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Rams boss Jim Smith
"He's a great player and a boost for the club"
 real 14k

Wednesday, 18 July, 2001, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Will the White Feather deliver?
Fabrizio Ravanelli
At Lazio, Ravanelli was mainly on the bench
By BBC Sport Online's Andrew Warshaw

He's known as the White Feather and the Bald Eagle is tickled pink to have landed him.

Yet of the gambles taken by Premiership clubs during the summer, few appear as risky as Jim Smith's signing of the enigmatic Fabrizio Ravanelli for Derby County.

Electrifying one day, infuriating the next. A revelation when he's in the mood, a liability when he isn't.

Few foreign players have carried more baggage around than the former Middlesbrough striker who scored a hat-trick on his debut in English football but has a passion for sampling the delights of life off the pitch.

Catch a glimpse of Ravanelli in public and more than likely he will be wearing dark glasses, surrounded by a Mafia-type entourage.

This is the mystique that surrounds the White Feather, whose career has taken him from superstar to superflop, and back again several times over.

A player with a flamboyant image but who has never managed to settle at any of his eight clubs.

The big question now, of course, is which Ravanelli will turn up at Pride Park?

Jim Smith
Jim Smith has taken a massive gamble
Smith has never been afraid to pay big wages to foreign players despite Derby's perennial battle to stay in the Premiership.

Now he has another but is convinced he has got the right man.

"He seems genuinely enthusiastic at the prospect of returning to the Premiership," said Smith after taking Ravanelli from Lazio.

He wants big money but we've got him on a free transfer and we'll settle for that
  Jim Smith
"He wants big money but he's a big player and we've got him on a free transfer and we'll settle for that."

It's the classic Bosman buy but Derby cannot afford, after a traumatic time last season, to have invested in yet another half-interested import.

In 14 eventful months at Middlesbrough, who splashed out 7m for his services, Ravanelli scored 17 goals in 35 games.

An impressive return but at the time he was 28 and peaking and even then he criticised Boro's training methods.

It could be, of course, that an older and wiser Ravanelli will prove the model professional. He certainly has the status and the talent to be one of next season's shrewdest purchases.

While at Juventus, where he won most of his 22 caps for Italy, the silver-haired frontman scored 41 goals in 108 appearances.

But whenever the going gets tough, Ravanelli tends to get going.

When Middlebrough went down, he departed for Marseille. When the famous French club were in decline, he returned home to Lazio, only to spend most of his time on the bench.

Now he is back, reputedly on 40,000 a week, to strut his stuff at Pride Park. The trademark shirt will inevitably be pulled over his head every time he finds the back of the net.

Yet this is the player who once insisted that Boro would be the only English team ever to tempt him back to the Premiership.

Jim Smith can only hope he shows Derby sufficient commitment to justify his salary.

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