Khamis, 29 Mac 2012

Top Ten: Latin Americans In England

Latin American players have had the biggest impact and/or provided the most entertainment during their spell in England

10. Paulo Wanchope

Looking back, the £600,000 Derby paid for Wanchope in 1997 seems quite a gamble, but luckily for the Rams it paid off in style. In one of the greatest Premier League debuts, Wanchope scored a wonder-goal at Old Trafford, dribbling through the Manchester United midfield before slotting expertly past Peter Schmeichel. With Wanchope's goals, Derby claimed back-to-back top ten finishes in 1998 and 1999 before selling their prize asset to West Ham for a healthy profit. 

The Costa Rican striker continued to impress and after a reasonable return of 12 goals in his first season at Upton Park, he made his final move in English football to Manchester City. Although this looked like a match made in heaven, Wanchope's spell with the Sky Blues was disrupted by injury and he was eventually sold to Malaga. Oh how we've missed those gangly legs.

9. Nolberto Solano

Solid and wonderfully talented, Nobby Solano spent a decade in the Premier League at Newcastle, Aston Villa and West Ham. Playing on the wing or as a full-back, the Premier League's first Peruvian became a cult hero on Tyneside in his two spells with the Toon Army, totalling 230 appearances and 37 goals. There's a story that when Solano made his debut for Newcastle's reserve team, over 8,000 fans turned up to watch. They were duly rewarded with a goal and when Solano was substituted, he received a standing ovation. 

Wor Nobby deserves his place on the list for helping Newcastle to reach the second group stage (what a bad idea that was) of the Champions League in 2002/03 and scoring a few crackers during his successful career in English football.

8. Gustavo Poyet

Before being a huge success at Brighton - and talking an awful lot of rubbish about Luis Suarez - Poyet made his name in English football with Chelsea and Spurs. The Uruguayan attacking midfielder is remembered as a player for his thunderous shot and all-action style. As well as winning the FA Cup and European Cup Winner's Cup with Chelsea, Poyet scored the only goal in the 1998 Super Cup victory over Real Madrid. In total, the midfielder averaged more than a goal every three games for the Blues, including against Sunderland. A move to Tottenham failed to bring any more success, naturally, but despite his injury problems at White Hart Lane, Poyet had already made his mark.

7. Lucas Leiva

Lucas was influential in Gremio's run to the Copa Libertadores final in 2007 and was also named the Brazilian league's player of the year after an exciting start to his career in his homeland. The £6million fee Liverpool paid for the midfielder's signature seemed a bargain, but Lucas initially struggled to cement his spot in the first team. 

Although a volante by trade, Rafa Benitez indicated that he hoped the Brazilian would play a more attacking role, saying, "I am looking forward to seeing him score goals for Liverpool in the future." Only six strikes have followed as Lucas has grown into one of the finest defensive midfielders in the league. Indeed, the Reds would surely have done better this season if the Brazilian hadn't been injured and his return to action can't come soon enough.

6. Juninho

Another north-east cult hero, Juninho gained the adoration of Middlesbrough fans over three spells at the club. The honorary Smoggie initially signed from Sao Paulo in 1995 and became an instant hit. His attacking flair was instrumental in Boro reaching the FA Cup and League Cup finals in 1997, but the diminutive Brazilian was reduced to tears when the team were relegated on the final day of the season. It was obvious that Juninho was too good for Division One and Atletico Madrid came calling with a £12million bid to take him to La Liga. 

Despite impressing with 25 goals in 72 matches for the Rojiblancos, Juninho was loaned back to Boro in 1999/00 and returned permanently two years later. League Cup victory in 2004 ensured Juninho's love affair with Middlesbrough ended on a happy note and he told reporters after the final success that it meant more to him than winning the 2002 World Cup with Brazil.

5. Osvaldo Ardiles
Ossie Ardiles joined Tottenham with compatriot, Ricky Villa, after winning the World Cup with Argentina in 1978. While Villa is fondly remembered for his FA Cup final replay winning goal against Manchester City in 1981, it was Ardiles who made the biggest impact in a Spurs shirt. 

Joining from Huracan, a club famed in Argentina for playing attractive football, Ardiles was a skillful presence in the midfield and wowed fans with his tricky dribbles and incisive passing. Winning two FA Cups and the 1984 UEFA Cup was an impressive achievement, but the highlight of his decade with Tottenham was collaborating with Chas and Dave to record the hit single 'Ossie's Dream'.

4. Luis Antonio Valencia
Currently the best winger in the league, Valencia has fought back from serious injury to become one of the most important players at Manchester United. Initially brought in on loan by Paul Jewell, and signed permanently by Steve Bruce, the winger spent three years at Wigan before his £18million move to United in 2009. Despite spending six months on the sidelines in 2010/11 Valencia has really made the step up at Old Trafford causing panic in opposing defences with his direct, driving runs and wonderful floated crosses. 

The Ecuadorian's performance against Wolves, in which he scored a stunner and provided an assist for Danny Welbeck, showed what he's capable of when he's really flying. And to top it off, Tony V comes across as one of the good guys, reportedly getting rid of his agent before signing a new contract at United because he trusted that the club would look after him. Fergie will have been pleased.

3. Gilberto Silva

Possessing the wow factor in the sense of 'Wow, look at that shielding of the defence!', Gilberto was quietly superb at Arsenal. With a minimum amount of fuss, the Brazilian formed the backbone of the team's Premier League title victory in 2004 and was also fundamental in the Gunners' passage to the Champions League final in 2006. 

Far from being a flair player, Gilberto helped changed the general perception of South American players and along with Patrick Vieira, the loss of the defensive midfielder's marshalling has been a key factor in Arsenal's barren slide. An Invincible and a World Cup winner, Silva deserves far more plaudits than he received during his time in England. If he was in the Barcelona team during his hey-day, he wouldn't have looked at all out of place.

2. Javier Mascherano

Mascherano spent just over four months at West Ham in the 2006/07 season, before Liverpool snapped him up firstly on loan and then on a permanent four-year contract. The tenacious midfielder was a huge hit at Anfield, forming a formidable midfield trio with Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso as Liverpool challenged for the title in 2008/09. 

The arrival of the Argentine pivotal in the team's success that year, as his anchorage of the midfield allowed Gerrard to press forward and score a career-high 16 Premier League goals. Described as a 'monster of a player' by Rafa Benitez, Mascherano has been sorely missed at the heart of the Liverpool team since his £22million move to Barcelona.

1. Carlos Tevez
Carlito's return to the Manchester City first team is clearly not the 'fairytale' it has been dubbed in some quarters, but his role in the victory over Chelsea showed how much of an impact the striker can have. Tevez's City sojourn will always be remembered for him playing silly buggers rather than football, but if the team win the league this season, it will sweeten some of the bitterness. 

The farce surrounding the Argentine is an incredible shame considering his fantastic ability. After joining West Ham in 2007, the striker almost single-handedly saved them from relegation before winning a Premier League and Champions League double in his first season at Manchester United. Signing for City before they had reached the Champions League was somewhat beneath him and motivated by all the wrong factors, but Carlito has helped the club complete phase one of their project, scoring 20 goals last season as they finished third. 

The three-times South American Footballer of the Year won't be truly happy until he returns to Argentina, though, and despite the moments of sheer brilliance he's brought to the Premier League, one can't help but think that the sooner that happens, the better.


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