In the summer of 1995, the Gateshead born Geordie had enjoyed three years playing for top Italian side Lazio.
It was no secret that although he enjoyed immense success on the pitch he found the Italian language a little tricky.
Many football punters tipped him to return to England and maybe re-sign for Spurs or even Manchester United or his home team Newcastle United.
So his transfer to Glasgow Rangers for £4.3 million that summer shocked everyone.
On the July day his transfer was to be formally announced, I had been tasked by my newsdesk to attend a Rangers training session and then a press conference at Ibrox to try and grab a word with the great player.
So I spent an hour with my photographer watching a lithe, tanned and fit Gazza train with his team-mates before making our way to Glasgow G51.
The stadium was mobbed by Rangers fans daubed in blue and white, hoping to get a glimpse of their new hero.
I picked my way through the crowd, past a cordon of police officers and showed my press pass at the players’ entrance.
Once inside, the assembled press pack was treated to prawn sandwiches, croissants and coffee before being ushered into a bustling meeting room.
Rangers’ manager Walter Smith and club chairman David Murray sat at the top table next to their new superstar.
The formal press conference lasted about 35 minutes before we were led out pitch side for a photo opportunity.
Gazza was beaming and in a playful mood with the press photographers.
I had not yet managed to ask him a question so waited for my moment.
It wasn’t long before the chance came.
It had crossed my mind that if this Geordie had found the Italian language difficult to deal with, how would he manage broad Glaswegian?
So as Gazza sat in the stands for a final picture opportunity – and remembering my own Tyneside roots – I called to him: “Do you think you will cope with the language here, Paul?”
Quick as a flash, he turned to me and shouted back; “Whey aye man, dyer think thaal understand me. Ye knaa what ah mean leik.”
Both of us broke into a chuckle.
Twenty minutes later as we made our way out of the stadium a couple of my colleagues asked: “What did Gazza say to you?”
I shrugged and lied: “Didn’t understand a word!”