Newcastle Hero Faustino Asprilla Relives Iconic Hat-trick Against Barcelona on 20-Year Anniversary
To many Newcastle United fans, the Champions League is simply a fantasy world of footballing riches, currently as distant from the Toon as any love for bitter rivals Sunderland. Yet, try telling that to ex-Magpies legend Faustino Asprilla.
The former Colombia striker enjoyed an explosive two-year spell at St.James' Park, after joining the club from Parma for £6.7m in 1996, and led one of Newcastle's most famous nights at home to Barcelona in 1997.
Sunday will mark the 20th anniversary of Newcastle's 3-2 victory over Barcelona, in a match where Asprilla scored an inspired hat-trick.
In an interview with the Daily Mail, Asprilla recounted his famous night.
"Against Barcelona, I didn't expect to play. When he named me in the team, I was surprised. But it was one of the biggest games in the club's history — the first in the Champions League," he recalled.
The Colombian's first goal came from the penalty spot after he was brought down by Barca goalkeeper Ruud Hesp: "A dive? No, I beat him to the ball, I was too quick. I remember Pierluigi Collina [the referee] made me move the ball before I took the penalty, but I was never going to miss."
"The second and third [goals] were very similar. Both times Keith Gillespie beat Sergi, one of the best full-backs in the world. But he was too fast, at top speed he was unstoppable. Two crosses, two goals, both headers."
"Barcelona got two goals late on but nothing was going to spoil it... Tino three Barcelona two! It was amazing, one of the best nights of my career."
Asprilla's hat-trick was his finest moment in the black and white of Newcastle and is unlikely to ever be forgotten by the St.James' Park faithful.
'My father was there and the fans were saying to him, "Thank you, thank you. You have brought us a present from God to Newcastle".'
A mercurial talent, Asprilla only spent one more year at Newcastle, before being sold back to Parma for £6m in 1998.