It’s not often a mid table team would sign a Champions League, Serie A and Cup Winners’ Cup winning striker still very much in the prime of his career, but in the summer of 2000 Croatian Alen Boksic shocked the football world by leaving title winning Lazio for Middlesbrough.
Boksic had started his career with Hajduk Split in what was then Yugoslavia and forged a reputation as a strong striker not reliant on pace with terrific technique and a knack for deft lobs over the keeper which he continued with throughout his career. He broke into the Yugoslavia World Cup squad in 1990 but didn’t get to taste the action.
Following a very decent scoring record of 60 goals in 174 appearances with Hajduk he moved to Caen where he made only 1 appearance due to injury but a move to Marseille ignited his career and he scored 23 league goals in his debut season at Marseille as well as a Champions League Winners medal and a league winners medal (eventually stripped of due Marseille’s alleged match fixing).
After the controversy of Marseilles match fixing scandal in the league during the 92-93 season, Boksic secured a move to Serie A with Lazio where he spent two spells with a short stint at Juventus in between and winning his first Serie A title with Juve in 1997. Boksic was not especially prolific in Italy but was well recognised for his terrific all round forward play where he would regularly supply assists to regular top Scorer Giuseppe Signori, it was whilst he was at Lazio in 93 where he finished 4th in the European Footballer of the year awards behind winner Roberto Baggio. Boksic finished his final season in Italy by winning a Serie A title and cup but caused a shock by moving to Middlesbrough, and in doing so earned a reported £63k a week which was rumoured to have made him one of the highest paid players in world football.
His career in Premier League football started brilliantly with a brace on his debut against Coventry in a 3-1 victory and he finished the season with a respectable 12 goal haul and the fans player of the year award. His following seasons at Middlesbrough were not as impressive with injuries and a poor performing team hampering his form, he did however finally make his first World Cup appearance with Croatia in 2002, twelve years after originally being involved in Yugoslavia’s squad.
Boksic was one of many stars Middlesbrough purchased during the late 90s and early 2000s but he perhaps failed to show his true colours before finally retiring from the game in 2003, he may not have the cult status Juninho or Fabrizio Ravanelli received but he really was a talent who could and should have got more recognition as one of the footballing greats of his era to play in the Premier League.