“He is a fucking great player and you’re all fucking idiots”

(Article first featured on In Our Humble Opinion 24/10/11)

There are certain formative and influential moments in any man’s childhood that he will cherish for the rest of his lives, be it riding their bike solo for the first time, a cheeky stolen kiss in the playground or a refreshing gulp of Um Bongo on a summer’s day.  One of these moments for me, sad as it may seem, was Championship Manager 99/00: a veritable classic in the long-running football simulation series.  Whether it was landing impenetrable Swede stopper Matias Asper, snapping up the mythical Icelandic goal machine Andri Sigþórsson for 100k or simply remembering a time when Julian Joachim was an established Premiership player (currently at Coalville Town F.C in the Northern Premier League Division One South for those interested), the game constituted countless hours of my youth.  My marquee signing without fail would always be Juan Sebastián Verón.  These players who were at their pomp, invented or otherwise, therefore still have an important place in my heart.  So the news that ‘La Bruja’ has announced his retirement (initially at the end of October, later postponed until the end of the season) was indeed a poignant moment, effectively signalling the end of my youth.

Verón and his perfectly smooth bonce have enjoyed a successful but varied career.  After starting his career in Argentina with Estudiantes and then Boca Juniors, he made the move to Italy at Sven Goran Eriksson’s Sampdoria.  After a successful 1998 world cup in France he earned himself a £15mil move to Parma where he won the Coppa Italia and the UEFA cup.  He was reunited with Eriksson at Lazio in an 18.1mil move.  Arguably the peak of his career, he led the club to the Scudetto, Coppa Italia and Italian Super Cup treble in 2000.  His bewitching (pun intended) passing ability and deadly free kick ability made him some of the hottest property in world football, leading Fergie to break the British transfer record at the time with a £28.1mil move.

However, he failed to adapt to the fast pace of the Premier League and his spell in British football, both at Utd and Chelsea, is widely considered one of the most expensive flops in Premiership history.  He did show glimpses of brilliance but failed to live up to Sir Alex’s eloquent tag of “a fucking great player”.  During this period of his career he also captained Argentina at the 2002 world cup.  However, David Beckham’s redemptive penalty saw them lose to England (in a side containing Trevor Sinclair) and subsequently knocked out at the group stages.  As captain, Verón received his fair share of criticism from the fans and media back home.

Deemed surplus to requirements at Chelsea, he was loaned to Inter for a couple of seasons and helped them to two Coppa Italias and a league title.  In 2006 he returned to his boyhood club Estudiantes La Plata, making an immediate impact.  His experience and quality shone through in the Argentine league and Estudiantes won the 2006 Apertura, the clubs first in 23 years.  In 2007 he played a pivotal role in the classy Argentina side that reached the Copa America final.  The mercurial slap head continued his Indian summer by guiding Estudiantes to the final of the Copa Sudamericana in 2008 and a year later, under the management of current Argentina National Team coach Alejandro Sabella, he lead Estudiantes to the final of South America’s most prestigious competition, the Copa Libertadores.  El Pincha triumphed over Brazil’s Cruzeiro and saw Verón, emulating the feat of his father, pick up player of the tournament.  He added the title of South American Footballer of the Year in 2008 & 2009.  A fitting finale to the career of an immensely talented player.  On that note I’ll leave you with a compilation of some of his best moments. 

Advertisements