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Giovanni Hernandez - from mediocre to maestro

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Tim Vickery | 12:14 UK time, Monday, 28 February 2011

There is no doubt about my favourite performance so far in this year's Copa Libertadores. It is that of veteran Colombian playmaker Giovanni 'The Prince' Hernandez for Junior Barranquilla against Gremio of Brazil.

The 34-year-old may have run out of puff in the second half, while Gremio tightened up their marking, but Hernandez took control, giving an exhibition of old style number 10 play after the Colombian side had gone behind to an early goal.

Out came his favourite tricks - the 'look one way, give the pass the other' ball, the tight-angled short passes, the probing long balls that split the opposing defence.

One minute he was dropping deep to find space and orchestrate the play, the next he was popping up in wide spaces high up the field - from where he scored Junior's equaliser.

Giovanni Hernandez has played 35 matches for Colombia, scoring five times

Hernandez has played 35 matches for Colombia, scoring five times

Hernandez was not involved in Junior's second-half winner as, for the second consecutive week, Jhon Viafara, once of Portsmouth and Southampton, weighed in with an important goal. Nevertheless, 'The Prince' was the key figure in the first defeat suffered by a Brazilian team in this year's Libertadores.

In the days leading up to the game, Hernandez was talking up Gremio and their virtues - and from the opening minute it was clear that he was fully motivated for this game.

He had not been as influential the previous week against provincial Peruvian side Leon de Huanuco. But Gremio would provide him with a worthy platform, a soap box from which to shout out a reminder of his special talents.

The chances are that many readers will not know who Hernandez is - but it was not supposed to be that way. He was once seen as heir to the throne of Carlos Valderrama, the frizzy-haired playmaker who helped put Colombian football on the map in the late 1980s and early 90s.

Hernandez very nearly joined Valderrama in the 1998 World Cup squad but, after selecting him for a friendly before the tournament, the management staff decided he was not yet ready. They believed his time would come later. And as the Valderrama generation made their exit, Hernandez would help take Colombia to future World Cups.

But it hasn't happened.

Hernandez was in the team that won the Copa America on home ground in 2001 and was playing for his country as recently as last November. He has enjoyed some good moments with the national team but not enough of them. He has been in and out of the team, unable to impose himself consistently at the highest level.

Hernandez's club career has been a similar story. He did well in Argentina with Colon de Santa Fe and was frequently linked with Boca Juniors, although a move to the big boys never came off.

He won titles in Chile with Colo Colo but Europe never called either and Hernandez has spent most of his time in Colombia, where the clubs are much poorer and the standard of football lower.

Hernandez has not hit the heights that many expected when he first made his name in the mid 90s.

And that is why I found his performance against Gremio so fascinating. He picked his moment to make The Prince's Speech, a declaration to the effect that he may have suffered a stuttering career but that, on his day, he is still worthy of an award or two.

There is a question I always think about putting to Hernandez and players in a similar situation. I have never done it because, to be perfectly honest, it is a question I have always been too scared to ask.

How do you cope when it sinks in that you are not going to achieve all those things in the game which once seemed yours almost by right?

When you have been brought up with expectations of greatness and have even been able to grasp it on occasions, how do you cope with mediocrity?

There is no shortage of candidates for such a question in South America. The continent is forever turning out wonderkids. Clearly, not all of them are going to become wonder-adults.

There are a couple of examples in the Gremio side beaten last Thursday by Giovanni Hernandez and Junior.

Fabio Rochemback is in good form in the Gremio midfield, filling one of the holding roles.

A decade ago, though, he was entitled to believe that he was destined for higher things. Still a teenager, he was playing for Brazil and signed by Barcelona. He looked on the road to becoming a dynamic midfield force, bursting forward to score decisive goals in the World Cup and the Champions League.

Somewhere along the line those dreams faded. He has enjoyed a perfectly respectable career. But Sporting Lisbon, Middlesbrough and back to Brazil to be a useful club player before the age of 30 - this was surely not part of the script in 2001.

A recently acquired team-mate provides an even more graphic illustration of the phenomenon. Eight years ago, this column noted the promise of Fluminense starlet Carlos Alberto. Eighteen months later, and still only 19, he was scoring in a Champions League final for Porto. The world was at his feet.

And Carlos Alberto has kicked it away. He must be the worst signing in the history of Werder Bremen - he suffered from insomnia and was soon loaned back to Brazil.

Back home, he helped Corinthians to the domestic title in 2005 but was subsequently patchy for Sao Paulo, Botafogo and Vasco da Gama. Indeed, he was hounded out of the latter after some disastrous results in January, landing on his feet at Gremio where his old admirer Renato Gaucho is coach.

That admiration might have taken a knock after Thursday. Given more defensive responsibilities than usual, Carlos Alberto was taken off after 35 minutes, both to save him from a red card and to stop the team from being overrun.

Perhaps Carlos Alberto can take inspiration from the performance of the opposing number 10, Giovanni Hernandez.

For a variety of reasons, a player's achievements may fall short of potential. But if the talent is there, days can still come along when it shines brightly, days that help make up for the disappointments.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

Q) Since Jose Pekerman and his disciples relinquished control of Argentina's youth set-up, there has been an alarming dip in quality. Do you think the situation is recoverable, or has all of Pekerman's hard-work been flushed down the proverbial toilet?
Toby Millard

A) Argentina certainly haven't been impressive in the last two South American Under-20 Championships, since the end of the era of Pekerman and his disciples. There may well be mitigating circumstances, though.

First, even under the Pekerman gang the team tended to be better at the World Youth Cup than in qualifying - there are problems having players released for the South American Under-20s, as happened this time with Lamela of River Plate.

So we should hope for better things from Argentina in the World Youth Cup this July/August.

Secondly, from a position of strength after winning the last Olympics, Sergio Batista handed out a warning for the future, saying that the standard of players of players coming through the system was in decline, with lots of battlers but fewer players of talent. His words seem to have been borne out.


  • Comment number 1.

    Good blog again Tim, i've always wondered what happened to Carlos Alberto!
    I think Diego also falls into this category somewhat, as he's had a relatively successful time in Germany but not so much in Italy or for the national team, despite being one of the highest rated youngsters at the turn of the century!! As you can see from my log in name, i'm still a fan though i think i've accepted he'll probably never play for Utd!!

  • Comment number 2.

    as always an insightful read tim. I think rochembach took a lot of us by surprise as he looked like a real player but then just seemed to lose it all. Is it perhaps a ego problem as it is universal that some superstar youngsters never fufill their potential. If people boost your ego is it harder to accept that you have to work at your game? (believing in your "potential") i mean for all people talk about cristiano ronaldo's ego he is a guy that is driven to be the best but maybe that is the exception to the rule

  • Comment number 3.

    I always look forward to this blog on a monday. I was one of those people who thought Carlos Alberto was destined for greatness when he was at Porto. Sticking with Porto, they must be the best club in Europe for a young south american to go to. They seem to have a fantastic record of bringing in players and selling them on for large profits. A large number of these players are South American.

    How do you think it is that Porto manage to get the best out of so many of these players? Do they have a heavy scouting presence in South America? With Hulk and Falcao likely to be on a few shopping lists this summer I;m sure there will be a new wave of talent arriving there.

    Iturbe is the latest young south american star on his way there, Do you think he will be the next big success story?

  • Comment number 4.

    First defeat for a Brazilian team in this year's Copa Lib?

    You're forgetting Corinthians' exit at the hands of another Colombian side - Tolima.

  • Comment number 5.

    4 - first defeat in the group phase (in 9th game)
    corinthians' loss came in the qualifying round

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Tim. On the subject on lost talents I wondered if you know what Juan Carlos Menseguez is up to these days. After arriving on loan towards the end of Tony Mowbray's reign at West Brom, I thought he lit up the Premier League in his limited number of appearance. In particular, a wonderfuly taken goal at the Hawthorns against Sunderland towards the end of the 2008/09 season. After Albion were relegated that season, his loan was never made permanent and I heard talk of him joining Mowbray when he moved to Celtic but don't think this ever happened. Have you seen much of him since his return to South America? In my mind he could still be a star in the Premier League and maybe even at Champions League level but not seen or heard of him since. What do you think?

  • Comment number 7.

    @ number 2, I don't think that players not fulfilling potential is anything to do with their ego. There are brilliant egotistical players, like Ronaldo and brilliant humble players, like Kaka. Its going to be a factor with regard to the player falling out with coaches or other players though, which could hold their development back, but I don't think that having a big ego is necessarily going to curtail a promising career.

    I think the main reasons for the faltering careers of lots of seemingly wonderful players are complacency / laziness, adaptability and strength of character.

    For a South American player, adaptability comes into play moreso than with a European footballer, its a new country, culture, language, style of play, climate, work ethic - everything. Their strength of character will be tested fitting into a dressing room at a European club where the younger guys will have been through all the levels together. In the case of Carlos Alberto, you have both of those factors, plus, having scored in the Champions League final as a teenager, complacency. It must be hard to knuckle down, focus and try to achieve more, when, seemingly, you have just realised all your dreams at the age of 19!

    I'm a Boro fan and I used to watch Rochemback week in, week out. He was quite frustrating to watch, he'd do something really neat and composed one second, then miscontrol the ball under no pressure the next. His shooting was similarly erratic. I think he was probably a player who showed potential, but didn't convert it into anything solid. I don't think he had it in him to concentrate for 90 minutes. Might be back to that complacency / laziness point again.

  • Comment number 8.

    1. At 4:06pm on 28 Feb 2011, DiegoforUtd wrote:
    Good blog again Tim, i've always wondered what happened to Carlos Alberto!
    I think Diego also falls into this category somewhat, as he's had a relatively successful time in Germany but not so much in Italy or for the national team, despite being one of the highest rated youngsters at the turn of the century!! As you can see from my log in name, i'm still a fan though i think i've accepted he'll probably never play for Utd!!


    Diego had an interesting game for Wolfsburg against Borussia Moenchengladbach at the weekend, he ballooned a penalty over the bar but then 2 scored two excellent goals- a tidy slotted finish and a free kick.

    I don't think he's the answer to Manchester United's "creative midfield" problems that everyone likes to talk about though. Like Van der Vaart, Diego is not comfortable on the wings or as a central midfielder. He plays best in the 'hole' behind a main striker- in the type of position that Berbatov, Rooney and Giggs take up for United.

  • Comment number 9.

    6. At 4:53pm on 28 Feb 2011, BerkshireBaggie wrote:
    Hi Tim. On the subject on lost talents I wondered if you know what Juan Carlos Menseguez is up to these days

    I'm not Tim, but he still plays for San Lorenzo in Argentina. He spent four years in Europe with Wolfsburg in Germany before he went to West Brom.

  • Comment number 10.

    Who is the worst "New Maradona" ever? My vote goes to Ariel Ortega. Talked up big time as a kid, and number 1 on the "football manager wonderkid shopping list".........but absolutely mediocre everywhere he went!

    D'Allesandro is another contender for sure!

  • Comment number 11.

    Completely off topic, but remember that Brazilian defender that played for Roma, Aldair ?

    According to wiki, he is still active in his mid 40's playing for some low league division team in Brazil. Is this true?

    Also are there any other prominent cases in South America where some past great players simply refuse to retire and are still actively playing?

    I know Romario was playing up until last year along with Edmundo who were both around their 40's.

    Seems a whole generation of Maldini's in the continent.

  • Comment number 12.

    Completley Off Topic, but remember the Brazilian defender who played for Roma: Aldair?

    According to Wiki, he is still active in his Mid 40's playing for some low league division team in Brazil. Is this the case?

    Also can you shed some light on past great players who are still active in South America and simply refuse to retire?

    I know Romario was in his early 40's yet retired only last year. Along with Edumndo who was pushing his 40's still playing.

    It seems there is a whole generation of Maldini's in the continent who play well into their old age. I would appreciate any help


  • Comment number 13.

    7- "@ number 2, I don't think that players not fulfilling potential is anything to do with their ego. I think the main reasons for the faltering careers of lots of seemingly wonderful players are complacency / laziness, adaptability and strength of character."

    you're contradicting yourself here mate. players such as ronaldinho, adriano etc have massive egos, thats why they are so complacent and lazy, because they don't consider the rules of conduct for professional sportsmen to apply to them.

  • Comment number 14.

    According to the same wiki you speak of, Aldair is at Murata which is a club in San Marino

    How is your knowledge of Sammarinese teams, Tim??

  • Comment number 15.

    Gremio supporter here.
    I think the reasons why players fail to fulfill their potential are both physical and mental. Incidentally, the mental trait of a player can be very difficult to assess. Ronaldinho, for example, lacked both, thus why he has never reached his potential based on technique alone.

    Rochemback was pretty overweight when he joined Gremio (from Portugal) and, rightfully so, sat on the bench for many months while regaining his fitness. Once, he did though, he became Gremio's most important player. He does not have the same mobility as before, but his technique is still flawless. He has just signed a long-term contract with Gremio for over $60K a week which isn't too shabby in Brazil.

    I was not happy with Renato's line up with 2 CAMs to play a tough away match: C. Alberto and Douglas. Rochemback and Adilson were pretty much lost in that weak midfield. BTW, Lucio (former Hertha player) is a sure starter in the midfield, but is injured. I also don't like two box strikers paired up-front-gremio miss Jonas who has moved to Valencia.

    I'd daresay C.Alberto will not learn a single thing from Hernandez performance; C. Alberto just doesn't have the attitude for that role (or perhaps also the mobility). C. Alberto is Douglas, so Renato must pick one and fill the other midfield positions with more complete players.

  • Comment number 16.

    Giovani Hernandez and a younger player MacNelly Torres, it has almost been as bad to be labeled the "next Valderrama" as it has to be called the "next Maradona." Hernandez undoubtedly is a talented player but as Tim notes he just is so inconsistent. He was absolutely brilliant when Colombia won the 2001 Copa America but he has been up and down ever since. He has a good midfield behind him at Atletico Junior though, Jhon Viafara just does not quit running but also knows what to do with the ball, so it will be interesting to see how Hernandez and Junior do in these year's Libertadores. They and Gremio should qualify from the group, the question will be in what order?

    Another Colombian, and ex player from Junior, forward Teofilo Gutierrez is the talk of Argentina this weekend as he scored twice on his debut for Racing. Great finishes on both goals. A player to keep an eye out.

    Estudiantes are still trying to adjust to Eduardo Berizzo's more offensive tactics but I also think Juan Sebastian Veron is finally starting to show his age.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:

  • Comment number 17.

    Great article Tim - and I'm really pleased to see something written about Colombian football. I went to my first match in Bogota a few weeks ago - Millonarios vs Huila, had a great time. I saw another talent there - José Moreno Mora, playing for Huila.

  • Comment number 18.

    #11 - completely by the by this, but, a few years ago on my Champ Man 01/02 game, Aldair was playing for Treviso at the age of 47. Who said Championship Manager could never predict the future?

  • Comment number 19.

    Anyone here ever heard of the young chap Dodo that Utd had supposedly signed a few years back? He obviously isn't at Utd, is he doing anything in Brazil?

  • Comment number 20.

    Hi Tim, excellent blog as always. I imagine that Hernandez will be too old for WC2014, but is there any hope of the current players plus some young hopes lifting Colombia to the World Cup finals next time out? Have FIFA confirmed that South America will be playing for 4.5 places or 5.5? It would be highly hypocritical of FIFA to deny South America the same help they gave to Africa.

    And what chance for Colombia in the Copa America? It's about time they made a good memory to wipe out the notoriety of 1994.

    My girlfriend's great uncle is a legend at Junior Barranquilla. Roberto 'Flaco' Melendez.

  • Comment number 21.


    Isn't he dead?!

    .............sorry, had to be done! lol

  • Comment number 22.

    Thanks very much for answering my question Tim.

    I'm hoping River will release Lamela and Lanzini for the Youth Cup.

  • Comment number 23.

    How do you think it is that Porto manage to get the best out of so many of these players?

    Being a big (probably biggest) club in a poor league helps, as does the home factor for Brazilians.

  • Comment number 24.

    I live in NY and the Liga Postobon gets shown here, so I've seen Hernandez play... I don't know if he's a playmaker in the Valderamma mold though, in spanish he would be what's considered a "media-punta" or a support-striker. Valderamma was more dictatorial and commanding when he played, Hernandez is sometimes plugged-in, but sometimes completely out of it.

    I was more than impressed by Edwin Cardona during the Under-20 South American Youth Championship, that's a player that to me is the second coming of Valderamma, too bad that the Under-20 played selfishly throughout the tournament.

  • Comment number 25.

    @10... I don't know man, D'Allesandro just won the South American Player of the year award? D'Allesandro aint the next Maradona but he aint no pushover either.

  • Comment number 26.

    I should say a good memory for Colombia on the world stage, since I think they won a Copa America after 1994. One of my first World Cup memories was Roger Milla robbing Higuita halfway up the pitch to win the game.

    I bet all the South American countries are desperate to reach the first World Cup on the continent since 1978, and probably the last for the same amount of time unless they manage to prise King Sep cold bony fingers off his throne. Saying that, Venezuela has at least one of FIFA's pre-requisites: oil wealth.

  • Comment number 27.


    D'Allesandro was meant to be a world beater as a young man, and the "new Maradona" term was definitely used. He went to Germany, and that was the end of him. A very good player, but the world beating never happened did it?

    As for the SA player of the year award, it just shows he's a cut above the quality playing there, not that he's made his mark on a world level. Veron won it too after proving a disaster in England with UTD and Chelsea. Better to look at the players who win that award on their way up, like Tevez, rather than those that return to South America in their twilight without fulfilling their potential!

  • Comment number 28.

    The thing that realy motivated this piece was not how talent gets wasted - but how a player reacts when he realises that he's not going to be a superstar. In the case of Giovanni Hernandez, he was clearly keen to make a point in the Gremio game - ok he might not quite have been the new Valderrama, but he was a special player nontheless. As people have pointed out, he has been inconsistent over the years - but up against the likes of Rochemback and Carlos Alberto he really wanted to make a statement.

    One of my favourite football books is 'Woody and Nord,' by Gareth Southgate and Andy Woodman. It charts the friendship between two very different characters as they go through very different careers - Southgate to the England team, Woodman to the lower divisions. It's a wonderfully rich, subtle, human story - but it doesn;t really cover this angle because Andy Woodman was never seen as a potential world beater.

    But take another goalkeeper, Chris Day. Before I moved to Brazil I saw him a few times for Tottenham reserves and wondered if he was going to be a future England keeper - he played for the Under-21s. But for whatever reason, it didn't quite happen for him and he's spent much of his time in the lower divisions - in recent years for Stevenage. Someone like that has been brought up to believe that he's going to be world class - he seems to have had a decent career, but without getting close to that mark. So how do players in that situation cope? Does motivation suffer as the targets diminish?What keeps you going? Fear or pride? I find these things fascinating.

  • Comment number 29.

    No one got my "Dodo" joke.................gutted :-(

  • Comment number 30.

    I totally agree with your point Roberto-Mexicana, but I disagree with your example of Veron, he was great in Italy before coming to Utd and was just starting to show some consistant form when he was sold to chelsea, were it obviously didn't work out, but then he was pretty good in Italy again! He also had a pretty solid international career in comparison with alot of the so called wonder kids who never make the grade!

  • Comment number 31.

    No one got it, or no one felt compelled to comment on it!! Says more for the standard of the joke than anything!!haha

  • Comment number 32.

    Yep, Veron was a quality player, but maybe the Premier League didn't suit the pace of his game. I was surprised when he didn't succeed in England as I thought he looked incredible at Lazio.

    There's no doubt D'Allesandro didn't get anywhere near what he was hyped as though!

  • Comment number 33.

    19 - he's not dead, but his career has yet to take flight

  • Comment number 34.

    19 + 33.


  • Comment number 35.

    Giovani Hernandez may not be a superstar but he still is one of the better players in Colombia and it was refreshing to see he and Viafara lead Junior to a win over what I think is a pretty good Gremio team (although I agree with the Gremio fan who complained about their playing two center forwards together as that takes away mobility from their attack.)

    One of the entertaining aspects of the Copa Libertadores is to see players like Hernandez and Viafara, good solid professionals who can still lift their game in big situations. Perhaps they are not able to do it consistently but they can still produce and they remain among the top players in their country and the Libertadores provides them with the opportunity to shine on the continental stage.

    A big week ahead of us in the Libertadores with clubs like Liga de Quito, Fluminense, Colo Colo and Penarol looking for their first wins.

  • Comment number 36.

    another great blog,yes big games on Libertadores looking forward to see what LDU can do in Quito, does any body know who shows Copa Libertadores in the UK?

  • Comment number 37.

    maybe players like hernandez suffered from the likes of past south american imports; kleberson, augustin delgado etc, ending up massive failures, that put managers off of taking a chance whilst in his prime?

  • Comment number 38.

    I've run into a couple of Colombians in Brisbane recently, my opening gambit is "I only speak two words of Colombian - Faustino Asprilla," which immediately gets a conversation going.

  • Comment number 39.

    Tim, I enjoyed this blog. I always find your writing informative, interesting, and thought-provoking. Thank you.

  • Comment number 40.

    Hi Tim Great blog as usual, for benefit of No 12, one more great player who won't give up RIVALDO and on his day's of glory he was a great player,
    he is now 38 and returned to Brasil this year from Uzbeqistan, he wanted to return to play for his old team Palmeiras, but Big Phil Scholari who is coach barred him saying that he already has too many "Maldinis" in his team already, so he ended up at Sao Paulo which is still one of the top teams in Brasil, yesterday (Sunday) the two teams clashed at Morumbi in a controversial game that resulted in a 1-1 draw, so let's wait and see how Rivaldo shapes up, still on the same subject, a great pity that one of Brasils and the Worlds greatest players of any era, RONALDO had to call it a day, but at least he went out on a positive note playing for another Brasilian top team Corinthians ( the next WC first game will be staged at their new stadium) just to end on a negative note, I sincerely hope that the weather will help to make a memorable WC, people joke about the rain in Manchester, but the torrential rain that seems to be the norm in Sao Paulo is horrifying, on the TV here it seems every day that it is a disaster in SP with cars floating down the streets,people stranded, river banks overflowing, literally hundreds of kilometers of traffic at a standstill (I think the record is +/- 218 km's) with the world weather gone crazy it's something to think about, what's your thoughts on this Tim, you travel extensively all over SA so you should know better than I do. Anyway cheers to all from Macae & waiting to see Chicarito get at least one past PC at Stamford Bridge.

  • Comment number 41.

    40 - the torrential rain is more of a summer thing - the world cup will be in winter - which can hit hard in the south nd not reach the north, leading to a temperature difference of maybe 30 degrees between some of the host cities - that will be the major weather problem - along wit the fog that can ground some of the flights at that time of year.

  • Comment number 42.

    Interesting blog TIM,

    There are really a lot of players who have returned to Brazil after not reaching out in Europe (or somewhere else). But some of them have regained some of their brightness. Fabio Rochemback, Douglas (who was playing at the Middle East!!!), Gabriel and Lucio (all from Gremio) are good examples of that. In particular, Rochemback has been very impressive.

    Too bad for Gremio that Hernandez had a very impressive night. I think is was unanimous (for Gremio supporters like me) that he was instrumental for Junior. Although the Mexican ref was terrible!

  • Comment number 43.

    Speaking of Colombians who never fulfilled their potential, I'm going to mention Johnny (full name Jhonnier I think?) Montano who signed for Parma as a 16 year old for something like that amid a fair amount of hype. I don't recall him doing anything!

    As for the posts above regarding Aldair - what an absolute legend! He read the game so well and was so good in possession I could definitely see him playing in the lower leagues at a ripe old age.

  • Comment number 44.

    If performance as a youth is no indicator of future success, then how can Argentina's focus on youth, and performance at Youth Cups, mean anything more than effort?

  • Comment number 45.

    nice to see you talking about this guy, I watched the game in FOX Sports Latin America while I was in Uruguay, as I had a personal interest in the match (I'm a Colorado :)

    I hadn't heard about Hernandez before and it was a surprise, not only you could see he was easily Junior's best player, but he seemed to be enjoying the match too. I was thinking "how the hell is he playing in Colombia if he's so good?", especially because the narrators kept calling him "El Principe" and the fact that he was Junior's captain and number 10. but after the match I saw that he was 34 years old, and now I know about his career.

  • Comment number 46.

    Giovani Hernandez may not be best player in columbia but i think he is too good to be in playing team.he can lift team in any situation but he is not consistent .thing he need is consistency.on his day he is inferior to none.He can take the game away from opponents on his own potential.

    pankaj chandel,
    beginners c programming

  • Comment number 47.

    A lot has to do with the protection young players get when they move to a big team. Unfortunately the South Americans have to move to other countries to make careers, and they get no protection what-so-ever once the have left home. Think of a South American player with the ability of Michael Carrick, for example. He would probably have been compared to the great Socretes, and made a move to one of the European leagues, after which he would never have been heard of again. Even players as good as Rooney - imagine had he suceeded in forcing a move to Real or Barca last season? That would be the beginning of the end for him, as he would not get a fraction of the support and protection he gets from the local footballing establishment and his team that he is so used to in England, over there in Spain.

  • Comment number 48.

    @ 47 "Think of a South American player with the ability of Michael Carrick, for example. He would probably have been compared to the great Socretes".

    Course he would mate. Hilarious.

  • Comment number 49.

    @3 - King David Luiz
    "How do you think it is that Porto manage to get the best out of so many of these players? Do they have a heavy scouting presence in South America?"


    If by 'heavy' you mean 'Benfica' then yes. We scout; Portuguese press publicize; and there goes Porto meddling in our negotiations.

    James Rodriguez, Falcao and Alvaro Pereira spring to mind.

  • Comment number 50.

    #10 Roberto Mexicana - Not sure i agree with your assessment of Ariel Ortega. Yes, like many before or since he failed to live upto the milestone of 'New Maradona' but as a player in his own right he was world class.
    He was a star of the river side which toppled Juventus in the world club cup, he also stared in the Atlanta Olympics. He moved to Valencia and had success before falling foul of Ranieri. The 98 world cup saw him emerge as one of the stars of the tournament before his temperament overshadowed with an incident with Van da Sarr.
    He moved to Sampdoria where again he was a revelation before Samp got bogged down with Manager problems (anyone remember the david platt/ Lee Sharpe farce!) On the field Samp were hampered with an injury to Montella and the crazy inclusion of the liability that was Lassis at the back. Ortega signed for Parma but suffered when Crespo and Amouroso were lost to injuries and the prone Lassisi brought his version of defending to the parma backline. Ortega eventually fell away completely and moved back home to River, where he formed one quarter of the formidable new 'La Maquina' along with Pablo Aimar, Javier Saviola and Juan Pablo Angel.
    At internatinal level he reformed his partnership with Crespo and Argentina enjoyed a 2yr reign at the top of international football resulting in them being made favourites for the 2002 world cup. Saddly Batistuta played politics and Crespo who had been the mobile centre forward that made Bielsa's 3-3-1-3 work was dropped in the finals and an out of form immobile Batistuta was given one last hurrah. Ortega for his part had a decent if brief world cup and new moves to europe followed, before the inevitable return home, Newells was the next stop and his performances there saw the unfancied side win the domestic title.
    All in all Ariel Ortega was a class act, over 80 appearances for Argentina and 3 world cups finals suggest that. He was the first to be saddled with 'new maradona' and it occured when Maradona's boots were still warm, it proved a huge burden and perhaps clubs in europe unfairly expected 'Napoli' success when they signed him.

  • Comment number 51.

    @28 - I think that for those players who realise they won't fulfil their potential it can go two ways. There are those, like Hernandez, who get on with it, go to a club where they fit and play good football. Others just seem to fade away, Freddy Adu springs to mind. Trial at United and now I believe he is playing in Cyprus and not to regularly either. It must be harsh to have all that hype and then have the cold realisation that you will never live up to it. I guess it just depends on strength of mind. As to why the players keep playing, I would guess it's because they still love the game rather than pride or fear. Maybe some still keep going because of pride or fear but I think the majority are playing because football is their life.

    As to why some players fail to live up to expectations I would suggest a lot of it is physicality. There are many technically gifted players but they struggle to cope with physical play, something you get more of when you move abroad (as previous blogs have mentioned). There is also the mental aspect, finding it hard to adapt to a new environment and having to move halfway round the world far from friends and family must be tough. But I think the main reason as to why they 'fail' is that as soon as a player shows a bit of skill they are hyped to unreasonable levels. South America is used to producing the Ronaldos, Peles and Maradonas of the world so when someone comes along who has some skill they are touted as the new Pele/Maradona etc. The fact is that many don't cut it because they simply aren't good enough but because of the hype they believe they are.

    PS Sorry for the poor spelling, I am typing on a dodgy keyboard.

  • Comment number 52.

    This blog leaves me wondering which up and coming prospect is next in line, both in South America, and in Europe. I spent seven years in Rome as a child due to family circumstances. I grew up an AS Roma supporter, and have followed them ever since. There seemed to be so many hot prospects in Italy at that time, and only one has really made it: Daniele De Rossi. I worry for England's crop - Theo Walcott, and Jack Wiltshire. Could they follow the same route?

  • Comment number 53.

    The problem here may be that some players prematurely think they have made it - and therefore no longer have to put the effort in.

    Take your example of Carlos Alberto. He was touted as a potential superstar, had a few good seasons in Brazil, moved to Europe and scored in the Championship Final. All of the things came way before his 25th birthday. Add to this the personal level - where he would have become a very rich young man - and there you have it... he has 'made it'.

    The problem with this situation is it can then lead to a lack of motivation and more importantly they have no idea how to fight against the tide once a few things start going wrong.

    Perfect example of this from my own club is Stephen Ireland. When he came through the youth system i thought 'good player, but has to improve'. He thn knuckled down and pushed on in his career - hitting the ground running the next season and nearly taking the young player of the year gong. This in turn led to an improved contract and a regular first team place. Stephen Ireland (in his head) had made it.

    The season after however, his performances dipped, he seemed to lack the effort to improve - and was subsequently offloaded as part of the deal for James Milner. (Note that two seasons previously, one may have seen these two players as equal in ability!).

    There is no harm in building up young south american players - as it will help them to strive and achieve success. But they must must must have the right people around them and recieve the right advice to keep their feet on the ground - to get some perspective - and to improve their resilience should their career hit a bump in the road!

  • Comment number 54.

    I think I have to support mrsouthamerica's Ortega assessment. Indeed, the careers that Ortega's former River teammates Aimar and Saviola have had since their fantasic promise puts Ortega's achievements in perspective. I'm sure Tim will say that Ortega is one of the modern games' best exponents of the "sudden stop and change of direction" which is a rare skill in todays pace and power style of football.

  • Comment number 55.

    Interesting stuff Tim. Adam Johnson and his late friend, Rushden goalkeeper Dale Roberts are another example of players whose careers went in different directions. Some players develop physically and mentally earlier than others, so it can be a bit like a horse race, with fast finishers catching pacesetters in the final furlong. But actually, sometimes it's not so much the winners finishing fast, but the leaders running out of steam.

    I also wonder if it's sometimes a matter of right time, right place, where mediocre players can shine in good teams with little competition for places and/or favourable playing conditions for them, while good players struggle in bad teams with lots of competition for places and/or unfavourable conditions, and this can dictate the paths of the rest of their careers. There's also the position they play to consider. For example, arguably steady eddie performances at right back will retain you your place in the team, but less than sparkling performances in the centre of the park will soon see you drop down the pecking order.

    I remember Rochemback at Barcelona and Middlesboro, and, particularly at the former, wondered why he'd been signed. He'd obviously produced in Brazil. He got quite a few seasons out of Europe off of 'what might be' though. I know he still scores goals, when he plays, but in the same way I can't help feeling Michael Owen got quite a few seasons out of clubs signing him on the off chance he might reproduce the Argentinian goal. Sometimes it's just not going to happen.

    Is Giovanni Hernandez a big fish in a small pond who doesn't enjoy being one of many attractions at the aquarium, a la Riquelme's spells with Villareal and Barcelona? I'm guessing The prince is not under the same pressure to produce week in week out at Junior as he would be at Boca, which leads to the feeling it's a mental thing.

  • Comment number 56.

    C. Ronaldo, Maradona, Zidane, Cantona all had massive egos, didn't stop them fulfilling their potential did it?

    And once and for all, Ronaldinho did fulfil his potential

    Two World Footballer of the year awards
    Two Champions League Titles
    One World cup winners medal
    Several League titles
    Acknowledged as probably the most 'naturally' talented footballer ever

    What else do you want?

    There is a time for everything, better to win all in the space of 7 years than spend 100 years playing like John Burridge winning zero!

  • Comment number 57.

    @48 Pray what 'skill' does Michael Carrick have? I have so far failed to spot any - perhaps you care to elaborate?

  • Comment number 58.

    @20 How can it be hypocritical? Africa needed the help. The question we should be asking is does South America?

  • Comment number 59.

    Boro fan here...

    Rochemback...garbage for us, players like him, signed in poor judgement have led us to where we are now!

    a lot must go down to the players mental attitudes, we ve had plenty of havent got any at all

    Rochemback and alfonso Alves! Brazil,... your welcome to them!

  • Comment number 60.

    @56 - "There is a time for everything, better to win all in the space of 7 years than spend 100 years playing like John Burridge winning zero!"

    John Burridge won a League Cup with Hibernian....... man is a legend.

  • Comment number 61.

    #57 don't you know that Carrick has diving skills :)

  • Comment number 62.

    Hi Tim,

    Great blog as always and loved the mention of Woody and Nord. Seeing as both players played for my club, Crystal Palace, great to see them getting mentioned.

    Chris Day, was with Palace for a while too, but never did show why he was a top keeper, or why he was going to be one. Solid, but never spectacular. Scott Flinders was also touted as being the next "big thing" and he never made it after moving to Palace - maybe it is a curse!!?!

    Anyhow, one player that looked fantastically talented but never heard much of again was a Brazilian called Elivelton. Played against England at Wembley in 1992 and did an audacious backheeled pass across the penalty box by jumping over the ball and doing said backheel on the touchline....whatever happened to him?

    As for players who might be over-hyped - Walter Del Rio springs to mind....

    A lot of the hype comes with the fact that they are between the ages of 16-20. If players were left to develop through coaching and also by being given the right support to deal with all of the changes that happen to them, when they start being talked about, it might give them the ability to deal with everything a little better. It cannot be easy for a young man to move countries, settle and then produce the kind of displays that the scouts saw back in his home country.

    There needs to be a lot of perspective when dealing with the "next big thing". Too much is expected of players, especially at the young age.

  • Comment number 63.

    It's a world cup in South America (nowadays as rare as an African one) and since one of the teams qualifies as hosts, that would leave only 3.5 places for the rest of the continent in the normal qualifying mode. Africa already has 5 and therefore had 6 confirmed (not half) places at their world cup. Besides, South American sides contribute far more to the footballing quality, and therefore enjoyment, of the world cup. It could help decentralise the power of South American football, allowing one of the northern sa nations to attend and gain the financial and footballing benefits of that experience.

    In reality Europe has two or three too many places at the World Cup, that could be shared around the rest of the continents. Who wouldn't rather see a technically gifted team from south america or africa than a muscular but workmanlike 2nd tier team from Europe, even if that does limit the chance of our home nations qualifying. Only the best should qualify.

  • Comment number 64.

    Going back to the subject of Tim's blog:
    Jermaine Pennant would be a good example from this side of the Atlantic. First million pound teenage transfer, to Arsenal, and what must he have imagined for his career? Instead he became a journeyman, albeit one of the few englishman who tried a spell abroad, and is now at Stoke, along way away from the footballing philosophy that Wenger would have tried to instill in him. Walcott still has a way to go and Wilshere may have a dip before he realises his potential.

    There are several youngsters (Connor Wickham, some other kid at Southampton) already known by the media and being touted to various top 4 clubs. It will be hard for those players to keep grounded and make the right choice, but at least they weren't brought up at the top 4 clubs because their burden of expectation must be even higher. A Robbie Savage (of Man Utd youth team) or a Roberto Soldado (a Real Madrid junior) must feel gutted to leave when it becomes apparent they won't get get their chance in the 1st team at these globally known clubs. Or someone who graduates from La Masia at Barça and then moves on, like Giovanni dos Santos (plucked by random from my memory). Some of them get a second chance with big clubs because they go to smaller clubs and flourish. Like Forlan and Riquelme at Villareal (did #55 read my mind, I tried to post this comment hours ago but internet crashed). Sometimes it's better to be noticed as the big fish in the small pond. And maybe that's another reason why brazilians are turning up in far flung countries in Eastern Europe. Shakhtar and CSKA Moscow are already regulars in the Champions League, so they get seen by all the biggest clubs and play against them too. Tim Cahill and Landon Donavan seem to be similar cases to Riquelme. Would they get on in the high expectation environment of a Man Utd, whereas they now excel in smaller clubs with low expectations?

    As for players at the end of their career, there must be so many different motivators to keep going. Some trying to get the glory they never got before or felt they deserved. Some cashing in on the wages that didn't exist when they started their careers, especially bearing in mind historical examples of those like Gazza or Neil Webb who didn't plan ahead for retirement. Some carrying on, like Teddy Sherringham, purely for their enjoyment of the game, passing on their experience to the youngsters in the team. And some who can't face retirement, either for losing their place in the spotlight or because they have no idea what to do next.

  • Comment number 65.

    Great article Tim, fascinating as always. There's no doubt that these players' motivation drops when they realise they won't make it to the top, they become inconsistent and lazy, happy to make a living out of playing at 60% - 70% every week. It's human nature if you grow up loving the game and were one of the best when you're younger. Football is a game of fine margins, small moments can end up changing your career direction.

    I must also agree with mrsouthamerica in his analysis of Ortega, a wonderful and very skillful footballer that I would happily pay money to watch. A dying breed in today's game!

  • Comment number 66.

    #28, Tim, then perhaps it's also a matter of maturity and Hernandez now 'groks' his place in the game. Perhaps those players just weren't developed enough, mature enough, by the time they moved to Europe. I remember the stupid things I did when I was 17-19 (and I wan't the worst one), so I have a hard time expecting much more from these kids.

    #56, let's agree to disagree then. Ronaldinho has not led anyone to anything, especially Brazil where he has always been ineffective. That was precisely my point concerning Talent vs the other *needed* traits to make a "great." Talent alone isn't enough.

  • Comment number 67.

    @66 Wrong again!

    I clearly remember him providing the pass for Ronaldo's goal in the World Cup final of 2002 not to mention his goal against England and assist for Rivaldo's goal.

    I also remember him leading Barcelona to two special titles and Champions League trophies. Recall the standing ovation afforded him at the Bernabeu for his performance and hat-trick? It is on record that he is the first Barcelona player ever afforded a standing ovation by the Real Madrid faithful.

    The difference between him and so many other players is that while Messi and co. are ruthlessly effective, Ronaldinho was the consummate entertainer and that is what we pay good money to go watch at the Stadia.

    Remember all those passes while looking the other way, the brilliant dribbles, flicks and free-kicks? The guy played football not as a profession but as a hobby. Sometimes I think people take the game too seriously (especially we English) which is maybe why we have so little success in it - putting too much pressure on players etc - whereas it ought to be a game to be enjoyed

    And these other players that are meant to be great, who are they? Prodiguosly talented players have typically never stayed too much on the scene - George Best (women, alcohol), Diego Maradona (Drugs, etc.), Paul Gascoigne (Alcohol,etc.), M. Van Basten (Injury) the list goes on.

    The ones that do stay really long while being good players cannot be said to be at the very top end of talent pool.

  • Comment number 68.

    I heartily agree with Dazz on the Ronaldinho comments. And what about that goal against Chelsea, with no backlift at all and a wall of blue in front of him and he still scored.

    In fairness to Messi, he looks like he enjoys his football a lot. Like he would play in the park with his mates if he could. That's what Rooney looked like to begin with, and as that young man he flourished, but now he looks like the weight of the world is on him, like he cares too much what everyone thinks and expects, and his football has suffered. That's why I think Utd look so ordinary this season.

    The legacy of Ronaldo might have suffered if he had been able to spend more time on the pitch (though it's hard to imagine, I know). We remember him because he went from crock to superstar several times, in the same way that he accelerated from fast to lightspeed to go past defenders. But if he had ground out 8 seasons, he probably would never have been so fresh for the world cups he attended, and the odd seasons that he was available. And Klose had so much success in the cups because he was a serial benchwarmer?

  • Comment number 69.

    Players of talent can fall into a couple of categories I feel.

    At this point you would dispense of the likes of Freddy Adu and others of that ilk who have never done anything within the adult game to suggest they were going to be world class.

    Now you have Aimar and Saviola who burst onto the adult scene, and were predicated to become the very best. Very solid careers from both, however no true realisation of the class they once promised.

    You then have the enigmatic characters who if everything fell into place, they were simply world beaters. However there was little consistency to their performances and brilliance was often tarnished with mediocrity. Step up Juan Carlos Valeron, Djalminha, Alvaro Recoba and Denilson.

    You then have my favourite kind, the ones who progress steadily throughout and become truly world class, mainly because their mentality gets them there. I'd include here Drogba, Rivaldo and Ronaldo. Ronaldo varies slightly in that he was producing for the Portugese national side as early as Euro 2004, but there is no doubt he is ten times the player now than the one who moved from Sporting in 2003.

  • Comment number 70.

    48. At 09:35am on 01 Mar 2011, Bigheavyballbag wrote:
    @ 47 "Think of a South American player with the ability of Michael Carrick, for example. He would probably have been compared to the great Socretes".

    Course he would mate. Hilarious.

    Carrick is undoubtably rubbish but he is better than his replacement at Spurs - Sandro?? This Brazilian was sold to Arry as the 'next Socretes', and on the basis of video clips, Arry bought the story..

  • Comment number 71.

    #67 & 68 I disagree, but won't go any further for obvious reasons (OT).

    #70 Sandro is a 21 year-old Brazil (senior) international who has already won a Libertadores Cup with Internacional from Porto Alegre last year. I see this over and over again, ppl comparing players at different stages in their careers.

  • Comment number 72.

    I think the burden of being the next Valderrama was too much for the young Giovanni(also branded the million dollar kid). I guess after he realized he wasn't going to be the all that was expected from him, he started to play more relaxed, enjoying his game, specially during his spell at Junior where he is the most beloved player. Colombia lost a generation of good players who couldn't make it to 3 consecutive WC, like Ivan Cordoba, Mario Yepes, Juan Pablo Angel and the Prince, all because of the search for the next iconic 10.
    With a new generation of players like Falcao, Rodallega, Armero, G10 Moreno, Zuniga and Dayro Moreno, I think Colombia has a pretty good chance to participate in Brazil 2014. It would be unfair if FIFA decides to take one spot from the Conmebol for the next WC as in the last one, all southamerican teams qualified for the last 16 round and displayed great quality on the pitch.

    @43 Jhonnier Montano path got lost because once he made some money he thought he touched the sky with his hands and started a life of partying. He has been succesful in the peruvian league, where many talented players have lost their way as well because of their lack of discipline. His brother though, Victor Hugo, is currently playing for Rennes in France where he is one of the team's lead scorers.

  • Comment number 73.

    "A glorious history, a rich culture, a production line of exciting players..."

    Tim, are y' talkin' 'bout South America, or you and the physical consequences of various personal dalliances you've had with certain South American ladies of your acquaintance?

    ...just a thought...

  • Comment number 74.

    @Tim: books by South Gate and Woodman uh?? Is this some kind of bait for brazilians who say "woodjee gatchee"??

  • Comment number 75.

    ive got question!

    we always here about the latest brazilian or south american starlet plying his trade in europe. but has any promising talent ever been brought over the other way?

    whats the biggest transfer made by a south american team? by that i dont mean past brazlian greats, i mean a european.

  • Comment number 76.

    @59 - Wasn't it Rochembach leaving that effectively killed off any creativity we had in the midfield? If anything he was the only one capable of supplying Alves. Frustratingly brilliant, but he did once play Mourninho's Chelsea off the pitch iirc. Shame those types of games were few and far between.

  • Comment number 77.

    To Ecuadorians, and probably frustrated fans along the way in the many countries he played in, the career of Jaime Ivan Kaviedes will always be a massive dissapointment.

    In 1998, at 21 years old, Kaviedes scored 43 first division goals with Ecuador's Emelec. He was quickly sold to Italy's Perugia where his "world tour" began. He's been on an astonishing number of teams (perhaps only eclipsed by Sebastian 'El Loco' Abreu), a different team each year since 1998, including spells in Serie A (Perugia), La Liga (Celta, Valladolid), the Premier League (Crystal Palace), Portugal (Porto), Argentina (Argentinos Juniors), Mexico (Puebla), and numerous Ecuadorian domestic teams. He was a dissapointment at every single stop and would inevitably be "kicked off" the team for bad attitude, poor discipline, insubordination, and/or partying.

    Every now and then he would treat fans to brilliant moments - moments that should have not been so few and far between. His bicycle kick goal of the year in 2000/2001 with Valladolid against Barcelona. His goal against Uruguay in 2001 which sent Ecuador to its first ever World Cup. The goal against Costa Rica in the 2006 World Cup after which he donned the yellow spiderman mask to pay tribute to the late Ecuadorian forward Otilino Tenorio.

    More often than not though, it was news of being booted from yet another team which marked Kaviedes' career.

    At 33 years old, and without a team willing to take on his baggage, even in the Ecuadorian league, he probably won't receive an opportunity to ever showcase his talent again. A true waste of genius and pure goal scoring ability ruined by a chronically maladaptive personality.

  • Comment number 78.

    Thinking of Kaviedes it is amusing to see players play regularly for the national side yet do absolute nothing at club level. Fabian Carini of Uruguay sticks out for me in that mould. How on earth that guy is the second highest capped player of all time for Uruguay bemuses me. He is a perennial second and even third choice keeper during his time in Europe (bar one loan spell at Standard Liege.)

    Uruguay really must have had a poor selection of keepers to choose from.

  • Comment number 79.

    I too was one of many who thought Carlos Alberto was heading for greatness when he was at Porto.

  • Comment number 80.


    Charlie Mitten the Bogotá Bandit - from Man United to Santa Fé (Colombia)in 1950!

  • Comment number 81.


  • Comment number 82.

    #77 Great example of Kaviedes. Abreu has moved around a lot too but generally has produced for the clubs he has played for, the same cannot be said for Kaviedes. Yet I have a good Ecuadorian friend who says despite his problems Kaviedes will always remain a beloved figure in Ecuador because he scored the goal in 2001 vs Uruguay which qualified Ecuador for its very first World Cup.

    Somebody asked about Elivelton, he had a long career in Brazil with a brief time in Japan. With Sao Paulo Elivelton won consecutive Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cups in 1992 and 1993 and later was part of Cruzeiro's 1997 Libertadores winning team. I would say he had a pretty good career.

    Those Sao Paulo teams coached by Tele Santana, Brazil's 1982 World Cup coach, were among the very best clubs I have seen in my lifetime. With Cafu, Rai (later Leonardo after Rai left), Ronaldao, Antonio Carlos, Zetti, Muller, Palhinha, Elivelton and a very young Juninho, Sao Paulo beat Cruyff's Barcelona Dream team in the 1992 Intercontinental Cup then defeated AC Milan the following year. A truly great club team and Elivelton was part of those triumphs.

    One of Sao Paulo's toughest international games in that era was the 1992 Libertadores Final which they won on penalties over my club Newell's Old Boys. That was a wonderful Newell's team too, the one where Marcelo Bielsa first came to notice as a coach and which had players like Pochettino, Gamboa, Martino, Llop and Berizzo on it. Damn, I just realized most of Bielsa's team that year went on to become coaches when their playing days ended! A sign of what a good mentor El Loco Bielsa is.

    Excuse the thread drift but talking of that great Sao Paulo team also reminded me of Newell's fine side of that era too.

  • Comment number 83.


    Do you think Ronaldinho's lackluster performances against nobodies, and Robinho's fail to be an impact player @ Santos 2010 show that Brazilian football has advanced a lot in the past years? Not to mention Adriano @ Sao Pablo 2008, when he was still in very good shape, he failed to make his team win the libertadores and really didn't make much of an impact..

    Do you think this scenario will stop Brazilian teams from buying these washed up players and buying more effective players from smaller teams like Elias and Ralf for corinthians and Lucas for Sao Paulo who seems miles better than the ancient Rivaldo?

  • Comment number 84.

    How do you think it is that Porto manage to get the best out of so many of these players? Do they have a heavy scouting presence in South America? With r4 Hulk and Falcao likely to be on a few shopping lists this summer I;m sure there will be a new wave of talent arriving there.

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  • Comment number 88.

    Re post #41, Tim, in the Northeast of Brazil, especially Recife, winter means rain and more rain, whereas in the south, Rio & SP, it usually means dry weather (plus the morning fogs you mention)

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  • Comment number 90.

    Gremio were a joke and every single player deserves a hefty fine to their wages. After they scored the early goal, they played to 5% of their ability, you could see the difference when they decided to play properly the last 5 minutes of the match while they were losing. Really poor from them.

    Nevertheless Hernandez has always been a fantastic talent and it's a big shame he hasn't got to participate in a world cup. Another player like him who never got to fulfill his talent is Johnathan Fabbro of Cerro Porteno.

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    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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