Serie A Transfer Market Stories: David Platt, an Englishman in Bari

When David Platt and Bari joined forces in 1991, the relationship appeared unusual on paper. But the transfer was born from many influential moments that aligned ahead of the 1991/92 Serie A campaign that ensured Bari could secure the services of one of England’s most promising talents.

Platt was an all-action midfielder who rose to stardom on either side of the Italia ‘90 World Cup. In addition, Platt raised his profile with a stunning volley in the last 16 during the World Cup in a decisive win over Belgium. The budding English star then forced his way into Bobby Robson’s starting XI and soon became a household name for the Three Lions.

Meanwhile, Bari was a Serie A club looking to establish itself in Italy’s top flight. However, the Galletti was far from a prominent side in the league. During the mid to late 1980s, Bari was a yo-yo club, bouncing up and down between Serie A and Serie B. 

Unhappy with their constantly changing position, Bari changed their approach to remain in Serie A. Before 1991/92, the club moved to the San Nicola Stadium after Italia 90. It also had fresh investment from the multi-millionaire owner, Vincenzo Matarrese.

As a result, Platt arrived in Southern Italy as a symbol of Bari’s hopeful new future to challenge Italy’s footballing elite. 

The Galletti Swoop Upon Villa’s Decline

Following three seasons of success with Aston Villa and England between 1989 and 1991, Platt was a coveted name in European football. In this period, the midfielder won the PFA Player of the Year award in the 1989/90 season. He also helped Villa to finish second in English Division One. 

After displaying his talents on the international stage at Italia 90, Platt returned to Villa for the 1990/91 campaign. But, he was a bright spark in an otherwise disappointing year for the Villans. Platt scored 19 goals and couldn’t prevent Villa’s slip to a 17th-place finish as the club narrowly avoided relegation.

Villa’s drop-off led Platt to consider new opportunities ahead of the 1991/92 season. Italy appeared the most likely destination as Sampdoria and Bari kept tabs on Platt’s status. Ultimately, the two battled out for the Englishman’s signature. 

Eventually, Bari had to pay a record for an English player at the time, equivalent to 5.5 million Euros. In addition, the Galletti used their unusual link with Villa to get the transfer over the line. Two former Villans joined the club in 1985/86, Gordon Cowans and Paul Rideout, and the alliance played some part in finalizing Platt’s move to Southern Italy.

A Star Man: Platt and Bari in Serie A

With the Platt and Bari deal done, the Galletti welcomed their star player with open arms. The Englishman was immediately given the number 10 shirt and handed the captain’s armband. Fans greeted Platt on his arrival in the city. Thousands also came to cheer him on at pre-season training sessions and friendly matches.

Expectations were high for Platt and Bari ahead of the 1991/92 season. The Galletti entered their third successive season as a top-flight club. Now, they were desperate to build on 10th and 13th place finishes in the previous two campaigns. 

Platt was one of just four foreign signings to join the squad during pre-season. Bari also brought Croatian duo Zvonimir Boban, Robert Jarni, and Australian Frank Farina. As a result, the club had the most foreign players in Serie A for the 1991/92 season.

Unfortunately, the campaign started in disaster. Bari failed to win any of their 14 opening matches and had just five points by January 1992. 

Despite the team’s struggles, Platt continued to perform at a consistently high level. The new Galletti captain struck on his debut, a 1-1 home draw against Torino. He also produced some stunning moments in a more promising second half of the season. Most notably, a brace against giants Roma at the San Nicola provided some moments of relief in a challenging time. 

Overall, Platt finished the season as Bari’s top scorer, striking 11 of the team’s 29 goals of the campaign. However, the Galletti’s poor start to the season couldn’t prevent a relegation back to Serie B. The club also had to sell Platt as the player’s contract allowed him to move to a bigger Italian side, should they come knocking. 

Platt and Bari: The Formation of an Englishman’s Love with Serie A

Platt’s demonstrable ability to perform in Serie A caught the eye of other Italian clubs, who jumped at the opportunity to sign the midfielder after Bari’s relegation. 

The energetic midfielder’s work rate, technical class, and proven knack for scoring goals were clearly well-suited for the then-defensive Italian league.

Inevitably, the English player moved to Juventus for an estimated 6.5 million Euros in the summer window of 1992. Although, he struggled for game time and couldn’t demonstrate the same consistency he showed at Bari and left Turin after just one season.

Yet, seemingly eager to prove himself in Serie A, Platt remained in Italy and signed for Sampdoria in 1993. Here, Platt was more settled and won the Coppa Italia and scored 17 goals across two seasons before finishing his career with Arsenal in the Premier League.

It was clear that Platt and Bari’s short-lived stint sparked a rare love interest from an English player in Italian football. Only a few English players moved to Serie A before Platt, including Paul Gascoigne and Trevor Francis. 

However, Platt’s willingness to embrace the culture, learn fluent Italian and support his teams off the field even when injured or suspended endeared Bari fans towards the midfielder. 

This determination to fit in led to Platt leaving a legacy at Bari, despite his departure to Juventus in 1992. Months before Platt left, Bari president Matarrese praised Platt and said: “David Platt has possibly been the only English footballer who has come to Italy and settled down as quickly as he’s done. It demonstrates that Platt is not only a great player in Italy, but also one of the best in Europe.”