You wake up early and open the cards that arrive in the post. Perhaps you enjoy a special meal, then score four goals in the UEFA Champions League, it’s your birthday! 13 years ago, AS Monaco striker Dado Pršo was handed the perfect present when, almost from nowhere, the Croatian fired four past Deportivo La Coruna in their stunning 8-3 victory.
It was a night like no other, with the unfancied forward at the heart of the win. The Spanish side had won the previous game 1-0 and would have been hoping to win a vital three points at the Stade Louis II. The Monegasque side had already beaten AEK Athens and PSV Eindhoven earlier in the competition and were hoping to take control of the group.
Jérôme Rothen and Ludovic Giuly handed ASM the perfect start, firing the home side 2-0 up after 11 minutes. No one expected what was going to happen next. Pršo had been struggling, going into his fifth full season in the principality, he had found form the year before, scoring 12 time in just 20 games. That eclipsed the eight strikes he had managed in 52 games, However, that season, after missing five of the first seven league fixtures, he had just two goals to his name going into the game with Deportivo.
His first was classic Pršo, the centre-forward heading in Rothen’s wicked in-swinging corner, Monaco were 3-0 up and cruising. You could see the delight on his face, the pleasure of scoring a goal on your birthday. That was just the first candle he would blow out. The second came from poor defending, Gaël Givet heading the ball back across the goal, with the Croatian there to head in at the back post. Typical big man play, the Spanish defenders were struggling to cope with his physicality.
“Only when Monaco picked me up did football become serious for me again. Life changed, but even when I was alone and trying to find myself in France I always believed in my ability.”
He would later move to Rangers in Scotland, where he explained, via The Herald, that he’s not just a big burly forward, “I can fight with defenders physically, but I also like to play football when the ball is on the ground. Here I've had to adapt because you do not get the time to take the touches you can in France.”
Deportivo would pull two back through Diego Tristan and Lionel Scaloni, but their comeback would be cut short as Pršo completed his hat-trick just before the half-time break. Giuly was played through on goal, his pace sent him clear, but looking like he was about to fall over, he touch the ball into the Croatian’s path and he added the calm finish. There was almost a look of disbelief in his face. Not just that he’d scored a Champions League treble, but he’d managed it on his birthday.
Jaroslav Plasil made it 6-2 quickly after the break and two minutes later Pršo grabbed his fourth. Rothen slipped the ball through from the left, the big man took a touch before blasting high past José Francisco Molina. That performance helped the forward have a fairly good season, another seven league goals followed, including a double against RC Strasbourg and winners over EA Guingamp and Le Mans. ASM would finish the season in third place, securing a place in the Champions League for the next season.
Monaco reached the final of the Champions League that year, scoring against Lokomotiv Moscow and Chelsea on the way to the 3-0 defeat to FC Porto. The Croatian replaced the injured Giuly after 23 minutes, but couldn’t provide the fairy-tale ending. That would be his last appearance for the Ligue 1 side, moving to Rangers in the summer of 2004.
The tall forward would become a fan-favourite at Ibrox, scoring 18 goals as they pipped rivals Celtic to the SPL title by a single point.
“After that first game against Aberdeen I suddenly appreciated that 0-0 was not acceptable for this club. I tell you what I was thinking after that – I was telling myself I didn't know it would be this hard!
“In Monaco it didn't matter if we drew a game. Every team in France can draw or lose. It is not a disaster. But against Aberdeen I did not score, I got kicked in the ankles and I finished the game really f*****. And the referee tells me at the end, ‘Welcome to Scotland'.
Pršo will always be fondly remembered for his time in Monaco and Glasgow and he is a testament to why you should always make a wish as you blow out your birthday candles.