- Thanks to Riccardo Giannini for his help
Wednesday, January 16, 1991 is primarily remembered for the beginning of Operation Desert Storm as the Gulf War ramped up, but it also marks the last – as of now – game featuring a top-level English league selection.
Before the calendar was so packed, inter-league matches were more common, with the Football League regularly playing their Scottish counterparts up until 1976 while 1987 saw a famous game against the Rest of the World at Wembley to mark the league’s centenary.
That clash would prove to be the second-last outing for a league XI, who wore white shirts and blue shorts on that occasion, with the Rest of the World wearing all-red. For the final game, against the Italian League at Napoli’s San Paolo stadium, the colours were reversed.
The Serie A side – missing many of the heavy-hitters such as Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, Diego Maradona, Giuseppe Giannini, Walter Zenga, Jürgen Klinsmann, Giuseppe Bergomi, Roberto Baguio, Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini – wore a white and blue Diadora kit with a plain rectangular crest feautring a tricolour sash and old-style football.
The Football League played in what were essentially England away shirts, with the crest being the same as the sleeve patches introduced that season, while the socks were the same as Scotland’s home set.
The Italian side was chosen by Napoli coach Alberto Bigon while the Football League was in the charge of then-England assistant manager Lawrie McMenemy, which makes the midfield all the more interesting
Steve McMahon had played against the Republic of Ireland in November 1990 but that would prove to be his final cap; similarly, Michael Thomas’s England was limited to one cap each in 1988 and 1989; and Paul Davis was never capped at senior level. However, the same night saw three Rumbelows Cup quarter-finals taking place, denying the FL players from Aston Villa, Chelsea, Leeds United, Manchester United, Southampton and Tottenham Hotspur. Whether by Brian Clough edict or not, there was nobody from Nottingham Forest, either.
As far as I can recall, the game was shown live on BBC with the hosts winning 3-0 thanks to goals from Marco van Basten, Antônio Careca and sub Diego Simeone.
1. Giovani Galli (Napoli)
2. Luigi Garzya (Lecce)
3. Aldair (Roma)
4. Gabriele Pin (Lazio)
5. Silvano Benedetti (Torino)
6. Davor Jozić (Cesena)
7. Alessandro Bianchi (Internazionale)
8. Alexei Mikhailichenko (Sampdoria)
9. Antônio Careca (Napoli)
10. Lothar Matthäus (Internazionale)
11. Marco van Basten (Milan)
Subs: Cláudio Taffarel (Parma), Branco (Genoa), Lorenzo Minotti (Parma), Gianluigi Lentini (Torino), Paolo Di Canio (Juventus), Diego Simeone (Pisa)
1. Neville Southall (Everton)
2. Lee Dixon (Arsenal)
3. Steve Nicol (Liverpool)
4. Michael Thomas (Arsenal)
5. Mark Wright (Derby County)
6. Glenn Hysén (Liverpool)
7. Anders Limpar (Arsenal)
8. Steve McMahon (Liverpool)
9. Ian Rush (Liverpool)
10. Paul Davis (Arsenal)
11. John Barnes (Liverpool)
Subs: David Seaman (Arsenal), Keith Curle (Wimbledon), Mark Bowen (Norwich City), Dean Saunders (Derby County), Steve Bull (Wolverhampton Wanderers).