First of all, get well soon Wynton.
It’s inarguable that the most talented and decorated All White ever produced is Wynton Alan Whai Rufer, CNZM. Terry Maddaford’s explanation from nearly twenty years ago explains it perfectly, Rufer – Simply the best we’ve ever had. Since then we’ve had the joys of seeing the All Whites reach a second World Cup, Chris Wood and Winston Reid make it in the English Premier League and the growing Kiwi presence in the Netherlands’ Eredivisie and the U.S MLS. But Rufer rises above them all.
New Zealand never really saw Rufer at his best. The youngster who helped drive the ’82 side to the World Cup was promising, but far from the finished article. His best years, without doubt, were spent at Werder Bremen where he is still held in the highest regard for his contribution to a run of Bundesliga titles, DFB Cups and their only European success in the 1992 UEFA Cup.
Here he is making a mockery of a young Oliver Kahn – sporting the perfect German haircut.
And here in the 1989/1990 UEFA Cup, helping Werder on their way past Diego Maradona’s Napoli – this is one of two goals he scored across both legs. Phwoar.
He remains the only Kiwi to have scored in a European cup final, putting the icing on the 2 – 0 Cup Winners Cup victory over a Monaco team featuring Emmanuel Petit, Youri Djorkaeff, Lilian Thuram and managed by a promising young Arsene Wenger.
He was joint top scorer in the 1993/94 Champions League, sharing that honour with Ronald Koeman of Barcelona. Looking down the list of scorers that season puts Wynton Rufer in some extremely talented company.
Arrigo Saachi’s A.C Milan won the competition that season, but were held to a draw in Germany with Rufer scoring a nerveless penalty to take the lead before Dejan Savicevic equalised in the last fifteen minutes.
After an equally fruitful time in the J League and a brief return to Germany to take F.C Kaiserslautern into the Bundesliga, Wynton return to NZ to win the Chatham Cup with Central before being appointed the player/coach of New Zealand’s first professional football team – the Auckland Kingz.
Both demonstrate that even in his late thirties, Rufer still had the qualities which saw him stand out amongst the worlds best in Europe.
F.C Zurich’s refusal to release him in the 80’s meant he collected just 23 caps, but scored 12 goals in that time. It also means that his greatest escapades, his peak period, is something that New Zealand should value dearly but often feels distanced when considering his legacy as our greatest player.
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