Melted hi-fis, empty bottles, lots of women and more than £30,000 in damages. The life of the Colombian footballer in the Toon was not only on the pitch.
The rollercoaster was in full swing and glory, so close the fans could taste it when Faustino Hernán Asprilla arrived in Newcastle like an Eskimo in the icy winter of 1996.
Tino pulled on the black and white shirt after a shocking £7.5m transfer from Parma – the most expensive in United´s history– when the Magpies were 11 points clear of Manchester United in the 1995/1996 Premier League.
More than 50,000 ticket holders, that attended every match at St James´Park, were in rapture after 11 consecutive victories for the team commanded by Kevin Keegan and lead by stars Peter Beardsley, Keith Gillespie, David Ginola and John Beresford.
Tino was to be the super-signing that brought the title to Tyneside. But two months after the Colombian striker touched down in the North East at the age of 26, like a horrible curse, Manchester United were at the top of the table, 6 points clear of the Magpies.
The rest of the story is something that would make NUFC and its fans bang their heads against the wall every time they remember. The Red Devils were the 1995/1996 champions of the Premier League.
Many journalists blamed Tino for the disaster that took the sheen off the golden age of Newcastle United. Some questioned his rebel behaviour, party lifestyle, and even the transfer of the polemic player.
However, Nick Emerson, his right-hand man in the Toon, who acted as Tino’s interpreter twenty-four seven – the same man that translated the tactics for him in training, shopped with him, and ordered his meals—has said so many times that this was not true.
“Some journalists thought it was unnecessary to sign Tino, but most people know that Newcastle United didn´t believe that,” Nick said. “He was a wonderful player to the squad.”
Nick — called ‘The happy man’ by both Tino and his father Diego Asprilla— is, perhaps, the person that knew Asprilla the most while he was in the North East.
He drank with Tino and participated in crazy parties at his house in Woolington, near Newcastle, full of ‘aguardiente’ – the famous Colombian alcoholic drink – as well as women and chaos.
“I remember that his hi-fi melted in a huge party at his house after the season finished,” he said. “It was crazy.”
Tino invited lots of Geordie girls, his teammates, and friends from Colombia to his house after partying hard in Julie´s bar, the famous nightclub in Newcastle on the Quayside.
His teammate, Northern Irish midfielder Keith Gillespie pretty much remembers when Asprilla, with lots of alcohol in his blood, approached a big group of girls and invited them to keep the party going.
“With the only English he knew at that time, he told them: ‘Do you want to come back to my house? Do you want to party’?” said Keith.
Even Dylan Younger, former Sunday Sun Sports Editor, remembers how far could Tino would go while drinking lots of ‘aguardiente’ and hosting massive blowouts.
“I’ve been told once that there were £30,000 of damages in a party that Tino was attending,” he said.
Faustino Asprilla was a single lad that enjoyed partying hard and hanging out with different types of girls including Latinas, brunettes, and Geordies full of ‘make-up’ – their favourites.
Nick remembers that Tino was extremely confident, relaxed, and quite persistent when he had his eye on a woman.
Nick said: “From time to time a girlfriend from Colombia would fly out and would stay with Tino in Newcastle for a while. They were always strikingly beautiful. He had dalliances with local girls as well.”
The first time that Tino went out in Newcastle with Nick was just a few days after his arrival at the end of February 1996.
It was still cold and Tino, born in the sunny southwest of Colombia, had his famous and bizarre grey fur coat on. They were meeting some players on the Quayside when, down at the bottom of Dean Street, two girls passed and shouted “Tino, Tino!”
Suddenly, one of them lifted up her top and showed her breasts.
“What a sweetheart,” Tino said to Nick after turning around.
Joker, friend, super social, loyal to the people he trusted, and a man with fantastic football skills, these were, according to Nick, the things that gained Tino respect and adoration in Newcastle.
Perhaps –because of his cocktail of talent on the pitch and personality– this is why the vast Toon army love him.
And even more, after he scored a famous hat-trick against Barcelona at St James’ Park in 1997, in what is recalled as one of the biggest games ever in Newcastle United history.
But what many fans never knew was that Tino’s taste for the high life and pretty women almost saw him miss his moment of glory, as he didn’t attend the team meeting called by Kenny Dalgish before the crucial Champions League match.
The United manager was pretty furious and was at the point of dropping him from the team.
Colombian journalist Mauricio Silva lifted the lid on Tino’s whereabouts as teammates and manager were discussing the game plan.
“There are rumours that he was with both a Colombian and an English girl before the match,” Mauricio said.
For those who remember and still adore their flamboyant superstar, it’s a story only Tino could deliver.
*Featured image: ‘Tino’ and Nick Emerson, his interpreter, in 2016. Courtesy Nick Emerson
**Feature for the Press Association