Why Portsmouth hero Robert Prosinecki had Harry Redknapp and Peter Crouch gushing live on the BBC - and what Milan Mandaric initially said about Crouchy's Blues arrival
It’s 20 years this summer since former Barcelona and Real Madrid superstar Robert Prosinecki arrived at Pompey.
But it seems the cultured Croat’s mouthwatering move to Fratton Park for the 2001-02 season is one that Harry Redknapp and Peter Crouch still can’t get their heads around.
That’s if Friday night’s Crouchy’s Year-late Euros: Live show on the BBC is anything to go by.
Both the former Blues boss and striker were happy to reminisce about Prosinecki’s one and only season at PO4 – a term that saw the World Cup star establish himself in Fratton folklore.
But why? – you might ask!
Well, simply because Crouch asked studio guest Redknapp for his thoughts on England’s chances of qualifying for the knockout stages of the the ongoing European Championships, of course!
Pompey’s 2008 FA Cup-winning boss initially responded by claiming Croatia, who the Three Lions beat in their opening group game, were now a shadow of their former selves.
And that clearly triggered happy memories of arguably Croatia’s most gifted player of all time – a player he brought to then Division One Pompey.
Redknapp said: ‘Yeah, we’ll qualify, Pete, no problem. I mean, four points is enough to qualify.
‘But I think everyone got carried away (at) the weekend.
‘We beat Croatia (but) Croatia were poor, very poor side.
‘They’ve had great teams over the past 25 years or so – you played with one of the greatest players from Croatia, the best I’ve probably ever seen – Robert Prosinecki. What was he like?’
In response, a grinning Crouch replied: ‘What a player – I’ve never seen anyone smoke 40, 60 red Marlboros a day and then he’d go out and smoke at half-time!’, before Redknapp joked: ‘He’d have a fag during the game, he’d be standing on the wing having a fag and then get the ball and just beat about four players and put it on Peter’s head.’
The former England striker then added: ‘He was an absolute genius, made me look good.
‘I was just like a head on a stick that season. I’d just hang around the back post and he’d just float them over. I got about 19-20 goals.’
Crouch arrived on the south coast in the same summer as Prosinecki – and, just like the Croat, proved a huge success that season.
So much so that Aston Villa paid Pompey £5m for the then 21-year-old before the campaign had even finished.
Redknapp jokingly revealed that then Blues owner Milan Mandaric didn’t want his manager to bring the 6ft 7in forward to Fratton Park – the first of two spells at the club.
Yet, it was the Serb-American who was apparently claiming all the credit when Pompey made a £4m profit upon Crouch’s departure to Villa.
‘When I signed you (in 2001), this is a true story, Milan Mandaric, the chairman at Portsmouth... I said to him I want to sign a boy called Peter Crouch from QPR, Redknapp jested.
‘He said to me: “I have seen him play, he is the worst footballer I have ever seen. You think I’m paying £1m for a basketball player? You are crazy!”
‘He said: “On your head. If you sign him and he’s no good, you’ve had it".
‘I went: “Okay, but I’m telling you he’s good”.
‘After one season, we sold him at the end of the year for £5m and Milan Mandaric said to me “I always said he was a great player!”.
The Pompey theme continued when Crouch asked Redknapp, who guided Pompey to their highest-ever Premier League finish in 2008, where was his favourite time as a manager?
In response, the 74-year-old said: ‘I loved it at Portsmouth, Pete, you know, had a great time there, the fans were amazing.’