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)

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...


£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice