Football: A Croatian ready to meet the might of Milan: Look out for Alen Boksic in this week's European Cup final. Jasper Rees reports

IN THE last fixture of the round-robin stage of the European Cup, PSV Eindhoven came to the San Siro and lost 2-0 to Milan, who had already qualified for the final and could afford to do without these 11 internationals in the starting line-up: Baresi, Rijkaard, Van Basten, Gullit, Papin, Lentini, Albertini, Serena, Eranio, Massaro, Tassotti. Can Bernard Tapie's Marseille, who will also attend the party at the Olympic Stadium in Munich on Wednesday, hope to be anything more than second best in Europe?

Line up the two likely teams man for man and you might as well hand over the trophy to the Italians before kick-off, except that not even Milan, blessed with such a surfeit of talent, know what their best team is. Marseille, meanwhile, have a settled side and, most important, a fearsomely in-form goalscorer who, according to informed opinion, bears comparison with the incomparable Marco van Basten.

Alen Boksic is a Croatian whom two years ago few outside the former Yugoslavia had heard of. He arrived from Hadjuk Split in July 1991 on the recommendation of Marseille's then coach, Tomislav Ivic. 'He was a strong player, very young,' says Trevor Steven, formerly of Marseille, now of Rangers. 'For six months we had him in training and you could see he had tremendous ability. They thought very highly of him but there was a limited number of foreigners who were allowed to play - myself, Waddle and Moser. He was unlucky not to be involved, but he knew that at the time.'

A short loan period to Cannes ran up against contractual difficulties and he ended the season having a hernia operation. But the departure of all three foreigners smoothed his path into the side. 'They had the idea to take advantage of the money they would receive for Papin, and he was seen as the replacement to come in somewhere down the road: he was only there for a year and then got his opportunity.'

Unlike the two prodigiously-talented Yugoslav exiles at Milan, Dejan Savicevic and Zvonomir Boban, Boksic has reaped the fruits of regular selection. The French summer recess being not much longer than the winter one, he started off slowly but hit his stride in the autumn, and in a championship which Marseille look like winning for the fifth successive year he has scored 20 goals. Doubts that he would keel over under the burden of filling Papin's golden boots have been eased by the arrival from Roma of Rudi Voller, with whom he gelled from the start. Any suggestion that he is benefiting from McCoist's Law, which decrees that a competent forward in the best side in a weak league will always end up with a hatful, is belied by his record in the European Cup. In seven games he has scored six times, all in the more demanding round-robin stage: two each against Rangers, Club Bruges, and CSKA Moscow.

'He's definitely got everything at his feet, so to speak, as far as ability's concerned,' says Steven. 'He's about 6ft 1n, great physique, he doesn't carry any weight. He's strong and he has good feet, and quick as well. He probably has everything that you could wish for. The only thing you could say he might be weak on would be his heading ability, but I think they'll probably work on that. He's very similar to Van Basten. Whether he'll pick up the deftness that Van Basten has remains to be seen: that's something that's gathered over the years. I would imagine he'll go to Italy before too long, and if he keeps it going the same way he'll do very well. I could envisage him going all the way to great things.'

In the meantime there is Wednesday's encounter with Papin's new club. As a Croatian who went as a squad player to the 1990 World Cup, this is as high a pinnacle as Boksic can expect to climb for the forseeable future. Will he be up to it?

'I think he could cause problems for anybody and Milan are as good a team as you're going to find,' Steven says. 'He'll find it difficult with Baresi controlling the back four but if he can break them down he can break anybody down. He's got the pace and the ability: I would be surprised if he's not a major influence on the game.'

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Life and Style
Audrey Hepburn with Hubert De Givenchy, whose well-cut black tuxedo is a 'timeless look'
fashionIt may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
George Osborne became Chancellor in 2010
peopleChancellor accused of reneging on pre-election promise
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern