12 Aug 2009

Debunking Liverpool FC myths: No 5 - Ian Rush failed at Juventus

After scoring 207 goals in 7 fantastic years at Liverpool, Ian Rush left for Juventus in 1987. A year later he was back at Anfield after finding it hard to settle in Italy. Ever since then, the popular myth seems to be that Rushie failed at Juventus. There is, however, a difference between failing to settle and actually failing overall, and in my view, the idea that Rush 'failed' in Italy is totally wide of the mark.

Every Liverpool fan mourned the loss of Rush to Juventus, but in retrospect his reasons for leaving were actually quite understandable:

“At the end of the day the things that were in the back of my mind was that Wales weren't qualifying for the major tournaments; the European or the world cup.

“All the best players in the world were in Italy then. If Wales would have qualified for a major tournament I most probably wouldn't have gone to Juventus. I just wanted to see how it was to play against the top foreign players in the world".

Unfortunately for Rush, he arrived as Juventus were on the decline. The team that had won serie A four times from 1980-1986 was ageing, and star players like Zbigniew Boniek and France legend Michel Platini had recently quit. As Rush recalls:

"If he [Platini] had stayed it would have been easier for me. When I met him, he said to me, 'You've come at the wrong time to Juventus. You should have been here 2-3 years ago when we had a better team’. Juventus wouldn’t be successful because it was going through a transition.

"The reason he left was because the supporters were starting to have a go at him after he had been so fantastic for Juventus. He said , 'Well, I am going to get out, this will be difficult for you'. And I thought to myself, If he’s saying this, it’s going to be a hard season". *

Rush wasn’t wrong. His Italian adventure began in the worst way possible when he was injured on his debut in August 1987, pulling a thigh muscle in a cup match against Lecce that kept him out of the team for 5 weeks.

On his return, Rush managed only 13 touches of the ball in the 1-0 defeat to Empoli, a game played in 30 degree heat. After the game, Rush provided an insight into a few of the problems he would have to overcome in Italy:

“To really get on form I’ve got to sort out a few problems – the language, the heat and my understanding with the rest of the team”

Homesickness was another problem Rush experienced, as he explained to Journalists at the time:

“I must admit I feel a bit lonely. I miss all the things I was used to in Britaon – my friends, my family, especially my brothers. I’m trying hard to learn Italian but unfortunately I can’t yet speak properly with my teammates”.

Rush’s chances of success were not helped by the lack of cohesiveness in the Juve team, something Rush touched upon at the time:

“There are six new players at Juventus and therefore we’re not really a team yet…but all we have to do is keep playing, kep calm and it will come right”.

Rush was also forced to play a more defensive role, which inhibited his natural game, as he noted in a recent interview:*

“When I was playing at Juventus I was playing defensive forward…the football didn’t suit me”.

On top of everything else,
Juventus’ training regime was a shock to the sytem, as Rush described at the time:

“It was quite relaxed at the start but now it’s much harder than in England and there’s much more gymnastics here”.


Despite these barriers, I submit that Rush did comparatively well, scoring:

* 10 goals in 6 pre-season games.
* 14 goals during the season, 8 of which were in the league.
* 4 goals In Juventus’ 6-2 hamering of Pescara in the Italian Cup (Jan '88)

As a comparison, consider the following:

* Diego Maradona topped the scoring charts that season with 14 league goals.
* Rush scored as many goals as Marco Van Basten at AC Milan.
* He also scored more than Rudi Voeller at AS Roma.

Rush managed to score 14 goals (24 if you include pre-season) despite all of the following:

* A significant language barrier.
* Intense homesickness.
* Injuries.
* A difficult climate.
* 6 new players bedding into the team at the same time.
* Being forced to play a more defensive-minded role.

Given all of the above, I do not see how Rush can be considered a failure during his time at Juve. Rush himself certainly doesn’t see it that way:

“It’s [joining Juve] is one of the best things I ever did. Some people say that I was a failure but I scored 14 goals.

"I became a better all round player because of the defending I did off the ball. I also became a better person off the pitch.”

Rush was, of course, delighted to be offered the chance to return to Liverpool:

"I was happy there but Kenny Dalglish rang me and offered me a chance to come back and I decided to take it. I enjoyed my time at Juventus but at the same time I didn't realise what I was missing until I had left Liverpool.

"Not many people get the chance to come back and when I was offered it I thought I'd take that chance again."

And Liverpool fans were absolutely delighted to have Rushie back.

Rush a failure? Never has been and never will be.

Jaimie Kanwar


  1. Do you have a point to make?  If so, please make it or I'll have to delete the post.  Cheers.

  2. 8 league goals and half of those were penalty kicks - that is failure which ever way you paint it. It's an insult to Rushie's record at Liverpool to suggest he did well in Italy.

  3. 14 goals overall in about 33 competitive games - not bad at all I'd say.  And where did you get your info from re Rush's penalties? I'm pretty sure you're wrong about that.

  4. Nice Article Jamie. I tend to agree - though it wasn't a rousing success, Rush's time in Serie A wasn't the complete disaster everyone seems to allude to. I would say he did ok personally.

  5. Seriously, that's another comment disappeared. It was there earlier on.

  6. ian rush was a failure in italy to juventus fans