Delio Onnis, the Fox novel / In partnership with Amazon Prime Video /

Delio Onnis
Reims (1971-1973), Monaco (1973-1980), Tours (1980-1983), Toulon (1983-1986)

First, a strangeness: the top scorer in the history of the French championship has scored only one and only goal in the Cup of champion clubs. As if his most illustrious trigger embodied the banality of a hexagonal elite condemned to the ordinary on the continental scene. Two years after the C1 final that Saint-Étienne lost to Bayern Munich, the green fever has subsided, leaving football France to its daily grind. In 1978, the Division 1 deployed its usual weekly charm. A well-regulated ballet of players who are often moustachioed, often hairy, but rarely too tall or too square, at a time when professional football is not yet pushing for the optimization and standardization of bodies and silhouettes. Delio Onnis is not particularly aerial. Nor fast. Not even a good dribbler. We will not have seen the one who then plays for AS Monaco score many goals outside the penalty area. At first glance, Delio Onnis is just an ordinary striker in an ordinary league. At the end of the 1977-1978 exercise, the Italo-Argentinian’s stats sheet nevertheless defied common sense: with 29 pawns in 35 games, he was the major architect of a team that won its first title. of D1, since 1963. Yes, him, Delio Onnis. This guy so normal, so well brought up, yet capable of unbalancing the overly Cartesian equation of a match. To invent a singularity. To strum with your toes this delicious sound of trembling nets, and supporters who howl together.

Fantastic Mister Fox

So why him? How can you plant 299 banderillas in Division 1 between 1971 and 1986, without ever giving the impression of being the receptacle of the extraordinary, the superhuman, as Zlatan Ibrahimović or Kylian Mbappé will be able to do so well later? Delio Onnis does not evoke the supernatural of these players. Rather the Fantastic, in the literary sense of the term. In the 19the century, Nicolas Gogol, Edgar Allan Poe, then Guy de Maupassant gave this novelistic genre its letters of nobility, characterized by a master concept: the unexpected intrusion of the supernatural, within the framework of a story with realistic contours. Like a goal from Delio Onnis in short. On the meadow, the guillotineer of AS Monaco is very often of a distressing banality. Until a good ball comes to him within 16 yards. There, the space of a handful of seconds, the number 9 is transfigured. He saw what others failed to see. Understood what they could not grasp. Anticipated what they failed to imagine. The story is already written: the Fox has hooked its prey, to return to its burrow. The next time he comes out, it will be to score. Once again.

Delio Onnis, however, has no mustache or red coat. Only one equation in the mouth, to explain his gift: “First, there is instinct and success, which accounts for 50% of achieving a goal. Then there’s 30% you owe to the buddies who helped you score. Then, 20% of skill due to the profession. It’s quite simple! » Ok, but if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. So what else? No doubt a vision of football that the main interested party describes himself as confined to the penalty area. Born in 1948 in the Roman countryside – from a Sardinian father and a mamma local – little Delio moves to Argentina with his family, to kick his first balls: “I started as a goalkeeper, then when I was around 12, I moved up to it, with the number 11 on my back. It was after that I became a centre-forward. But, anyway, I wanted to be either a goalkeeper or a centre-forward. Because it is from them that the two great feelings of football come: saving the goal, or scoring it. » Naturalized Argentinian, he started at 18 in national D2 under the colors of Almagro, a small club in Buenos Aires. Before discovering the elite with the Club de Gimnasia La Plata, where he shot at everything for five seasons. 98 games and 54 goals later, Onnis flew to France in 1971, when a recruiter from the Reims stadium spotted him, then convinced him to join the Champagne club. “I was 23 years old and leaving Argentina, leaving my mother, was the greatest pain of my life. »

1978, erotic year

However, the goupil quickly dries his tears. His 45 goals in two seasons in all competitions convinced AS Monaco to enlist him in their ranks. On the Rock, the exterminating angel can spread its vulture wings like never before. Top scorer in D1 then runner-up to Carlos Bianchi – his doppelganger Argentinian – in 1975 then 1976, he then put his nose in D2, while ASM was relegated for a season to the lower level. To ensure their return to the top flight, the Asemists must beat their uphill competitor, Gueugnon, on the final day of the championship. “This match was a disaster, impossible to play with the pouring rain, the mud up to the ankles… rembobine Onnis. at 90e or 91e minute, there’s a ball there, which doesn’t know where to go, to the right, to the left, it hit one, it hit the other… It comes back to me and bim, I put a pointed, and it goes inside. » A coincidence for no one, of course.

Reinforced by the arrivals of Rolland Courbis and Bernard Gardon behind, the Red and Whites started the 1977-1978 season at full speed. Delio Onnis then assures everyone: he had a dream, which he thinks premonitory. “I dreamed that we were going to win the first five league games… And that’s what we did! It wasn’t a lie, I had really dreamed it. We had a big schedule, especially for a rising club, there were no small matches. Going to win at Bastia was a feat. Afterwards, Reims, Bordeaux… And to be champions, we also win the last five games of the season! » To everyone’s surprise, the promoted Monegasque swapped his princely crown for that of King of France. Onnis, he finished second best trigger in the championship. Rather than boasting about his stats, the sublime scavenger prefers to emphasize the perfect symbiosis that now governs his relationships with his partners: “The person who knew me the most was Christian Dalger. He was giving me passes and millimeter centers! Albert Emon also helped me a lot… There was also Omar Pastoriza, another Argentine player, more than extraordinary… I will always thank those who helped me score my goals. It’s not political, I really mean it. » More than four decades later, Dalger – Onnis’ favorite caviar purveyor in the Principality – still cannot explain what really happened between him and the Argentinian goupil: “I lived a normal life, like most D1 players at the time. Before, we didn’t talk about Dalger, because I didn’t have Onnis. But then, something really extraordinary happened to me: this connection that was created between Delio and me. Our complicity was almost innate. It’s something that I can’t explain to myself, it will always remain impossible to analyze, a bit mysterious. We were just two wanderers on a football field, and it worked. »

Numbers and a legend

Once again top scorer in D1 in 1980, the 32-year-old Argentinian left the Rock, following a disagreement with his management. It is in Tours, then Toulon, that he will continue to investigate the pawns with metronomic regularity, finishing two more times at the top of the charts of scorers in France, in 1982, then 1984. Gargantuan, his numbers grow, unlike his melon, inversely proportional to his accomplishments. “He was very simple at the FCTrewinds Jean-Marc Furlan, team member of Onnis in Tours. I was a simple player and he was a star. It made no difference. A lovely guy. I remember the barbecues we used to have together. He invited a lot of players… I went to pick him up by car at his place, because he didn’t have a permit. He also came to the stadium by bike. » The Executioner – as the aura nicknamed France Football – will not retire from sport until 1986, at the age of 38. Almost everyone then said more or less the same thing about him. Rolland Courbis, who secured his back in Monaco, talks about a player “who always knew everything before everyone else. He was anticipating actions. . Antoine Dossevi, with whom he was associated in front of Tours, remembers that his team “Running for Delio, because we knew that at one time or another, he was going to score. We held on thanks to our collective and above all thanks to him. He guessed where we were going to put the ball for him and he smelled all my good shots. » At the time of retiring forever from the field, the Italo-Argentinian totals 299 goals scored in Division 1. No one will have done better in the entire history of the championship. Not more people will have captured the logic of his gift, this unfathomable and irresistible mechanism of body and mind, which belongs only to the great lords of penalty areas. The Master Fox can retire to his sacred grove, his eyes still sparkling with the mischief of his early years. His mystery is safe. His legend too.

Papin: “I’m more proud to have played in D1 than at AC Milan”