BBC BLOGS - Tim Vickery
« Previous | Main | Next »

Peruvian striker Andy Polo makes headlines

Post categories:

Tim Vickery | 09:03 UK time, Monday, 7 November 2011

A special player is coming to my adopted city of Rio de Janeiro this Wednesday.

Universitario of Peru are visiting Vasco da Gama in the quarter-finals of South America's Europa League equivalent [called the Copa Sul-Americana in Brazil, the Sudamericana elsewhere on the continent] and in their ranks is 17-year-old striker Andy Polo.

Already linked with Liverpool and Arsenal, Polo is of particular interest to me. He is something I have been waiting for.

It was August 1994 when I moved over to this side of the Atlantic. Polo was born at the end of the following month.

Andy Polo

17 year-old Peruvian striker Andy Polo's stock has risen on the international front after he helped his club side Universitario secure the Under-20 version of the Copa Libertadores for the first time in the club's history. PHOTO: Getty

He is the first player to make a major impact who has been in South America for less time than I have.

A strong, stocky, sinuous runner, he is reminiscent in style to his compatriot Jefferson Farfan. Earlier this year, Polo helped his club win an under-20 version of the Copa Libertadores, the continent's Champions League.

The stand-outs were Polo and a team-mate, the lithe, left sided Edison Flores. Both - and especially Polo - have made a successful graduation to the senior side.

It was in late September, a few days before his 17th birthday, that Polo really had me out of my seat. The event was Peru's big derby, Universitario against Alianza Lima.

This is always a huge occasion, and a real test for a rookie.

Polo showed strength of character and strength of physique, at one point carving out a clear opportunity with a crash-ball run straight through the middle of the experienced Alianza defence.

This was clearly a name for the notebook.

Normally my protective interest in a player such as this would have me hoping that he is not tempted to take the risk of a premature move.

In this case, though, there is no use. He will inevitably be packing his bags before long - the economic situation of his club leaves little alternative.

Universitario are a big club with a proud tradition. Although they are traditionally identified with the elite, and their rivals Alianza with the mass of the population, there are surveys which claim that Universitario's support is at least as big. In terms of titles there is no doubt about it - they lead the Peruvian pack.

They have been in financial trouble for some time now. But recent events seem to have tipped them over the edge, into a chapter of their history which includes both genuine tragedy and dark comedy.

The tragedy came in that very derby against Alianza where Polo announced his presence. It took place in Universitario's impressive, modern stadium.

Security arrangements were not so impressive. A group of visiting fans were in one of the executive boxes - in theory the safest part of the ground. Some home supporters broke in, beat them up and threw one to his death.

It pales in comparison with the human consequences, but the incident had a further negative impact on the club's finances. They have not been able to use their stadium since, borrowing a small ground in neighbouring Callao for league games and moving into the revamped National stadium for last week's first leg against Vasco.

The comedy lies in some of the recent antics. In May, the club forgot to take their change strip to Trujillo to play Cesar Vallejo. The players had to take the field in training tops with the numbers drawn on with felt pen.

The weekend before last was even more bizarre. In a bid to save money, the team waited until Sunday morning to fly up to Cuzco to face Cienciano, but the flight was delayed. Come kick-off time, they still had not arrived.

There was only one solution. The reserves - basically a junior team - had just played the reserves of Cienciano, losing 1-0. Now they would have to play again.

The referee only authorised nine of them to take the field, since they were the only ones with professional contracts. Halfway through the first half, the delegation arrived. With two extra players and three substitutions, Universitario could strengthen the side.

But for 20 minutes they were down to nine tired kids. It is a wonder they only lost 3-0.

It is also a wonder that they have reached the quarter-finals of the Sul-Americana, with a terrific chance of making the last four.

Admittedly Vasco, with an eye on the Brazilian title, sent a weakened team to Lima for the first leg. Even so, in their 2-0 win, Universitario did enough to suggest they can reach the semis even if Vasco unleash the full-strength side on Wednesday.

Certainly there seems to be no lack of motivation among the Peruvians - even though they have not been paid for five months.

The accumulated wage bill could have serious consequences. Tired of waiting, the players are refusing to sign the pre-match paperwork, meaning that the club forfeit any points won on the field. The second division is beckoning.

The Copa Sul-Americana, meanwhile, is a question of professional pride and also a chance for the players to put themselves in the shop window.

There are one or two other interesting prospects. Raul Ruidiaz is a tricky little striker, though talk of "the Peruvian Messi" is hardly fair, and not just because Ruidiaz is right-footed. There is Edison Flores. Alvaro Ampuero is a tall, left-footed defensive midfielder with a promising future.

But the brightest bulb in the firmament is Polo, whose speed, strength and skill look tailor made for European football.

In an ideal world, a transfer would not happen yet. But force of circumstances is likely to push this one through sooner rather than later. Losing Polo would surely leave a hole in the hearts of Universitario supporters. But the club need to sell to survive.

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

From last week's postbag:

What do you think of Fabio Rochemback's career? I wouldnt say he had disaster in playing in Europe. Do you think he has a chance to make back in to Brazil team or even Europe, although age 29 he could have a few good years in him.
Jawaad Kaleem

It would be outrageous to call his time in Europe a disaster. He's had a solid career. But remember that he was playing for Brazil and Barcelona while still a teenager - in that light I think that it's clear he didn't go on to fulfil those early expectations. This is something that fascinates me - how does a player cope psychologically when he discovers that he's not quite as good as he's been allowed to think?
In terms of his future - if he couldn't get in to the Brazil squad a year ago when Gremio were flying, then it's unlikely now. And, 30 next month, a move back to Europe hardly looks likely either - not that there's anything wrong with that. The Brazilian first division is an increasingly interesting place to play, and, as you say, he should have plenty of time left to enjoy himself back home.


  • Comment number 1.

    Andy Polo hes a mint of a player

  • Comment number 2.

    Anyone know what's happened to the 5 live World football phone-in? The podcast has been unavailable for the last few weeks. Is the show still being broadcast?

  • Comment number 3.

    Apparently Polo is so good, the fans have started referring to him as the "Hole-ly One"

  • Comment number 4.

    Well hopefully wenger dives in and signs him as one for the future and sends him back on loan

  • Comment number 5.

    #2 - the WFPI is still being broadcast, but the podcast appears to have become a (short term?) victim of resources being tied up with the move to Salford. If you look on the Facebook page, a kind listener has uploaded the mp3s of the last two shows to a file-sharing site.

  • Comment number 6.

    That Polo lad does look extra strong for his age. I must make a menthol note of him.

  • Comment number 7.

    looks a decent footballer but i fear he be solded to europe too young and not make the grade and spend his career in the lower leagues which would be a shame for a lad who has great talent i wish him the best

  • Comment number 8.

    Although i'd love him to come to United or even Arsenal, i think an slower league like Serie A would suit him well.

    But will that slow his development? No idea, but he looks like he has the characteristics to do well wherever.

  • Comment number 9.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 10.


    Just go to Up All Night in the iPlayer and at 1:30:00 into the programme the wfpi starts.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great article as ever!! Tim, I recently watched Lucas Piazon make his youth team debut for Chelsea, I saw a few flashes of promise from him as well as an uncanny resemblance to the great Kaka, But I thought Piazon had to wait until his 18th birthday before making the move due to a law??

  • Comment number 12.

    great to get news from your continent Tim, however I would think it is quite often hard for a Peruvian player to make the adjustment to Europe.

    re the team not making the match in Cuzco, this city is in the mountains and is often inaccessible by plane, even when the weather is good it's a hairy flight into Cuzco airport!

  • Comment number 13.

    Looks a decent prospect. But surely the standard of defending in the Peruvian league is much lower than Europe? Not getting my hopes up. Wouldn't mind seeing him at Liverpool though.

  • Comment number 14.

    @ #1 - very good ha ha!

    From the sounds of things though Tim, Polo has a very bright future ahead of him, and unusually may benefit from a premature move to Europe?

    check out my blog via the link below...

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm not sure which cheese is the tastiest. Its a rather perplexing question.

    I'm a big fan of camberzola but perhaps a nice goats cheese would be better on this occasion?

  • Comment number 16.

    Pity his parents didn't name him Marco...

    Tim, from a development point of view do you think a move to a Brazilian/Argentinian side would be better for him than a European at this stage? What do you think the chances of that happening are given that European clubs would normally pay more than Brazilian/Argentinian clubs and that his club desparately need money so would pressure him to sign for the highest offer

  • Comment number 17.

    #15 - Cheese? Where'd that come from?

    To anser though - I'd go for a nice ripe and runny Camembert

  • Comment number 18.

    Peru is a crazy and wonderful place, we have been there for 8 months. We went to a Trujillo home game who were 8th against the team who were 9th the quality of the football was laughable. Without exaggeration it was not even conference level. Also, the level of football violence we witnessed at Alianza is astonishing even with permission from gangs around La Victoria you are taking your life in your hands. Getting out of the ground is probably the most intimidating thing I have ever done.

  • Comment number 19.

    "Security arrangements were not so impressive. A group of visiting fans were in one of the executive boxes - in theory the safest part of the ground. Some home supporters broke in, beat them up and threw one to his death."

    Whils I appreciate there have been sanctions put in place it makes one wonder what has to happen for clubs in COMNEBOL or CAF to get thrown out of their regional competions like English clubs did after Heysel....and there are certainly as far as I'm aware no reports ongoing to stop a Hillsborough happening in Nigeria or Nicaragua - yet countries in South and Central America have had dictators, wars over football and endemic corruption as well as racism etc. One rule for England and one rule for others.

  • Comment number 20.

    Love to get my hands on a Universitario Polo shirt....

  • Comment number 21.

    liverpool or arsenal would be good clubs for polo to play and learn. he should be allowed to finish the season with his club before moving. then loaned out to another european club or a championship club where he can get regular 1st team football instead of sitting in the reserve sides of liverpool or arsenal.

  • Comment number 22.

    Copa Sul-Americana I really dislike this competition and wish you wouldn´t refer to it as the SAm Europa Cup. Its not even the other teams of the continent who take part, but a mix bag of some libertadores and others. The attendances are so poor (in Brasil anyway). Really wish they partnered this alongside Libertadores which would allow for example a "Full-Strength" Brazilian Cup competition at this end of the season!

    Tim any comment on the Brazil Government extra millions so the 9 grounds and 3 airports can work round the clock to be ready for 2014. Personally it is becoming the people´s World Cup now, certainly from a taxation point any how. And your opinion on the new Palmeries Stadium, being built with private money, but not involved in the WC.

  • Comment number 23.

    I know the feeling, Tim, when you the gods allow you to see a glimpse of heaven. When first I saw JJ Okocha at 17, I almost had an ....... He was stocky like Polo, with unbelievable control, feints and body contortions that defied the laws of physics, and he had some pace then. Or an 18 year old Ronaldo (the Brazillian). Or Asprilla in Serie A.

    I hope Polo doesn't become another young, blessed SA player heading to European oblivion? Farfan has not achieved much and remains relatively obscure. I've seen some condensed games of Polo on a US sports channel and he seems to be the REAL DEAL. I hope he heads to the Eredivisie (Ajax or PSV) where the play good football at a realistic pace. This will reinforce his technique, situational awareness and boost his confidence. Suarez, Ronaldo, Romario etc. followed this route to great effect. A move to the twilight zone of reserve team football in Spain, England, Italy or Germany would stunt his growth.

  • Comment number 24.

    Great blog as always Tim. Going to a South American football game is definately on my to-do list. There is always something crazy going on. I mean this -

    "The comedy lies in some of the recent antics. In May, the club forgot to take their change strip to Trujillo to play Cesar Vallejo. The players had to take the field in training tops with the numbers drawn on with felt pen.

    The weekend before last was even more bizarre. In a bid to save money, the team waited until Sunday morning to fly up to Cuzco to face Cienciano, but the flight was delayed. Come kick-off time, they still had not arrived." hilarious!

  • Comment number 25.

    Hey Tim,
    After years of ready your blog for the BBC and on a few other sites plus your weekly podcasts and a number of unforgettable appearances on sportv, I have finally registered to comment and to congratulate you on a great job, sometimes your blog is the only thing keeping this Londoner living in Fortaleza sane.
    looking forward to see what Polo can do on Wednesday against a stronger Vasco team, but I can't tell you how many of these players I have seen come and go over the last 10 years, full of promise and potential then head to a big European club and don't achieve then end up returning to their home country, being a Palmeirense, Keirrison is a prime example. These kids need to spend more time in south america learning their trade and developing their game, then a move to a medium sized european club that not only suits their individual style of play but a place where they will be apart of the first team and not under the media spotlight of a barce,real or man utd, these kids need time not only to adapt to a different style of play but to learn to live in another country and learn the language and culture and I can tell you from my own personal experience of living in Brazil that many are unable to deal with the pressures and expectations.

  • Comment number 26.

    23.At 22:55 7th Nov 2011, Falcaocerezo wrote:
    I hope Polo doesn't become another young, blessed SA player heading to European oblivion? Farfan has not achieved much and remains relatively obscure

    I think that's a bit harsh on Jefferson Farfan!

    He scored 57 goals in 119 league games for PSV Eindhoven and won the Dutch league four times.

    He moved to Schalke in Germany for 10 million euros in 2008 and won the German Cup last season, played 44 games for Schalke last season and scored 10 goals.

    I suppose it depends on your definition of 'not achieved much'. Granted, he's not a household name like Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but he's hardly faded into obscurity either!

  • Comment number 27.

    Andy Polo may need to go to Netherland and play for Ajax or PSV or to France with PSG/Lyon to taste european football with average pace and power before thinking of going to England or Spain where the pace is faster and more physical. Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kanu, Okocha and Essien did it. But if Arsene Wenger is interested, he will buy him and loan him out to Spain like Vela and Botelho.

  • Comment number 28.

    Mr Pardew wants to get Mr Solano on the first plane to Lima. If Polo wants 1st team footy in the PL he'd get it with us. If he plays a musical instrument and Nobby takes his trumpet over there they can jam together while the ink dries on the contract.

  • Comment number 29.

    Tim, I have question regarding another Latin American prospect by the name of Marc Antonio Bueno, currently playing for Pachuca. Having already agreed a deal to sign for Liverpool in July 2012, do you think he'll have an impact like his Mexican colleague Hernandez or have Liverpool dived in and not done enough scouting on him and thus signed him at too young of an age for him to progress in Europe?

  • Comment number 30.

    Tim... I became a fan of you watching you at REDAÇÃO SPORTV... for bring to a very close minded brazilian sports "experts" a very brave as well clearly and well thought ideas about the football in south america and Brazil in special...your comments about the diference of when the fans "stand up from their chair" during a game in Brazil and England were really accurate on the avaliation and arguments taht you did... anyway... I came read your posts that are also great on bbc... but to give you another "weapon" to use the next time you show up on Redação ;)... about the ESTADUAIS... you know what I am talking about =)... I live in Curitiba... next year... if Atlético Paranaense go down to the Serie B... we may have a classic between Atlético and Paraná clube only on Série B... and not in the ESTADUAL... because...Paraná got relegated on argument that the ESTADUAL is to mantain the state big rivalries alive... well... not working here on my state... because Coritiba will not face Paraná Clube for the classical PARATIBA... because they will not face each other in the ESTADUAL or Brasileirão... as well when Guarani got relegated in São Paulo ESTADUAL... Campinas didint saw the derby between Bugre and Ponte Preta on the state championship.. so..just another weapon for you to use as argument..(last time you said you had runned out of arguments in your defence)... hehehe... anyway..great job... you got a fan in Brasil...

  • Comment number 31.

    This Lad Polo, i hear he is good but has a few holes in his game. Watching him however is like a breath of fresh air.

    as for the rest of the blog it sounded like an episode of the chuckle brothers! apart form the 'threw him to his death bit' they would have spun around and hit him with a ladder or something.......

    to me, to you!

  • Comment number 32.


    @ 8

    Although i'd love him to come to United or even Arsenal, i think an slower league like Serie A would suit him well.

    But will that slow his development?


    Slower league haha, all anyone ever says is this.......stop reading the Sun or quoting what fools say in the internet, try and watch some Serie A and you will see its not this age old cliche like you seem to think.

  • Comment number 33.

    Andy Polo........I think he will find some holes in defences........

    Now, I like Polo's, but I also like Mentos.....but which is better..........

  • Comment number 34.

    Polo is one of greatest young player in the Peruvian Football, he makes us remember to Cubillas when he started his career. I wish he doesn't miss on the way to consolidate like other players.

  • Comment number 35.

    Tim,can i have your views about another good prospect that comes from Peru and is already playing in Europe for Sporting Lisbon,it is a lad called Carrillo(La Culebra). So far he is doing really well attracting great reviews from the press in Portugal. Do you think he has what it takes to be a success in European football? MAny Thanks

  • Comment number 36.

    Hi Tim,
    Another great article on Andy Polo, looking forward to seeing him(providing it’s not for Liverpool) in the premiership.
    Earlier this year I had read an article about Manchester United recruiting young South American player and having them trained by a combination of Desportivo Brasil and FC Twenty. As I understand the deal United pay for their training and provide a sty pin and in return have the players under pre-contracts which gives United the first right to sign them if things work out.
    The players and positions are:
    1. Gladstony Estevan Paullno da Silva – defensive midfielder
    2. Aguilar Aparecido Ollveira – striker
    3. Lucas Evangellsta Santana de Oliveira – defensive midfielder
    4. Agnaldo Pinto Moraees Junior – attacking midfielder
    5. Rafael Leao Martins Pereira – defensive midfielder
    No real question but three “sub-questions” if that’s alright. Do you have any information on any of these young players? Is this a common arrangement for other European clubs? Will their training at TC Twenty be of benefit to them in South America if they do not make it in Europe?

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi tim, I'm from Perú.
    I'm a fan of ALianza Lima but i have to admit that Polo is a very good player. Andy Polo plays like a Jefferson Farfan, he's fast and looks strong for his age.
    He played under-20 Copa Libertadores and won it, in that time he was 16.
    I hope Polo play in Europe, we need him for peruvian futbol team.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hello Tim and everyone else,
    Before I say anything I want to clarify that I am Peruvian and follow the national league a lot. Now I just want to say that even though it is good for a player to stay and develop their game in their respective country before going to Europe; in Polo's case, it is the best for him to migrate as soon as possible. This is not only because of the situation the team is in, but because the Peruvian First Division is mediocre at best. The lack of professionalism in the league is incredibly high and most young talent that stays there too long ends up corrupting himself or playing reserves. The league is very unorganized and the level of football like someone else said is conference level. Many teams are in debt and other teams do their best to get points off the field and on the table. If this kid wants to achieve its maximum potential he needs to develop in Holland, Portugal or Brazil because unfortunately the league that he is in is not going to help.

  • Comment number 39.

    37, 38 and others - great to get a Peruvian perspective - many thanks for your contributions.

    35 - saw a fair bit of Carrillo at the start of the year in the south american under-20s. he looked very interesting (though wasn't the stand out in the team), but had little composure in front of goal.

  • Comment number 40.

    Off topic, with apologies.

    Tim, Does regular Brazilian TV show Argentine football regularly? Or, must you purchase some extra service(s) to see those games? Just curious. Thanks, Chris

  • Comment number 41.

    Hi Tim .... I am Peruvian. I'm a fan of Universitario .I can tell you is good player Andy Polo... fast, strong and it is best not afraid confront could say that the World Cup qualifying sub 17 has 3 goals with Edison they say ... you have to go up quickly by the mediocrity of the championship because not all football teams are on the same level....I hope that a team from Europe to accept and guide you to the best .

  • Comment number 42.

    Why does everyone who doesn't like criticism of La Liga or Serie A assume we all read the Sun or watch Sky. I don't do either, as a rule.

    Yet from what i've seen, Serie A is a slower paced league than EPL, and the overrall quality of La Liga is less (at best, the same) than EPL. The style is carried through to the national teams.

    It's not a problem (arguably the approach is superior, if the national teams are any indication), just the way it is.

    Polo, however, sounds like he may well be suited to the English league in a similar way to Drogba

  • Comment number 43.

    uh oh Gen, Soul Patch is probably dusting off his new batch of buzz words and dated cliches ;-)

    but yeah maybe its the love in with Lar Ligar thats twistin my melon as well.

  • Comment number 44.

    I predict a bright future for him in Brasil or to a lesser degree Argentina. He is too young to move to Europe and if he does, he talents might never be nutured (he might end up bouncing from club to club) Best for him to stay a bit until he becomes an adult

  • Comment number 45.

  • Comment number 46.

    Tying this week's topic with last week's about Colombian players using a move to Argentina as a stepping stone to Europe, what is curious is not many Peruvians have taken the same path. There is a Peruvian international, Giancarlo Carmona, currently at San Lorenzo but he has not really shown he is ready to make the jump to Europe yet. Nolberto Solano is one of the few who did, as he moved from Peru to Boca Juniors before then heading to England. But off the top of my head I can not think of many others. I know Percy Olivares played a season at Rosario Central then bounced around a bit more before eventually ending up in Greece but Solano and Olivares are exceptions to the rule.

    Similarly not many Peruvians go to Mexico either even though that league is full of players from just about every other country in South America (except maybe Bolivia.) Wilmer Aguirre at San Luis is the only Peruvian I can think of now playing in Mexico. This is surprising because even when Peru's national team was in the doldrums, Peruvian players have always been known to be skillful so you would expect there would be some market for them in countries like Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.

  • Comment number 47.

    Great blog as always Tim(you put that McNulty bloke to shame!) but that was a terribly cheap pun!! So bad it actually ended up being funny. Please give up Brazil and return to Britain to bring up the standard of journalism on this site!


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.