The day they welcomed Argentine star

South Yorkshire welcome: Alex Sabella's arrival at Sheffield United in 1978 created massive interest amongst Blades fans
South Yorkshire welcome: Alex Sabella's arrival at Sheffield United in 1978 created massive interest amongst Blades fans
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JUST wonder if Alex Sabella got a reception anything like this when he was appointed Argentina’s new manager last week!

This was the scene when Sabella turned up at Bramall Lane, hot foot from the Pampas, as Sheffield United’s big South American signing back in July 1978.

As the picture (rescued from the back of a cupboard this week!) shows, there was great fervour amongst Blades fans when he arrived at the ground (he’s in the middle of the scrum).

The story has been oft-told of how United manager Harry Haslam went to Argentina after being tipped off about this hugely-talented young player - one Diego Maradona.

They didn’t get him, considering the fee asked being too high. Instead they settled for another young star in Sabella, then 23, and playing for River Plate. The reported fee was £160,000, a pretty sizeable sum then.

His arrival caused huge interest and raised hopes that he would do great things. Argentine football was all the rage at the time as they’d just won the World Cup staged in their own country.

Unfortunately, Sabella, whilst skilful and gifted, never really hit the heights. In fact, the club was on the slide and were relegated in his first season. He was sold to Leeds at the end of his second campaign but didn’t pull up many trees there either.

He did, however, enjoy success on his return home to play for Estudiantes, winning championships and being capped by his country.

He eventually moved into coaching, including a spell under Daniel Passarella with the national team, and he became coach of Estudiantes leading them to win the Copa America (South America’s equivalent of the European Champions League) in 2009.

He was due back at the Lane in July last year when Estudiantes played a friendly but had a chance of the Argentina job and stayed home. A year on, he has got it.