Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The Soccernostalgia Interview-Part 55 (Interview with English Author Mr. Robert Fielder and Paul Whittle of https://the1888letter.com/on France Football’s Ballon d’Or for the year 1983)

Issue Number: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983


For this interview, I look back at France Football magazine’s European player of the year award (Ballon d’or) for the year 1983.

This will be a semi-regular and continuous series.

The Interviewees are:

Mr. Robert Fielder

Mr. Fielder is the Author of ‘The Complete History of the World Cup’ (2014) and ‘The Complete History of the European Championship’ (2016).


Mr. Fielder’s contact info:

twitter: @ademir2z

Book links: 





The Interviewees are:

Mr. Paul Whittle, English Blogger and Podcast partner


Mr. Whittle’s contact info:

twitter:  @1888letter

Blog: https://the1888letter.com/

Link to Mr. Paul Whittle’s book (Before the Premier League: A History of the Football League's Last Decades):




Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s start of by discussing the winner Michel Platini, was this is a fully deserved win or was it regarded as controversial at the time?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: With 18 first place votes and 23 overall out of a population of 26 jurors, I think it’s clear that Platini was well out in front of his rivals for the award in 1983, at least in contemporary perceptions.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I don’t think there would have been too much argument, he was the outstanding candidate.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: Briefly, describe the merits of the winner Michel Platini and the main reason the player won?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: In his first season with Juventus the Frenchman ended up as the topscorer in Serie A, won the Coppa Italia and was a runner-up in the European Cup. He was also well on the way to building on those achievements in the following season by the time jurors cast their votes.

Stylistically Platini exuded class and poise on the ball. He was an exceptional goalscorer from midfield and one of the greatest free-kick takers the game has ever seen. I think he ticked all the boxes in terms of style and substance when rating players of the time.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: He was a gifted footballer, by then well established as a goalscorer and playmaker, but to settle into the no.10 role so easily in his first season at Juventus took him to an even higher level. To be top scorer in Serie A was a great achievement and he was clearly the key player in the France team who were already looking like favourites for the following year’s European Championship.


Soccernostalgia Question: Playing devil’s advocate, what would be the legitimate arguments against his selection?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I think this is a season where it’s hard to really argue with the choice of winner. Maybe the best argument would be that Juventus ultimately fell short in both Serie A and the European Cup, but it’s hard to pin that on Platini given how he performed in the two competitions.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I don’t think there are too many, only maybe that he wasn’t tested in any competitive internationals over the year with France hosting the Euros the next year.


Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s discuss the top 5 (1-Platini, 2-Dalglish, 3-Simonsen, 4-Strachan, 5-Magath). How do you assess this list and were there any surprises?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I think it’s fair to say that it’s not the strongest top 5 we’ve ever seen. With no World Cup or European Championship, the jurors are focused primarily on club football and it wasn’t necessarily a vintage season with the biggest teams performing at their best.

Dalglish had a great season at Liverpool. He won the league and the league cup, was named as player of the year by his fellow professionals and the football writers, so this was arguably the pinnacle of his career.

Simonsen we’ll come on to while Strachan and Magath are both rewarded for the continental exploits of their clubs and their own integral parts in achieving those.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It seems a fair representation to me, only really Simonsen could be considered a surprise, as we will discuss below…


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s discuss Allan Simonsen, the 1977 winner. He was having a second act with the emerging Denmark side. His selection and rebirth must have been a surprise at the time?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Given he started the year playing for Charlton Athletic in the Second Division and ended it playing domestic Danish football with Velje, it certainly was a surprise. Ultimately it was a reward for the shock success of the Danes in qualifying for Euro 84. They had topped their group at the expense of England and had earned a famous victory at Wembley with Simonsen scoring the only goal via a penalty. I think third place overrates his performance over the course of the year but underlines the great emphasis placed at this time on a small number of marquee games.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It certainly seemed when he left Barcelona to join Charlton in the Second Division at the end of 1982, and later in 1983 moved back to Denmark with Vejle, that his career was winding down. The national team’s success, particularly winning at Wembley, showed he was still a force individually and a great influence on the talented young players around him.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: From the top 5 selections, which one please you the most?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I think it’s nice to see Strachan in there as a representative of the success of Aberdeen. He’s not necessarily given the credit he’s due as an excellent player who performed well over the course of a fine career, both for Scotland and at club level with Aberdeen, Manchester United and Leeds. Technically he was very good, he was clever in his use of the ball and he scored goals. Had English clubs not been banned from Europe in 1985, he might well have been able to show his ability in the club game a bit more.

 Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It’s good to see Gordon Strachan up there, recognition for his and Aberdeen’s achievements but also I think a sign that Scottish football was really strong then, with the Old Firm being challenged and even overshadowed by Dundee United and Aberdeen. Strachan as we know went on to shine for both Manchester United and Leeds United in a great career.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: Any notable omissions in the top 5 (or top 10)?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: It’s hard to make a case that anyone was robbed this year in terms of inclusion. It’s not a year in which many players really hit the heights they were capable of.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Based on Denmark’s performances, Michael Laudrup might have been higher, but with the Olsens (Jesper and Morten) and of course Simonsen, maybe the Danish votes were split.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: Any player who should have received more votes than they received (For myself, Ian Rush should have received more votes and I even think Johann Cruyff should have been included for his impact at Ajax and Feyenoord at the time)?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Cruyff is a fair shout, having won the Eredivisie title with Ajax and he was then on the way to winning it again with Feyenoord. He had lost none of his footballing intelligence, even if he wasn’t quite at the athletic peak of his prime.

Rush was in the middle of an exceptional season with Liverpool, but that should be more reflected in 1984.

Pietro Vierchowod had enjoyed an excellent year with Roma, winning Serie A and was the best rated player in Italy, so he might have expected to feature.

Given that Pfaff and Dassaev placed in the top 10, I’d have thought Peter Shilton would have been worthy of inclusion.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: I would agree with both of those, Rush’s goalscoring was exceptional but also surprising is the absence of Graeme Souness. Dalglish was outstanding but Souness was arguably the most influential player in a Liverpool team who were totally dominant in England at that time.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: Which players benefited from a Cup/Tournament and which ones were recognized for their performance during the entire calendar year?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: With no World Cup or Euros, there’s not a case like Rossi the previous year where he won it solely for his World Cup heroics.

Certainly players like Magath and Strachan benefitted from their performances in the European Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup respectively, but they performed well during the whole season.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It’s often discussed that given the lack of widespread TV coverage, there was a greater weight on the cup competitions – in particular the European Cup – and without a major international tournament, Felix Magath might have benefitted especially from that.


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s analyze the previous winner Paolo Rossi. What counted against him this year?  

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: There was no World Cup! This is actually one of Rossi’s stronger years as he was the top scorer in the European Cup in 1982-3 and scored a crucial goal for Juventus as they won the Coppa Italia as well as scoring seven times in the league which was a respectable figure in 1980s Serie A. But his victory the year before had been an outlier based on a handful of exceptional World Cup displays so was difficult to repeat.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Italy’s poor performance in Euro qualifying must have been the main factor, as he was the European Cup top scorer in 1982/83 and I don’t think was doing too badly in Serie A. He was bound to be less prominent than in his World Cup-winning year though.  


Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 

Soccernostalgia Question: If the voting had been open to non-Europeans at the time, who would have been the main beneficiaries(s)?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: Zico won the World Soccer award for this year, Socrates was the South American player of the year and Diego Maradona played well at Barcelona when fit. I would think Paulo Roberto Falcao, who won Serie A with Roma, would have been a major contender and a possible rival to Platini for this year, had he been eligible.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Obviously there weren’t anywhere near as many non-Europeans around the leagues as now, it was a smaller group and would be hard to look beyond Paulo Roberto Falcão at Roma, a great player probably at his peak around this time. Maybe Jorge Valdano and Hugo Sanchez in Spain – but it wasn’t a vintage year for Maradona…

Photo From: France Football, Issue 1968, December 27, 1983 


Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s discuss the jurors, which were the most interesting votes from a correspondent?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: There are some typical cases of jurors choosing their own compatriots which always crop up. The inclusion of Costica Stefanescu, Vasilis Hatzipanagis and Stoicho Mladenov for instance.

More broadly we can see the early inclusions of Michael Laudrup and Ruud Gullit who would go on to become such superstars in the years ahead. The West German voter Hans Blickensdorfer included both of them but managed to omit Platini from his top 5 entirely.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: Vasilios Hatzipanagis, the Soviet/Greek player then at Iraklis, is definitely an interesting choice – he had a good reputation but a low profile as he never played in Europe’s biggest leagues.

Soccernostalgia Question: What were the most unbelievable or baffling selection from a juror?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I don’t think there were any this year. Even Dermot Ashmore played it by the book.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: It looks like some of the correspondents (Belgium, East Germany, Portugal) managed to ignore Platini in their selections and others (Bulgaria, Romania, USSR, Portugal again) found room for unusual choices from their own country!


Soccernostalgia Question: In closing, what is the legacy of Michel Platini’s selection as Ballon d’Or, how is it regarded after all these years?

Mr. Robert Fielder @ademir2z Response: I think it’s seen as the start of a remarkable run for one of history’s best players at Juventus, though maybe that is fading a little in the memory. Platini’s time as an administrator and the associated scandals have impacted on his legacy as a player and he’s not always given quite the respect he deserves as a player. For a midfielder to have been such a prolific scorer, particularly without sacrificing his own creativity, really stands out. Yet among younger viewers Platini’s place among football’s greatest figures seems to have drifted as that of Zinedine Zidane has grown.

Mr. Paul Whittle @1888letter Response: He was at his peak in the mid-80s for France and Juventus, a creator and scorer of goals and recognised as one of the world’s best players. His Ballon d’Or successes reflect that, regardless of his career since retiring… 


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