Francis is best-remembered for his stints at Birmingham City, Nottingham Forest, and Manchester City, becoming renowned as one of the greatest footballers of his generation. The glittering career of Trevor Francis reached its zenith on 30 May 1979, when he scored the winning goal in the European Cup final, gifting Forest their first continental trophy.
He’d miss the 1980 final due to injury, but he still played a role in Brian Clough’s men winning consecutive European Cups and the 1979 European Super Cup. To achieve those feats with a club like Forest seems impossible nowadays, but Francis embodied everything that was magical about 20th-century football.
A tenacious, hardworking player from the humblest of backgrounds, Francis relied as much on hard work as he did his natural talents. Stints at Sampdoria and Atalanta followed, but the legend was never able to reach the heights he did under Brian Clough and he retired in 1994 at Sheffield Wednesday after a player-manager stint at QPR.
The £1 million fee for Trevor Francis was considered huge money for the time and the amount attracted nationwide headlines, with many commenting that the fee was proof football had officially gone mad. Today, £1 million for a player who’d score the winning goal in the Champions League final would be considered the ultimate rags-to-riches story and be among one of the greatest bargains of all-time.
The death of Francis made me reflect on the state of modern football and, honestly, the reflection made me feel incredibly jaded. Here we are in 2023 and we’re hearing that Saudi Arabia are willing to pay Kylian Mbappe £13 million a week to play in their tacky league for just one season.
Such a salary is absolutely insane and may very well spell the end of the fabled European game as no club, not even PSG or Man City, can hope to match it. To make the saga even more ridiculous, consider that Mbappe is already on a £1m-per-week deal at PSG and isn’t exactly in dire financial straits. If we went back in time and spoke to old-school football fans about Mbappe’s proposed deal, then they would laugh us out of the building. For them, a £1 million football was unbelievable enough.
If Kylian Mbappe has any substance to him whatsoever, then he’ll reject the Saudi deal and either move to Real Madrid or see out the final year of his contract in Paris. How fitting it is that during the same week that we lost a footballing legend in Trevor Francis, we’ll also have to eulogise the death of the beautiful game as a whole. The sport is quickly becoming Saudi Arabia’s cash cow, and players like Trevor Francis are quickly being driven to extinction.
A sad day for football as we update our obituaries with yet another massive legend of the game, but again important to salute and report on the great men of the past, RIP Trevor Francis.