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South American superstars wind down on home soil

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Tim Vickery | 10:55 UK time, Monday, 30 January 2012

I have often mentioned the single greatest pleasure of covering South American football -spotting a future superstar on the way up, spying on the early steps of someone with the talent to become a household name all over the world.

Another pleasure comes from following some of those big names at the end of their playing days, when they come back from Europe to wind down their careers.

One of the fascinating aspects here is that they can fit into so many different categories.

One is exemplified by Juan Sebastian Veron, who came back from Italy when still at the height of his powers, motivated by a genuine love for Estudiantes and a burning ambition to bring the glory days back to the club where he first started - and where his father shone so brightly in the late 1960s.


Football legends Romario and Ronaldo both finished their playing careers in Brazil. Photo: Getty

Mission accomplished. Veron junior led Estudiantes to their third Copa Libertadors title in 2009, and was twice chosen as the South American continent's player of the year.

Injuries meant that he had meant to retire last month, but a campaign by his team-mates forced a rethink. He will carry his battered body through one more campaign.

Romario is a different case. When he returned to Brazil at the start of 1995 he had just won the World Cup and been chosen as FIFA Player of the Year.

His ambitions fulfilled, he left Barcelona to join Flamengo in a bid to escape the routine of a professional athlete.

Back in Rio he could use his prestige to do as he pleased. Football was not a priority - until his ego was bruised by the explosive rise of Ronaldo at Barcelona in the last few months of 1996.

At the start of the following year Romario had got himself in shape and was on fire once more.

He had flipped the switch that says 'genius.' But the next few years were an illustration of the sad fact that man is inevitably fated to lose the battle against time.

Again and again Romario's body broke down when he needed it most. He missed the 1998 World Cup - and the knock out stages of the 2001 Libertadores - and became an accumulator of largely irrelevant goals.

In the contemporary Flamengo team, Ronaldinho is perhaps a similar case. It is too early for any definitive conclusions to be drawn about his time back in Brazil - this year's Libertadores campaign could be crucial in determining how he will be judged.

At times he waddles around with the air of an ex-player in a charity match. At others he inspires the hope that, at 31, the great days might not be entirely behind him.

But at least he scaled the mountain - unlike another category of returning veterans; those who never fulfilled the hopes they once inspired.

Uruguay has plenty of those. Before the recent resurgence of the sky blues, there were a few false dawns for Uruguayan football.

One came in the late 90s. They finished second in the 1997 World Youth Cup in Malaysia - a staggering percentage of the country's population turned out to greet the squad on their return home.

Two years later many of these players were promoted to the experimental line-up taken to the Copa America in Paraguay, where they caused a shock by reaching the final. The good old days of Uruguayan football seemed within reach once more.

Instead, the country had to wait a little bit longer, until Oscar Washington Tabarez took over in 2006 and implanted his long-term project.

That late 90s generation made the 2002 World Cup, but were knocked out in the first round and then missed out on 2006.

And it was not only with their country that they disappointed. Few made the expected impact at club level, but there is still time for some of them to make their mark.

Like Fabian Carini, for example. A graduate of the late 90s Under-20s sides and the 1999 Copa America, he was Uruguay's first-choice keeper while still a teenager.

Combining the nerves of a veteran with the reflexes of youth, he looked set to be one of the world's best. It never happened.

There were long spells on the bench or in the stands with Juventus and Inter Milan, the occasional loan here and there, a brief, unsuccessful spell in Brazil before going back to Uruguay to join Penarol, where he watched last year's run to the final of the Libertadores from the bench.

Now he is first choice and showed his value last Thursday at home to Caracas of Venezuela in the first leg of the 2012 Libertadores qualifying round.

Away goals are gold dust in this competition. It was a big moment, then, with almost half-an-hour gone and the game still scoreless, when Caracas won a penalty.

Captain Edgar Jimenez struck hard and true, but Carini plunged right to make the save and change the game.

Within 10 minutes Penarol were two goals up. Coach Gregorio Perez has constructed a bold side, attacking with a pair of wide strikers - and burly Marcelo Zalayeta through the middle.

A team-mate of Carini's in the 1999 Copa America, Zalayeta was one of Uruguay's great hopes. Like the keeper, though, the centre forward suffered in Italy from a loss of momentum brought about by too much time on the bench and too many loan spells.

On his day, though, he is still a handful for any defence and pounced with speed belying his 33 years to stroke home Penarol's second goal.

The final score was 4-0, a splendid margin to take north for Thursday's second leg. The last goal was fired in by right winger Fabian Estoyanoff. At 29, he does not quite belong to the generation of Carini and Zalayeta but he is part of the same process.

Unleashed as an 18-year-old in the 2001 Copa America, his lithe dribbling made a huge impression. For a while he played the role of supersub in the national team. But it never went further.

He bounced around Spain from club to club, and more recently spent time in Greece, without ever really delivering on that youthful promise.

Estoyanoff celebrated his strike against Caracas running across to a pitch-side payphone and talking into the receiver.

It cost him a yellow card, a price well worth paying to communicate his message - that there are still some new chapters to be written by Penarol's old timers.

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:

Q) Great to see Alvaro "El Chino" Recoba having an Indian summer back in his homeland of Uruguay. Why do you think he never really made a impact at the highest level in Europe? Without question he is one of most (if not the most) naturally gifted players I have ever seen. Attitude? Italian coaches?
Steve Lamb

A) If Penarol have their golden oldies, Nacional have Alvaro Recoba. He was certainly highly valued in Italy. Inter Milan's president loved him and he was one of the best-paid players in the league. I tend to think his problem has been more psychological than anything else. Not only for club but also for country you could never really rely on him to come good when the team needed it most - and that is the sign of the truly great player. It will be fascinating to see how he goes in this year's Libertadores. In Marcelo Gallardo he has a young coach who should understand him and the position he plays. Bearing in mind his extraordinary talent, it would be nice to see him make an impact.

Q) Brazil's 1958 side is often reported as one of the best, with Pele's breakthrough, and Garrincha and so on.
Of course the 1970 side is regarded as one of the best sides in football history.
But I wonder how the 1962 winners are seen.
To me they seem like "the forgotten side". Is this mostly because of Pele's injury in the opening phase of the tournament?
Krister Wendelborg

A) I think that had he not been injured in the second game, then 1962 could have been what 86 was to Maradona. If you look at the goal he scored in the opener against Mexico then you are seeing a football machine at the peak of its powers.
The problem that 62 has, apart from Pele's injury, is that it is basically the same side as 1958, only four years older and not as good. I think it's the oldest team to win a World Cup, with several players who were on the downward slope. It is remembered most for the individual brilliance of Garrincha, coming off the right wing in his team's moment of need and displaying the full range of his genius.

Before signing off for the week, I want to make a quick reference to an amazing charity feat currently being performed by someone I was at school with. I haven't seen Matthew Loddy in over 30 years, but news has reached me that he is running 100 marathons in 100 days, culminating in the London marathon, in a bid to raise money for charity, chiefly the Teenage Cancer Trust.
I remember him as the best footballer I grew up with and recall that he had hopes of a professional career. That natural athleticism will serve him well as he forces himself over the pain barrier day after day. He's past the 15-mark now, his body is clearly suffering and he and his cause need all the help they can get. His daily blog, information on the charities and how to donate can be found at


  • Comment number 1.

    Veron is viewed scandalously in this country- he was a great player- a midfield playmaker with outstanding technique- who was mis-used badly by Sir Alex Ferguson. Ferguson has proved on many occasions that he is not quite the infallible genius that he is perceived as- why he bought Veron, a playmaker who likes to set the tempo and take free kicks and set pieces, when he already had Beckham, Scholes and Keane in that midfield in 2001 - only he will know.

    People can call Veron a flop or 'not suited to the english game' but if you look back you'll see Ferguson playing him variously just off a striker, as a wide player and as a holding midfielder in the two years he was at Manchester United. None of those were ever his position and he never played those positions for his Italian clubs or Estudiantes. It was very strange and one of Ferguson's odd errors. Perhaps Veron was the right player at the wrong time. At Chelsea Veron struggled with an injury and Chelsea also were buying more quality than they knew what to do with.

    Excellent to see him doing so well back in his homeland- and like Scholes, coming back for one more season to help Estudiantes out.

  • Comment number 2.

    Ronaldo has really piled in the pies, hasn't he!!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    God yeah he has! One of my favorite strikers still. Awesome power and could finish anything in his prime.

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    Loving the picture of Ronaldo! One of the greatest players the game has seen, and probably the best finisher too. Seems that the only thing he can finish now is his dinner (and probably several puddings too).

  • Comment number 6.

    The problem with Carini and Zalayeta is that they joined Juve at a time when the club was spending ridiculous amounts of money on loads of players on stupid contracts. The entire squad around that time was bloated with players. The same can also be said of Estoyanoff. Valencia were also splashing the cash before the housing market and stadium went tits up and were left with a huge squad and crippling debt.

    For me, that entire 2002 Uruguay squad was a symbolism of the lost generation of that era. Players who were average enough in Europe but never consistently did it on the big stage and made the step up into the higher echelons.

    Paolo Montero, Gianni Guigou, Dario Rodriguez, Gustavo Varela, Dario Silva, Nicolas Olivera, Gonzalo Sorondo, Pablo Garcia, Mario Regueiro.

    The only exception was Forlan.

  • Comment number 7.

    @ 2 & 3: while it is sad to see Ronaldo's current figure, I suspect that it has less to do with his stomach and more to do with the medicines he must have been stuffed full of to recover from a series of very serious injuries and to overcome the pain they caused him. There lies a warning for up-and-coming players today, perhaps.

  • Comment number 8.

    While 'coming home' is a positive emotion most people can identify with, there is no doubt that 'nationalism' is much stronger in South America than it is in Europe (although it is still strong enough to undermine a lot of worthy pan-European endeavours) and plays a part on both sides of this equation. On one hand, you have the returning heroes, who are fought over by the richer clubs. On the other, it's an opportunity for the less successful to get back to their roots in an effort to rekindle their careers. There is no doubt that Robinho's repeat spell at Santos was a shot in the arm for the player, as well as useful for the club. He managed to rediscover some of the joy in playing the game that seemed to have been lost during his time in Europe. Ronaldinho is currently trying the same, with varying results - he really turned it on against Santos in that memorable match last year, but rarely manages it on other 'less inspiring' occasions. Doubtless the internal strife which seems to constantly plague Flamengo has a lot to do with that, as does his announced difficulty in getting paid.

  • Comment number 9.

    Its hard to compare the muscle bound destroyer that Ronaldo was in his early days to what he looks like now. As I understand it, he may have a genetic predisposition to weight gain

  • Comment number 10.

    RE: Ronaldo - I'm sure I read somewhere he has always struggled with his weight. Besides, so many lean footballers plump out when they retire - look at Steve Bruce.

    FTFA: A pitchside payphone? Srsly? In case a player needs to take a call mid game?

  • Comment number 11.

    It was my belief that Ronaldo suffers from Hypothyroidism, which leads to weight gain amongst other things. Was one of the reasons why he was so overweight at his latter European club AC Milan

  • Comment number 12.

    From what I have heard Ronaldo ( the real one) suffers from hypothyroidism, a causing weight gain, due to slowing of his metabolism, a real shame that the Ronaldo of pre 1998 final/ barca was never really seen again as he truly was a stunning player.

    Great article Tim and an interesting piece on Juan Veron which has seen a lot of debate started. Verons a player whom as a fan I always enjoyed watching however do feel he never quite got the praise from the media he deserved or to be honest "bossed" matches in England in the manner he did at Lazio or even more recently for Argentina where he was the dictator of play.

    Why do you think things didn't quite work for him at man united? I feel with the beckham keane scholes giggs midfield it was a very direct and physical team, quite unsuited to verons more cultured style of play. Would he have fit in better with the current squad?

  • Comment number 13.

    It was my belief that Ronaldo suffers from Hypothyroidism

    Clearly not helped by his penchant for cream cakes though. A pal of mine met him at some UEFA awards dinner in his playing days and he managed to get a few words out while also clearing the cake buffet!

  • Comment number 14.

    3.At 14:27 30th Jan 2012, Southampton90 wrote:
    God yeah he has! One of my favorite strikers still. Awesome power and could finish anything in his prime.
    Pitty, now he can only finish a prime 5 course meal.... what a player he was though

  • Comment number 15.

    Lucas is the next big thing to come out of brazil as im sure most of you know, he looks the ticket, would he cut it in england? i dont know, i would have put my house on Veron being a big hit in the Prem, but ah well. the Prem has cast aside a quite a few players that looked the ticket before they joined the prem

  • Comment number 16.

    At 15:53 30th Jan 2012, Rob04 wrote:

    It was my belief that Ronaldo suffers from Hypothyroidism

    Clearly not helped by his penchant for cream cakes though. A pal of mine met him at some UEFA awards dinner in his playing days and he managed to get a few words out while also clearing the cake buffet!

    Admittedly you are correct that will not help! We've all been in that situation though, who has resisted the joys of a cake buffet?!

  • Comment number 17.

    Hi Tim,

    Nice post as usual, but I was expecting to see some comments on the opening rounds of the Libertadores.

  • Comment number 18.

    12.At 15:48 30th Jan 2012, jdixon01 wrote:
    Why do you think things didn't quite work for him at man united? I feel with the beckham keane scholes giggs midfield it was a very direct and physical team, quite unsuited to verons more cultured style of play. Would he have fit in better with the current squad?

    I don't think it was the style of play. Utd have always played a passing game, maybe quicker than in Italy and with more crosses but build up play has always been along the ground. There was no room for him, basically. Veron wanted to be the orchestrator, he couldn't be that with Scholes and Keane there and Beckham drifting inside from the right. The only way Ferguson could accommodate him was by playing him out of position.

    A lot of people comment on the Veron thing at Utd and just talk generally about Latin-style midfielders in english football and the game not being suited to them, but I don't think they actually watched the games he played...I did, - and he played some of his best games alongside a destroyer like Phil Neville or Nicky Butt while he was the main playmaker in central midfield. When Ferguson played him with Scholes, Keane and Beckham the team had no balance and he was superfluous. That was the main issue with him.

  • Comment number 19.

    I find that Ronaldinho hardly ever get's the credit he deserves from the British media. Twice world footballer of teh year, this guy was a key component in the Barcelona revival. Outrageously talented, he never took football too seriously and seemed to do it more as a hobby than as a profession.

    People say he never reached his potential and I laugh. Within a relatively short period he has already inspired both Brazil and Argentina to a Copa America / World Cup and La Liga title / Champions Leagues respectively.

    How much more is a player entiled to achieve?

    Most importantly for me, he played always with a smile on his face (who could forget those buck teeth), entertained and never took the game too seriously. Within all the overanalysis and paralysis by analysis we are systematically taking all the fun out of the game (for which I hold the largely too serious British press and commenting public responsible!).

    It's just a game!

  • Comment number 20.

    It seems to me that the number of quality players coming out of South America seems to be reducing. Is this in part, due to the lack of success that the previous generation seem to have achieved or is that the standard there is getting so that they feel happier to remain? We have some south american's, but few (good) Brazilians or Argentinians despite our contention that ours is the best league in world football.
    Ronaldo does look like he is at last enjoying life though !! Good for him & thanks for the memories.

  • Comment number 21.


    Just a short note to those who revel in Ronaldo's weight gain. Did not Ronaldo reveal in February 2011 that he had a medical condition that resulted in his weight gain? Apparently in 2007, it was discovered that he suffers from an under-active thyroid that slowed down his metabolism. In short, his inability to control his weight seems to be primarily due to a physiological condition rather than his inability or unwillingness to curb his appetite.

  • Comment number 22.

    I will always partly blame Veron for us losing in the semi final of the champions league against monaco. Veron lost the ball and morientes scored to knock us out otherwise we would have had mourinho's porto in the final. Of course I blame Ranieri more for bringing him on when he was only semi fit. One of the worst substitutions ever and rightly so went towards costing him his job. Should have been sacked on the spot imo. in what way did he think a semi fit player was going to improve a team?

    I also remember Veron scoring against Liverpool on the last day of the season to get us into the champions league as well so it wasn't all bad.

    Maybe with this going home feel good factor torres could be shiped off to spain for a bit? and if he doesn't find any form just cancel the return flight.

  • Comment number 23.

    completely agree that SAF messed Veron up positionally. He did the same to Alan Smith. a great striker put in the holding role. ?????????????????

  • Comment number 24.

    A week or so ago I watched the preseason friendly between Flamengo and Corinthians ...for the second half Corinthians played their new signing say he played would be a gross exageration, he was on the pitch but that was it. At the end of 45 mins he was interviewed for Globo and he could hardly speak, he was so out of breath and tired. Why exactly has Corinthians thought in neccerssary to sign him ? He was fat and slow in his Flamengo days..but now its just sad.

  • Comment number 25.

    I know someone who commented to Veron about his failure at Man U, and got a flea in his ear for his troubles. 'How can you call it a failure? We won this title, that title...'

    I take his point, but I'm sure even he would agree that it could have worked out better. I agree with people making the point about his position at Man U - Ferguson was perhaps taking his first timid steps away from 4-4-2 and maybe was not entirely sure about what he wanted.

    There's another point as well - a psychological one. Veron was joining a successful club - he commented that they didn't even seem to celebrate winning titles, because they were stacking up so many.

    Perhaps on a mental basis he prefers being the leader of the pack of underdogs - a role he has played to perfection at Lazio as well as Estudiantes.

  • Comment number 26.

    I'm going to throw a mention in for Riquelme. Outrageously talented, despite being effectively immobile, he did his thing in La Liga but never quite seemed to hit the heights of his potential. What actually happened to him in the end. I know he went back to Argentina to play for Boca again (I think) but that's about it.

  • Comment number 27.

    Ronaldo is the best striker i've ever watched! Fast, strong and skillful, how often do you see strikers with all of those attributes?

    He was like a Brazilian Alan Shearer but with better goal stats!

    I think Rooney will end up shaped fairly similar to the "new" Ronaldo at about 14+ stone!

    I wish more English players would travel abroad to Europe or South America if they cannot get game time or recognition in the UK. I would expect at least a few to blossom in another country, how many players get turfed out of academies because they are too short, not fast or strong enough despite having decent technical ability, i don't understand why this doesn't happen more often.

  • Comment number 28.

    ronaldo in his prime was the easily the best striker/player ever. his season at barca has to go down as the best display in a season by any player. also his first season for inter was incredible before the injuries came on that took away would he was and could have been. to imagine he could have got better after barca and inter is frightening.

    you should see him at corinthians even then he was ace.

    said many times his injuries are the biggest injustice in football history.

  • Comment number 29.


    yes this was the problem. people think he sat about stuffing his face all day.
    even when fat he was the best.

    did you know he played 300 minutes "total" for AC Milan scoring 9 goals in them 300 mins. not too bad for an overweight past it has been.

    probably one of the best goals to mins ratio ever.

  • Comment number 30.

    Ronaldo in his prime was unrivalled, it's a shame that due to injuries etc his career never scaled the heights we all hoped.

    Of note, what about Adriano? He's also gone in the way of ronaldo and put a few pounds on?

    Also what ever happened to the career of Mario Jardel? I remember he was perennial top scorer at Porto until I think (this may be wrong) his wife left him and his career fell apart?

  • Comment number 31.

    Ronaldo hasn't actually eaten all the pies it's a thyroid problem. Such a massive shame.

  • Comment number 32.

    I'm going to throw a mention in for Riquelme. Outrageously talented, despite being effectively immobile, he did his thing in La Liga but never quite seemed to hit the heights of his potential. What actually happened to him in the end. I know he went back to Argentina to play for Boca again (I think) but that's about it.


    Riquelme has suffered a bit from injuries recently but he was part of a side in which he almost single-handedly won Boca the Libertadores in 2007. I believe he was pretty important last season in winning Boca their first Argentine title for a few years too. When I saw him play pre-season against Arsenal last year, he might not have been as quick and athletic as some on the pitch but his range of passing was still there and he unpicked the Arsenal defence twice to create goals in a 2-2 draw.

  • Comment number 33.

    18)At 16:13 30th Jan 2012, Vox Populi wrote
    A lot of people comment on the Veron thing at Utd and just talk generally about Latin-style midfielders in english football and the game not being suited to them, but I don't think they actually watched the games he played...I did, - and he played some of his best games alongside a destroyer like Phil Neville or Nicky Butt while he was the main playmaker in central midfield. When Ferguson played him with Scholes, Keane and Beckham the team had no balance and he was superfluous. That was the main issue with him.


    Do you not agree with my point that veron would probably fit into the United team now a lot better than in early 2000's if he was the player he was when he joined then, ask United currently seem dying for a younger creative player than Scholes whom can control a game possession wise, but also have the ability to play a killer ball when needed. with Ferguson now playing a 4-5-1 formation surely this would suit veron more as he would be afforded greater time on the ball, with the team likely to have more possession as well which would play into his hands? Also I feel the English game in general at the top level is focused on ball possession and passing, than tackling and scraping as it was when veron arrived on the scene. For example compare a man u vs. arsenal game from 2002 etc. to a man u vs. city game now

  • Comment number 34.

    re 26, great shout - the two Juan's in Veron and Riquelme were/are 2 of the most gifted playmakers around. Riquelme's international career in its early days suffered because of the importance and reliance on Veron. When Riquelme did get a chance at the Copa America in 1999 he didn't shine in the way many anticipated he would and as a result of some disappointing performances all round he seemed to be discarded for Veron.

    Subsequently after a disappointing World Cup 2002 Veron was made the scapegoat, in the aftermath former youth team coach Pekerman who replaced Bielsa gave Riquelme a proper chance in the team.

    Riquelme in 2006 could have been compared to, or become the successor of the great Zidane in terms of skill, influence and creativity. I remember reading World Soccer and reading about the Argentina youth team of 1997 who won the under 20 world cup under Pekerman. Argentina had in their team Riquelme, Aimar, Samuel, Cambiasso amongst others - not a bad group! I remember reading Riquelme scoring a penalty in a 2-0 win over England in the knockout stages containing the likes of Owen, Upson, Dyer, Danny Murphy and Jason Euell amongst others!

    Although Riquelme was arguably at his peak in 2006 I have a feeling there is more to come, despite being 33 now I believe he has another World Cup in him. He has never been a player who has depended on pace, similar to Valderrama of Colombia, he has a great footballing brain to be in the right places to dictate the tempo and play, while his dribbling ability amazes me being able to turn defenders inside out using his ability rather than pace. I saw highlights of a Boca Jnrs game recently and the talent is still there - when he is on form he literally dictates the team putting in a man of the match performance.

    His link up play with Messi in the Olympics in 2008 was great, in many ways 2006 came a year or 2 too early for Messi. But Argentina in my view are crying out for a natural playmaker like Riquelme whose experience, ability and wiliness can slow the tempo down in games and see it out.

    I only hope he comes back for Argentina, he would take the pressure off Messi's role of being provided, creator and finisher, which is why he isnt getting as many goals - which is what Messi seems to be judged on at International level. 2010 wasnt a bad world cup for Messi despite what everyone says.

  • Comment number 35.

    Going along the lines of promising Uruguayan players that have struggled to fufil their early promise, the career of Nicolas Lodeiro at Ajax seems to be synonymous with this description.
    He was key in helping Uryguay qualify for the 2010 world cup and helping his club side at the time Nacional get to the semi finals of the 2008/2009 Copa Libertadores. But I understand he has had some serious injuries, and was wandering how his development was going after these?
    Also I hear Franck De Boer is trying to bring Ajax back to playing the system (total football associated with Johan Cruyff) that one them so many trophies, surely Loderio would fit perfectly into this kind of system?

  • Comment number 36.

    Ronaldo in his prime was unbelievable. Amazingly skillful, fast, strong and with a brilliant goals to game ratio. Genius. His health problems shouldn't be made fun of. We should always remember him as a great and if not for his multiple knee injuries, an even greater career. Ronaldinho is the same, and should be remember as such rather than his lifestyle. Playing with a smile on his face. That is how football should be played. Nowadays it's all focus and angry emotions.

    Some players are suited to certain leagues. Veron wasn't great in England but not all succeed. Thierry Henry failed in Italy. I wouldn't called him a failure. Just England and Wenger suited his style more. Veron's passing, vision and leadership is undeniable. He was great in Italy and doing great in Argentina. He will retire and be best remembered alongside his father as winners and loyalty to his beloved club.

    #6. A lot of Uruguay players didn't achieve their potential. However I would exclude Montero. He played a good decade with Juventus winning many trophies. His cynical style is not to everybody's taste but he was effective defender, who read the game well, good leadership qualities and was fearless in his tackling. Would have had a better reputation without his record red card haul in Italy

  • Comment number 37.


    How about Javier Saviola. At River it looked like he would conquer all, and was likened to a young Romario. Brilliant little player with great talent, but a career that doesn't reflect this. Yes he was a marginal success during 2001/2002 with Barcelona, but another striker in that team may have doubled his tally for that season.

    As for Veron, although the team won titles, he never did display his wide range of talents on the English stage. I'd argue he peaked at around 1998 at the World Cup and never again reached that level of performance.

  • Comment number 38.

    "The problem with Carini and Zalayeta is that they joined Juve at a time when the club was spending ridiculous amounts of money on loads of players on stupid contracts. The entire squad around that time was bloated with players."
    The Juventus of that era was never spending ridiculous amounts of money, and handing out stupid contracts. They in fact made sure not to do that. Players like Vieri, Zidane and Inzaghi amongst others were shipped out to help fund further transfer deals. There was never any reckless spending, like at Inter whose stupid president wasted a fortune before deciding that there were other ways to win.

    Zalayeta didn't fulfill his potential, but he scored crucial goals against Barcelona and Real Madrid in the Champions League. He was a good squad player for a while, although in about 10 years at Juve he must have spent 6 or 7 out on loan.

    I think Carini was unlucky at Juve. He was signed when Van der Sar was in the worst form of his career. That form undoubtedly cost Juventus the title, and as such Van der Sar had to go. Had Van der Sar stayed, Carini might well have replaced him in time, but Buffon was signed. He's a similar age to Carini, and was already the best in the world back then, so Carini stood no chance.

    In the end Carini became more famous for one of the best and most stupid transfer deals in history when Luciano Moggi conned Inter into a straight swap deal for Fabio Cannavaro. That story will always made me smile as it sums up Moggi's transfer market genius, and Moratti's stupidity in one move.

  • Comment number 39.

    #34- well said about Riquelme. Too bad he and Maradona had a falling out, then again Riquelme was injured at the time of the 2010 World Cup and probably would not have played anyway. Veron was on the team but then was inexplicably dropped after the opening match when he could have provided the link needed to get the ball to Messi. Enough about the 2010 Argentina World Cup team, just thinking about it brings me indigestion!

    Nice to read about Marcelo Zalayeta's return to Peñarol. The goal Tim mentions he scored in the win vs Caracas was Zalayeta's 1st Libertadores goal in 15 years! He scored as a then 18 year old before going off to Europe. Watch out for Peñarol in this year's competition even if they are likely in the group of death with U de Chile (not as strong as the Sudamericana winning team but still formidable), a reinforced Atletico Nacional and Godoy Cruz, an ambitious club on the rise.

    I also am curious to see how Recoba will do with Nacional. Marcelo Gallardo won the Uruguayan title with them in his 1st year as a professional coach, a team to keep an eye out.

    Watch out for this week's Once Caldas-Internacional 2nd leg prelim series, is an even matchup and Inter go to Colombia only holding a 1 goal lead.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:

  • Comment number 40.

    #37- some day Saviola may return to finish his career at River but not now as they have their own troika of returning veterans in attack-Fernando Cavenaghi, David Trezeguet (remember he is Argentine born and started his carer w/ Platense before going to Monaco) and Alejandro "Chori" Dominguez. How well these three do will help determine whether River Plate win promotion back to the 1st division.

    Argentina's number 2 keeper Mariano Andujar got into a dispute with Catania in Italy and became a free agent, he has ended up with his old club Estudiantes where he will team up with Veron.

  • Comment number 41.

    Correct me if I'm wrong Legendinho - but it seems your excellent article would have been even better if it wasn't for editing - i can see loose ends and threads that aren't quite tied up - e.g Penarol? Anyway - your response about Veron seems about right to me - a combination of positional issues, Fergie recognising that he needed to change to win the Champs League again but not knowing how - and the fact that Veron wanted to be a leader in a team. (As an aside the one man that doesn't get enough credit in this period is Scholes - who adapted his game to keep Veron from pushing him out). Having said that - I remember a few games at Old Trafford when Veron was a class apart - for example the 4-0 win over Olympiakos.

    Great post @ 6 with the list of Uruguay's nearly men. One more Man Utd-related point - Forlan was plain unlucky. I've never seen a player hit the woodwork, be denied by great saves, or narrowly miss so often - he was doing everything right and was bound to be a success if he'd been given a run in the team for long enough. Actually quite a few parallels with Torres predicament at Chelsea - he'll come good too if they stick with him.

  • Comment number 42.

    Hi Tim,
    I agree that several players choose this route as an option to end up their careers playing without soo much pressure and enjoy the fame they achieved.
    But I also feel that a lot has also to do with the fact that wages have improved and so the contracts you can actually sign in Brazil, for example.
    This is evident also on the fact that clubs can now hold on for longer their assets like Neymar and Ganso for Santos.
    So it becomes more attractive to come back and end the career in Brazil rather than the usual old "last hurrah" in the Middle East or Japan of the past.
    Players are also "coming and going" rather than a one way ticket to Europe and a return only when the legs were gone.
    Maybe you may argue that the Brazilian Championship is of much lesser quality (which I disagree) but the fact that is more competitive also open doors since in Europe overall, you have only a handfull of clubs really fighting for trophies meaning a long spell on the bench or a hopeless contract in a team that will be always an also-ran (apart from Real and Barcelona in Spain, who can contest any meaniful title? - And in the English League?).
    So there's a lot of factors - not only the twilight of a career as it was the case of Romario and Ronaldo.

  • Comment number 43.

    Thanks for the input on Riquelme. Well informed and interesting reading. I think he is a player capable of a last season in the sun, so to say; he has never relied on his pace, and his range of passing presents the potential for a couple of years yet.

    And on Carini, I honestly feel he simply suffered the huge misfortune of being in the same team as Gianluigi Buffon. It's good to see him finally getting on track, for his country, at least.

  • Comment number 44.

    At 14:27 30th Jan 2012, Southampton90 wrote:

    God yeah he has! One of my favorite strikers still. Awesome power and could finish anything in his prime.

    He looks like he can still finish anything - as long as it's pies.

  • Comment number 45.

    As a Utd fan, I remember when Veron joined and being so excited about it. The first few games I saw him play, his touch and vision were simple superb.

    What a lot of people forget is when Utd bought Veron it was with the intent of playing 5 in midfield as we constantly used to get over run in Europe. This mean Scholes was operating as a support striker (as good as he is didn't know how to play it) and Utd's ethos had been 4-4-2 for years and struggled to adapt. This to me effected the way Veron would play.

    Later on it was very noticible Keane stop passing to him and there was the infamous "Keane had him by the throat" story on the tabloids.

    Personally, I saw him score an absolutely awesome goal in pre season against Celtic and those first 10 games of that season I really believed we had a world star.

    I think Veron's demise at Utd was more to do with the change away from 4-4-2 and that fact the established midfield (Beckham, Giggs, Scholes an Keane) struggled to adapt to the change more than Veron.

    Personally, awesome player, just wrong timing at Utd which is such a shame. Ironically, with a total lack of a creative midfield player, he would be perfect right now...

    Glad he gets the recognition he deserves around the world.

  • Comment number 46.

    Tim, listening to the last World Football Phone In, when you answered the question regarding the safety of brazilian stadiums for 2014 (question probably related to the 20 floors building that collapsed in Rio... which btw, was built in 1937), you said that the only stadium that worries you is the one in Natal.

    But what about Beira Rio? The stadium works are halted since may 2011. Inter STILL has not signed a contract with Andrade Gutierrez and AG still needs to find financial partners before signing it.

    All the while, Grêmio Arena is being built at full speed on the other side of the city. It will be BIGGER and more modern than Beira Rio. And fully prepared according to FIFA World Cup standarts and even to UEFA Elite stadium standarts!

  • Comment number 47.

    AcesHigh, not sure I understand your point.
    What has Beira-Rio to do with Tim's concerns for safety in Natal? If contractual problems impact on the delivery of the renewed Beira-Rio there will be no safety-related concerns, Porto Alegre will simply be stricken out as a host city.

    As for the Arena, it is not an option according to FIFA even though there appears to be a move on the political side to support it as an alternative. If it comes to that it would be a legitimate strategy to keep Porto Alegre on the Cup although, again, this has nothing to do with Tim's comment on the safety of the stadiums. In any case that scenario would depend on the infrastructure reforms on the access to that area of the city, which is a responsibility of the public authorities and are also delayed according to what I read last week.

  • Comment number 48.

    @38 - Just some of the delights of that turn of the century Juve transfer policy at the time...

    Darko Kovacevic, Thierry Henry, Vincent Pericard, Enzo Maresca, Fabian O'Neill, Igor Tudor, Sunday Oliseh, Jocelyn Blanchard, Ronny O'Brien. Juan Esnaider, Athirson...

    Money in the bin.

  • Comment number 49.

    Question for Tim.

    Following Jadson's transfer back to Brazil from Shakhtar Donetsk, a team I very much enjoy watching, Can you see a possible rise in the standard of the Brazilian leagues? With players like Ronaldinho arriving, and players like Neymar staying, could they end up competing with the big leagues? Or do you think that this move from Jadson could end up hindering his chances with the national team...?

  • Comment number 50.

    Another question for Mr Vickery. I know it is not on this topic but perhaps you could answer it in your postbag.

    Any chance of a profile or interview with Antonio Valencia? I know nothing about him apart from the fact that he is from Ecuador and played (I think) for Wigan before joining Man Utd.

    People rarely mention him and I have never seen an interview in any of the papers.

    I think he is a first class player and can cut through a defense like a knife yet he is not even guaranteed a regular position in the Utd side.

  • Comment number 51.

    Tim --- Superb article, especially the bit on Uruguay's Malaysian generation... On Carini, would have been great if you had included a YouTube link of Diego Souza's center-circle goal on Carini (still laughing my head off over that one)... I remember 2 or 3 Brazilians scoring comic book goals on Carini during his brief spell @ Atlético Mineiro...

  • Comment number 52.

    It's a massive shame that this article happened at the same time as the transfer window reaching it's finale. Surely a debate on the demise of some of the greatest attacking talents our generation will have the privilege to see and discuss should take precedence over a frankly average spate of fiscal activity... Incidentally Tim, at the risk of sounding like a sycophant, of all the writers the BBC entrusts it's blogs to, I find yours to be far and away the most interesting. A subjective outlook with a view to objective debate is refreshing when executed properly, and you have done so.
    Fair play mate, keep writing, because people will keep reading.

  • Comment number 53.

    Colorado in Amsterdam: the question was about the safety of the stadiums, related to the collapse of the 70 year old highrise in Rio.

    But Tim´s answer, saying he is worried about Natal, WAS NOT about safety issues, but about DELAYS and host cities being excluded.

    Basically, Tim said there are no worries in Brazil regarding stadium structural safety, his only worries are about delays in stadium construction in Natal and transportation issues in the whole of Brazil.

    THEREFORE, based on Tim´s answer, the question about Beira Rio stadium is entirely pertinent.

  • Comment number 54.

    AcesHigh, agreed by the way. Whilst terraces will always be scrutinised by the British public, Brasil is growing every day on an economical level, and on an economic level his concerns are valid. I, for one, accept that the stadium won't simply collapse around me. Whether I can actually be safely accommodated within the surrounding infrastructure remains to be seen, as getting to a game, especially over the macrodistances of Brasil. So, structural and transportation issues, as presented by Aces, represent a valid consideration.

  • Comment number 55.

    AcesHigh, thanks for clarifying.

    I am not familiar with the status of the works being done in Natal but I am fairly sure we can expect to find plenty of transportation and structural issues in most, if not all, host cities. On the other hand I would be surprised if that resulted in any city being left out in the end as that would probably be decided by the local committee (ie CBF) rather than FIFA itself.

  • Comment number 56.

    Penarol noma!!

  • Comment number 57.


    there wont be terraces at the World Cup. Brazilian stadiums are either being totally reformed or built from scratch.

    And again, the building that collapsed in Rio was a 20 floors tall building from 1937!! Not 10 years later, the municipality approved the expansion of the top floors area, probably causing additional stress in the structure.

    The World Cup 2014 stadiums are modern facilities, using modern safety standarts. We shouldnt compare them to highrises built 70 years ago.


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