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Sheffield United fans pay tribute to former Blade Alejandro Sabella, who's died aged 66

Sheffield United have paid tribute to former player Alejandro Sabella, who has died at the age of 66.

It comes just a few weeks after the death of fellow Argentine Diego Maradona, with both men also managing their national team.

It was after the Blades missed out on signing Maradona in 1978 that Sabella made the move to Bramall Lane instead.

He arrived at United in a £160,000 deal (Guardian) from River Plate in his home country and went on to play 78 times for the club.

During that time Sabella became a fans’ favourite and is still fondly remembered by those fans who saw him play.

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Sabella – The Sheffield United story

The story of how the Blades almost signed Maradona is now legendary. But the actual tale of the Argentine who actually came to South Yorkshire is just as romantic.

At a time when foreign players were few and far between in English football, Sabella brought some South American magic to a club regarded as unfashionable at the time.

I was an era when kicking opponents was basically allowed. Yet he captured the imagination of The Kop with his quick feet and skills.

Tony Kenworthy was United captain when Sabella arrived.

“He played the game how it should be played,” Kenworthy told Yorkshire Live.

“He was an exciting player to play with. He’d a unique style and it broadened our horizons playing with such talent.

“When you knew him he was fun, he had a joke in him, he had a glint in his eye, he was mischievous.

“When he first came to the club I was assigned to look after him and it was such an easy job because he was such a nice guy, do anything for you. He learnt enough of the lingo to hold a conversation.

“I used to take him shopping. He was open to everything and he took to our culture very quickly and joined in with everything we were doing. He was such a nice guy.”

Life after Bramall Lane

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Sabella remained in England, moving onto Leeds United as the Blades more than doubled their money in a £400,000 deal.

He played 23 times for Leeds, before returning to Argentina and Estudiantes – a side he later led to the Copa Libertadores in 2009 as manager.

Sabella was also boss of his national team between 2011 and 2014, guiding them to the final of the World Cup – where they lost to Germany – before leaving.

Known as ‘Alex’ in South Yorkshire, he will always be remembered for his performances in red and white.

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