John Buttigieg

National team
Malta

Born
5 October 1963, Sliema

Club
Sliema Wanderers (1981-1988)
Brentford (1988-1991)

Position
Libero

Profile
The Maltese libero was playing at the height of his career, and put in some really good performances in the qualifiers for Italia'90. Even though his side was inferior in the majority of the matches, and met some of Europe's finest attackers at the time, Buttigieg generally looked assured at the back. It was usually the two man-markers in front of him who had a hard time... Buttigieg played as a classic libero, honouring the role by insisting on bringing the ball out of defence with style even against top opposition.

Buttigieg was transferred to Brentford in November 1988 after being spotted by Peter Shreeves during Malta's opening qualifier in May. Sadly his spell in West London didn't work out too well, where he often had to play as a right back, a position he was unfamiliar with. His lack of success in Brentford is remarkable given the very decent performances he gave on an international level in the same period.

History

Match 1
21.05.1988 Northern Ireland 3-0 Malta
90 minutes.
Rating: 6.7.
Looks a cut above the other defenders, but too casual at times. Very unlucky that his free-kick didn't cross the line after rebounding off the crossbar at 1-0 down.

Match 2
11.12.1988 Malta 2-2 Hungary
90 minutes.
Rating: 6.8.
The big defender marshalls his troops well enough, and moves into a midfield role as Malta go chasing a second equalizer.

Match 3
22.01.1989 Malta 0-2 Spain
90 minutes.
Rating: 6.8.
His usual nonchalant self when carrying the ball out of defence, never overawed by the opposition. Saw a couple of long distance attempts saved by Zubizarreta first half.

Match 4
23.03.1989 Spain 4-0 Malta
90 minutes
Rating: 6.5.
Clearly told to be more no-nonsense.

Match 5
12.04.1989 Hungary 1-1 Malta
90 minutes.
Rating: 7.0.
As always the cool head at the rear, never letting himself lose his calm. A great inspiration for his team mates. 

Match 6
26.04.1989 Malta 0-2 Northern Ireland
90 minutes.
Rating: 6.6.
Sweeps well, enjoys coming forward, and gets the final 12-13 minutes playing up front as Malta chase a goal. 

Match 7
28.05.1989 Republic of Ireland 2-0 Malta
90 minutes.
Rating: 6.8.
You always get a performance from Buttigieg in a national team shirt. Sweeps well, is not afraid of advancing ball at feet, and also has the physique to challenge the Irish.

Match 8
15.11.1989 Malta 0-2 Republic of Ireland
90 minutes.
Rating: 6.8.
Despite so often playing a high risk game, he was easily the best Malta defender once again.