was told that this would be no problem.
Boca could arrange for the child to be born in the British Embassy, so that it would be qualified to play for England.
Bobby Charlton had no interest in leaving Manchester United.
The main incentive to join Boca would have been financial – this was a time when the big clubs in Argentina paid much higher wages than players received in England.
And this in turn explains why Silvio Marzolini was such a Boca legend. He had reached the pinnacle, in sporting and financial terms, and with nothing to lure him away he played for Boca between 1960 and 1972.
He later returned to coach the club, and was in charge during Diego Maradona’s brief but memorable and victorious time there in the early 1980s.
These days, of course, a player with the pedigree of Silvio Marzolini would be lured to Europe at an early age.
Argentina’s current left back, Nicolas Tagliafico, plays for Ajax in Holland, and has been linked in the last few days with a move to Chelsea and Manchester City.
Tagliafico is not quite in the same class as Marzolini. The 1960s left back was better balanced. But there is something of the old player in the new.
They share an upright elegance. This is more than a coincidence. Marzolini’s last job in football was with the youth ranks of the Banfield club, in the sprawl of greater Buenos Aires.
One of the players he developed was Nicolas Tagliafico, who paid tribute to him on his death last week.
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