A No10 straight from the old school, Enzo Scifo is widely regarded as one of the finest footballers Belgium has ever produced. The attacking midfielder with Sicilian roots belongs to a select band of players to have appeared in four FIFA World Cups™, notably reaching the semi-finals in 1986.
Having taken his first steps in the game in the streets of La Louviere, the small town where he was born to Italian parents, the talented youngster did not take long to attract attention. Local outfit Louvieroise were the first to plump for Vincenzo, to give him his full name, signing him up at the age of just seven in 1973, and his sublime technique brought him a long list of goals and moments of genius at youth level before capital giants Anderlecht came calling in 1982.
Scifo's professional debut followed at the age of 17, and he wasted no time in making an impression, rapidly earning himself the role of creative orchestrator at the heart of Belgium's leading club side. Unruffled by his promotion, he ended his first season on the losing side of the UEFA Cup final as Anderlecht succumbed to Tottenham Hostpur on penalties, and within less than two years he had established himself as No10 for the national side.
Blessed with superlative vision, exquisite passing ability and a keen sense of goal, Scifo helped Anderlecht collect consecutive Belgian top-flight titles between 1985 and 1987, while also steering Les Diables Rouges to a last-four berth at Mexico 1986. Then, at the end of the 1986/87 campaign, he decided it was time to test his abilities on the grand stage of Serie A.
Already a star in Belgium, Scifo signed for Inter Milan with the dream of winning over the homeland of his ancestors. Those exalted aims quickly perished, though, as he struggled for playing time given the number of illustrious names in I Nerazzurri's ranks. His tally of 28 appearances and four goals in his first league season was nothing to be ashamed of, but Scifo never managed to plant his hooks in a first-team place and opted to try his hand in France with Bordeaux.
Once again his hopes were dashed, however, an encouraging start giving way to life on the sidelines as his stay became marked by injuries and conflict with senior squad members. Despite the arrival of his compatriot Raymond Goethals as coach at the end of that first campaign, the Belgian international was soon sent on his way again, his high salary prompting the club to cut their losses.
Scifo's downward spiral eventually ended at his next port of call, Auxerre in 1989, with astute coach Guy Roux sniffing out another excellent deal and trusting his new signing with creative duties. Employed as the central spearhead of a midfield trio, Enzo was able to let his talent shine as he quickly made himself at home, describing Auxerre as "a big club among medium-sized clubs". His confidence restored, the playmaker then proved himself to be back to his best for Belgium at Italy 1990.
Joy and frustration
Given fresh impetus by two successful seasons in Burgundy, Scifo opted for another adventure in Italy, this time with Torino, with whom he lifted the Italian Cup in 1993. A return to France with Monaco followed that summer and Scifo went on to spend four years in the principality, adding impressive maturity to his various other qualities. He celebrated a league title in 1997 and cemented his reputation as one of the outstanding performers in the French game.
The situation was not as bright at international level, meanwhile, Belgium exiting in the Round of 16 at USA 1994 and the first phase four years later in France. Scifo's own displays seemed to symbolise the decline and his strained relations with coach Georges Leekens no doubt precipitated the slide.
Despite those troubles, the passion undoubtedly remained and Scifo went on to secure one last Belgian league crown with Anderlecht in 2000 at the age of 36, before injuries forced him to call time on his career. Struck down by a serious collarbone complaint, the veteran attempted to make a new start at Charleroi, but a knee injury soon put paid to those hopes.
Finally, after 18 years of professional service, Enzo Scifo bowed to the inevitable in 2001. "A professor once wondered how I could have played for so long with a hip in such a state," he recalled upon hanging up his boots. His answer ought to have contained one word: talent.
84 caps, 18 goals
Four FIFA World Cup participations (1986, 1990, 1994, 1998)
1982 - 1987 Anderlecht
1987 - 1988 Inter Milan
1988 - 1989 Bordeaux
1989 - 1991 Auxerre
1991 - 1993 Torino
1993 - 1997 Monaco
1997 - 2000 Anderlecht
2000 - 2002 Charleroi
Belgian Championship: 1985, 1986, 1987 et 2000
French Championship: 1997
Italian Cup: 1993
2001 - 2002 Charleroi
2004 - 2006 Tubize
2007 - 2009 Excelsior Mouscron