Star striker Blissett heads for new life at Italy's AC Milan

First published in News

JULY 6, 1983: Luther Blissett said goodbye to Watford yesterday when he signed for Italian giants AC Milan for £1m.

The England striker, who has been almost ever-present since manager Graham Taylor's arrival six years ago, joined the Italian club on a three-year contract.

Watford boss Taylor had mixed feelings about the move: "I've said it before and I'll say it again, there is no way we could have stood in Luther's way.

"The boy has a chance to reshape his life and his life-style. He will be able to earn more money in those three years than he will in a lifetime in England. But let's remember, we didn't want to sell Luther Blissett. AC Milan offered us a deal that we couldn't turn down and it would have been morally wrong to prevent Luther from going," said Taylor.

Blissett's departure will obviously be a great disappointment to Watford fans, who have seen the coloured striker rise from the obscurity of the Fourth Division to top of the First Division goalscoring charts last season and stake a regular place in the international set-up.

They will be asking: Who will replace Luther? "Let's just say I won't be going out spending 'silly' money," said Taylor.

"We've just got to carry on. All of us at Watford have got to pull together next season and make-up for Luther's absence."

Blissett's lucrative contract will tie him to the Italian club until 1986. He will be 28 then.

Watford have first refusal on buying him back, but as Taylor pointed out: "Who knows - we may not be able to afford him and who's to say Luther will want to come back and play for Watford at 28."

In the next three years, Blissett can expect to live the life of a superstar. The Italians are fanatical about their football stars and if the pacy striker continues scoring goals at such a phenomenal rate he will quickly become a favourite.

Yet it will not all be wine and roses. Teething problems - such as the language barrier, food and temperature - have troubled all previous English players who have gone to Italy.

Joe Jordan a Scottish hero was never able to come to terms with injuries, and the pressures attached to the defensive game and his lack of goals finally brought an end to his career at AC Milan

The actual signing on fee and Blissett's earnings have not been disclosed but it's not unreasonable to expect him to be taking home in a week more than many professional footballers earn in a month.

The Jamaican-born Blissett came to England from Kingston when he was six. He went to school in Willesden and joined Watford as a junior in 1975. He scored regularly for the youth side and made the step up into the reserves a year later.

However, it was only when Taylor arrived that Blissett's career took off. The Watford boss was not slow to see the striker's raw talent and in the six years it took the Hornets' boss to take Watford from the bottom to the top of the Football League, he turned Blissett into one of the most feared forwards in English football.

"We will all be sorry to see Luther go but from everyone at Watford Football Club I'd like to wish him all the best," concluded Taylor.

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