The orange-tinted glasses and slick dreadlocks was Edgar Davids the brand, but his silky skills and animalistic style also made him impossible to overlook as a footballer. Today the Pitbull turns 47.
The Dutch schemer started his career at Ajax, where he made his debut at 18 and soon played a vital part in a team both dominating the Eredivisie and putting their mark on Europe.
He became widely regarded as the aggressive Pitbull partnering World Cup winner Zinedine Zidane in the midfield of a highly successful Juventus side, picking up three Scudetti during his time in Turin.
But his stint in Serie A didn’t start as planned. He had made his name with Ajax already before his move to Milan, being a part of the Dutch side winning three Eredivisie titles, the UEFA Cup 1991-92 and the Champions League 1994-95 and his reputation preceded him to the fashion capital.
Despite having the characteristics to stand out also in a Rossoneri side full of stars, he struggled to settle in Lombardy. In fact, his stay ended after only a season-and-a-half and he moved to the rivals from Piedmont.
That’s where his celebrity sky-rocketed, next to other superstars of the Italian game, fighting at the top of Italian football for six years. His slick skills were showcased through his many sponsored commercials, his goggles became his brand and by putting his body on the line for the Bianconeri teammates every Sunday, he became a superstar and poster boy in the football world.
Everybody knew of the midfielder with the goggles, initially needed because of surgery in his right eye caused by glaucoma. He first wore them in 1999 and by the time he didn’t need them anymore, they had become part of him - only guessing that the sponsor revenue didn’t hurt either. His new image was created, it wouldn’t be the same without the glasses.
And just as the glasses made him stand out, even next to Zidane, his abilities with a football did the same. He was supposed to do the dirty work next to the elegant Frenchman brought to Juventus from Bordeaux, but essentially the Dutch partner controlled the tempo in the Bianconeri games. He created the platform for the biggest stars to shine, not having to worry about how to recuperate the ball or even losing it on the break. Davids had them covered.
But he ended his spell with the Old Lady on the bech, as he never really recovered after being suspended for testing positive for nandrolone. The Guardian wrote at the time that the Dutch star was linked with a move to Manchester United and denied taking steroids. He was the eighth Serie A player who tested positive for the substance, and it put a damper on his reputation.
And after struggling to displace new-boy Stephen Appiah at Juventus, he was picked up at 30 years of age by Barcelona, at the time in a desperate situation under Frank Rijkaard. He picked up the Pitbull on loan for six months, just in time to steady the ship.
Davids probably picked up a yellow card already when he landed in Catalonia, but he helped the team decrease their poor defensive record and balanced the attack to upper the impact of players like Ronaldinho, just as he had done with Zidane at the Bianconeri. Despite the short stay, he helped build the spine that was missing at Barca.
He returned to Italy after the six months in Spain, but his time at the Delle Alpi was up and he moved on a free transfer to Inter, the rivals from the Derby d’Italia.
He picked up his only Coppa Italia during the single season with the Nerazzurri, before moving on another free transfer to England. Spells at Tottenham, Crystal Palace followed, before he returned after a two-year break to become a playing coach at Barnet.
Davids was one of the icons paving the way for current superstars, he was outside of the norm in many respects. Davids goes down as of the greats of his generation, and a complete all-round player contributing box to box for every side he played for.
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