Focus

EuroStars: Chris Waddle (England)

EuroStars: Chris Waddle (England)

Focus
Publish on 05/30 at 20:50 - G. BOXALL

Share

In our latest series focusing on the 2024 European Championships, we’ll focus on a player from each of the 24 countries participating (except for France). These legends have achieved success with their countries and in Ligue 1, and have helped to make the game in France what it is today: exciting, fast-paced and cosmopolitan.

In the latest edition of EuroStars, we take a look at a Ligue 1 and Olympique de Marseille legend heralding from a nation with big ambitions in the upcoming European Championships to take place in Germany. Today we explore the story of England international and OM legend Chis "Magic" Waddle.

In the summer of 1989, a young blond English striker sporting an iconic mullet joined Olympique de Marseille in a transfer which was considered at the time as the third highest - just behind Diego Maradona and Ruud Gullit. Whilst he is now considered as one of Marseille's greatest legendary goal scorers, his start to life at OM was a story of adaptation and patience; playing (at first) second striker to Jean-Pierre Papin.

A period of adaptation before goal-scoring greatness

"When I arrived in Marseille, the first thing that struck me was the heat," admitted the Englishman. "That's why some teammates called me the 'rosbif'. And I was two weeks behind in preparation, which didn't help."

"In the middle of July, I see a nice, very white-looking guy landing in 35-degree heat. I met the player, who didn't speak French at all, and we went to training. After 25 minutes, he looked like a fire extinguisher," recalls Gérard Gili, his first coach in France. "Every evening Bernard Tapie called me to ask how he had been in training that day, and I told him he was the same as the day before, struggling to acclimatise due to his slight excess weight and the heat; he wasn't used to it at all."

The first weeks were difficult for Waddle. Alone in the hotel, not speaking French, and not 100% physically fit. "I missed my wife and daughter, and to top it off, the press said I wasn't good enough."

Yet, little by little, the former Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle United man began to prove his worth to the Marseille faithful, scoring in his third game against Toulouse FC before embarking on two-month goal drought and then scoring against Toulon in a fiery 4-0 derby win. After moving in with his wife and daughter after a short couch-surfing spell with Jean-Pierre Papin, Waddle was firing all cylinders. 

The Englishman then scored 27 goals in 140 matches in an OM shirt, winning three successive Ligue 1 titles and playing in the 1991 European Cup final. Waddle also represented England at senior level from 1985 onwards until 1991, playing for the Three Lions in 62 matches and scoring six goals for his nation. 

>>EuroStars: Eden Hazard (Belgium)