Dundee legend Jim Duffy has revealed infamous former Dark Blues director Giovanni Di Stefano’s madcap plans to bring Paul Gascoigne and Edgar Davids to Dens Park.
The Anglo-Italian had links to Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, Robert Mugabe and Slobodan Milosevic before arriving at Dundee and has since been convicted of deception, fraud and money laundering.
But he was determined to entice a “celebrity signing” to Dens Park and some of the biggest names in 2003 were targeted by Dundee during Duffy’s second spell in charge, including Gascoigne, James McFadden, Atletico Madrid’s Dani, Peter Crouch, Deportivo’s Djalminha and Georgi Kinkladze as well as Juventus star Davids.
In fact, Gazza even came to meet the Dark Blues boss and had enquired about houses in the area near some good fishing spots.
Speaking to the Football Daft podcast, Duffy told the story: “What happened was, we had a director at the time, Giovanni Di Stefano… he wanted a celebrity signing.
“He kept at me, so we tried to get Gazza, so I arranged to meet Gazza.
“He missed the opportunity, he came up on the train one day… and it didn’t work out.
“Then there was a couple of other players. He then said to me that he’d agreed to get Edgar Davids, the Dutch international.
“He said to me: ‘We’ve got it all agreed – all you have to do is go to Turin and convince him to come to Dundee.’
“I was laughing: ‘Edgar Davids to Dundee? He’s on £90,000-a-week. He’s got a penthouse apartment outside of Turin. You’re wanting him to come and play against Brechin in the Forfarshire Cup? With a beautiful big hedge in the background? That’ll really entice him.’
“So anyway, that fell through.”
Shortly afterwards, Davids signed for Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona on loan.
Duffy, though, wasn’t done and managed to fulfil Di Stefano’s wish of a big-name by bringing European Cup winner Fabrizio Ravanelli to the club thanks to a friend in common in Gianluca Vialli.
“It just so happened he said something about Ravanelli, and I was quite friendly with Luca Vialli, who I’d been with at Chelsea. Ravanelli and Luca were pals,” Duffy added.
“So I ended up contacting Luca and we managed to get a hold of Ravanelli and he agreed to come.
“When he came in it was a bit surreal. There was just something about him… he could have been a Mafia hitman, the way he looked.”
The former Juventus, Marseille and Lazio star turned out just six times for the Dark Blues, memorably scoring a hat-trick against Clyde in the League Cup, before he was released with a number of the club’s top earners as administration hit.
Di Stefano lasted a little longer, failing the Scottish Football Association’s ‘fit and proper persons’ test for directors thanks to convictions for fraud and resigning from his post in January 2004.
In March 2013, he was sentenced to 14 years in imprisonment after pleading or being found guilty of 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2001 and 2011.
While at Dens, though, there were a number of other radical ideas up the sleeve of the Anglo-Italian.
Duffy added: “He (Di Stefano) wanted the fans to pick the team.
“What he wanted to do was to have a phone in, a bit like a competition on the TV, like a reality show – before reality shows really were popular.
“But there was a charge. So you pay £2, you phone in, you say I want so-and-so playing.
“So you pick your team… but he’d be charging the fans £2 a call or whatever it happens to be.”
For Duffy, that wasn’t the end of working for controversial owners and hare-brained ideas.
After being sacked by Dundee in 2004, Duffy’s next role saw him take on a short-lived job as director of football at Hearts under Vladimir Romanov.
Duffy continued: “I mean, Romanov, when I was at Hearts, wanted the team to wear a green away strip.
“And we’re saying: ‘You can’t wear green, that’s Hibs.’
“He wanted green. He had drawings, and all the designs made up, honestly, it was like a Hibs strip.
“We’re all like: ‘You cannae do that.”