Sabella playing for Sheffield United is fond memory for Wilder
Photo by Daniel Chesterton/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

Alex Sabella playing for Sheffield United was one of Chris Wilder's earliest memories of the Blades

Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder says Alex Sabella playing for the club is one of his earliest memories.

The Blades boss grew up as a fan of the club. He went on to play in their first team and then guide them from League One to the Premier League from the dugout.

Sabella – who died this week at the age of 66 – signed for United in 1978 from River Plate in his home country of Argentina.

He went onto play 78 times for the South Yorkshire side and is fondly remembered during a time when foreign players in English football were rare.

Wilder was just a kid in the stands back when Sabella was lighting up the pitch at Bramall Lane.

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“It coincided with my early years at Bramall Lane. In ’78 I was 10/11, so that was my early introduction to Sheffield United,” the 53-year-old told BBC Radio Sheffield.

“Obviously he was a fabulous player and a brilliant signing by Harry Haslam and Danny Bergara.

“It was a really forward-thinking move. For us at the time to sign him was fabulous.

“Sympathies to his family and he’s fondly remembered by the older generation of Sheffield United fans – which I’m obviously one.”

Alex Sabella is an icon at Sheffield United

Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images

The death of Sabella came just a few weeks after fellow countryman Diego Maradona also died, aged 60.

Maradona famously almost signed for the Blades after then manager Haslam spotted the young forward during a scouting trip to Argentina.

In the end, the club couldn’t afford a player who would go onto be widely considered the greatest of all time.

Instead Sabella arrived for £160,000. While he isn’t as well regarded as Maradona, he remains a hero at Bramall Lane.

He later played for Leeds United after leaving the Blades, before returning to his home country with Estudiantes.

After retiring and moving into management, Sabella would later win the Copa Libertadores with them in 2009.

Like Maradona, he also managed the national team – although with greater success.

Sabella took charge of Argentina in 2011. He led them to the final of the 2014 World Cup, where they were beaten by Germany.

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