In a storyline that could be put straight, slapbang in the Netflix series ‘Narcos’, football has revealed a new unwanted connection with the dark, murky world that Pablo Escobar inhabited.
Faustino Asprilla was the first Colombian player to ply his trade in the Premier League, joining a Kevin Keegan-managed Newcastle United in 1995, having been named the sixth best footballer in the world three years earlier whilst at Serie A side Parma.
He was part of the side that capitulated to hand Manchester United the title, having previously opened up a mammoth 12-point gap.
There are many stories one can cite about the forward, including his debut for the Magpies against Middlesborough in which he arrived on the pitch having downed a glass of wine, or when he fired a machine gun at security men.
Asprilla has now produced a fascinating tale of his own, divulging that he dissuaded a cartel hitman from assassinating a fellow player.
Asprilla went to two World Cups with the Colombia national team. In 1994 at the tournament in the U.S.A, The Coffee Growers finished bottom of their group, behind Romania, Switzerland, and the hosts, and swiftly returned home.
Less than a fortnight later, Asprilla’s compatriot and teammate Andres Escobar, a defender, was gunned down in Medellin for scoring a detrimental own goal which assisted Colombia’s early exit.
When Asprilla talks about a threat, it is no doubt very true, and very real.
In 1997, while on international duty against Paraguay, Asprilla became involved in an on-field altercation with opposition goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert, with both players subsequently being sent off. Paraguay won the game 2-1.
In an interview for an upcoming documentary, the 50-year-old recalls the time when Julio Fierro - described by Colombia’s attorney general’s office as a drug trafficker - reached out and offered to kill Chilavert, during a meeting in Paraguay capital Asuncion.
“When I arrived, he was with about 10 other people, all drunk and partying with pure Paraguayan women,” Asprilla told television channel TelePacifico.
“He said to me, ‘We need you to give us authorisation so these two men can stay here in Paraguay and kill that fatty Chilavert.’
“I said, ‘What? Are you mad? You’re going to finish off Colombian football, that can’t happen. What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch.’ The hitmen insisted saying 'just give us the order'."
The tragic murder of Andres Escobar stained Colombian football and Colombia. The scariest element, as Asprilla has inadvertently informed, is that the possibility was very real for other footballers to have had the same fate.
Asprilla remains for many a fondly remembered player during the early baptism years of the Premier League era, despite only displaying the flicker of talent from the flame of ability he demonstrated in English pastures with the black and white.
He returned to Parma in 1998, retired from international football in 2001, and hung up his boots permanently in 2009.