6 South American players who failed miserably in the Premier League
Led by the likes of Brazil and Argentina from the front, South America has always been a vast storehouse of immensely talented footballers, with several of Europe’s elite clubs constantly scouring the talent-blessed continent for budding young talents.
Well, probably over half of the plethora of all-time greatest footballers to have graced the beautiful game are South American and the rags to riches stories of some of the legends of the game have inspired generations to take up football as a career.
When it comes to the Premier League in the recent era, the fans in England have been blessed to see the likes of Oscar, Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero, Gilberto Silva, Fernandinho and Carlos Tevez weave their magic and set the stage on fire with moments of sheer brilliance.
However, there is a reason why unproven South American strikers arriving on the British shores from the talent-blessed continent are still viewed with suspicion by the English fans.
Historically speaking, the Premier League has not very often proven to be a happy hunting ground for South American stars and many of them have been forced to return to their homeland in a bid to resurrect their career.
This doesn’t only apply to players coming directly to the Premier League from South American clubs but also to those arriving from other European leagues.
Here are 6 South American recruits since the turn of the century who arrived in England with a lot of reputation but never really hit the ground running:
1. Claudio Pizarro (Chelsea)
A bonafide goalscorer for Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and a three-time league winner in Germany, Claudio Pizarro arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2007 with a massive reputation for scoring goals and Chelsea handed the Peruvian stalwart the No.14 shirt for the 2007-08 season.
However, the Blues fans would probably not like to recall the following sequence of events because Pizarro’s talents got lost in translation upon his arrival in English football and he simply made a mockery of his vast reputation, scoring only twice in 32 appearances in all competitions.
Tipped by many to be Chelsea’s answer to Nolberto Solano, a Peruvian midfielder who had graced Newcastle United from the late 90s to the mid-2000s, Pizarro hardly ever lived up to the expectations and quite unsurprisingly, he was deemed surplus to demands at the club just after a season.
The towering forward returned to the Bundesliga in 2008 and immediately rediscovered his old form, winning the UEFA Champions League with Bayern in 2012-13.
Now 40, Pizarro is still active in the Bundesliga and the upcoming 2019-20 campaign is expected to be his swansong in professional football.
2. Diego Forlan (Man United)
‘South American players and Man United are not really a match made in heaven’ is a cliche that probably originated from Juan Sebastian Veron’s failures at Old Trafford around the turn of the century and accentuated even a more by Diego Forlan, who arrived in the Premier League from Argentinian club Independiente in January 2002.
Having scored 41 goals in 90 appearances for Independiente over the course of three seasons, Forlan arrived as a bright young South American talent at Old Trafford and was tipped by many to reach great heights under the tutelage of the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson.
The Uruguayan’s start to life in the Premier League was not great though, as he failed to find the net even once in 18 appearances in the latter half of the 2001-02 campaign.
He did, however, tease the fans with glimpses of his brilliance in the 2002-03 season, scoring 9 goals in 45 appearances to help the Red Devils claim the Premier League title.
The highlight of Forlan’s United career was scoring a brace in a league victory over Liverpool as well as the winner against Chelsea in the quarter-finals of the League Cup.
The Uruguayan left United for Villarreal with a lacklustre record of 17 goals in 98 appearances but he took the La Liga by storm with 25 goals in his debut campaign.
Forlan plundered goals for fun at Villarreal and later on at Atletico Madrid, winning the Europa League with the latter and going down as one of the greatest ever Uruguayan footballers of all time for his heroics at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
3. Agustin Delgado (Southampton)
One of the most feared South American strikers of his generation and arguably the finest striking talent to have emerged from Ecuador’s production line, Agustin Delgado enjoyed resounding success with Ecuadorian clubs El Nacional and Barcelona SC, as well as Nexaca in Mexico before earning a move to the Premier League with Southampton in 2001.
Delgado’s decision to play for Ecuador at the 2002 FIFA World Cup with an existing injury proved to be one of the worst of his career and when he returned to England’s south coast after the tournament, his injury turned out to be a chronic one.
That coupled with his reluctance to learn English and difficulties in adapting to life on the British shores meant that Delgado was never going to fulfil his promise in the Premier League.
The Ecuadorian scored only twice in 15 appearances over the course of three seasons before heading back to his homeland with Aucas to pick up the pieces of his tottering career.
4. Guido Carrillo (Southampton)
Shifting the focus to some of the more recent transfer blunders, Guido Carrillo was neither a bonafide goalscorer in Europe nor an international player for Argentina at the senior level when he arrived at Southampton for a then club-record fee of £19.2million from Monaco in January 2018.
A tally of 21 goals in 95 outings for Monaco didn’t really make Carrillo a prolific striker but the lofty price tag meant that the fans at St. Mary’s had every reason to expect big things from him.
Well, the move went down as one of the worst ever January transfers in the Premier League and six months later, those who had viewed Mauricio Pellegrino’s decision to play a gamble on the Argentinian with scepticism, were absolutely right.
It didn’t take long for the Saints to figure out that Carrillo lacked the general nous of a striker to thrive in the Premier League and the Argentinian failed to find the net in 10 appearances in the latter half of the 2017-18 campaign.
Carillo was shipped out on loan to Leganes in the La Liga last summer and Southampton have another white elephant in their ranks to get rid of after the failures of Sofiane Boufal.
5. Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough)
Talk about Guido Carrilo being one of the worst January transfers in the Premier League, Afonso Alves isn’t far behind in that regard. Signed for a fee of £12.5million by Middlesbrough from Dutch club Heerenveen back in January 2008, Alves arrived at the Riverside Stadium as a full international for Brazil and certainly one of the hottest striking properties in Europe.
The move looked like a good fit for Boro given that Alves had netted 48 goals in 48 appearances for Heerenveen prior to his arrival on Teesside.
However, a bright start to his Premier League career which included a hat-trick in an 8-1 drubbing of Man City soon degenerated into a series of lacklustre displays, as the Brazilian seemed to have forgotten the art of scoring goals,
Alves found the net on only 10 occasions in 42 Premier League outings and Middlesbrough were relegated just 16 months after signing him.
6. Nicolas Medina (Sunderland)
The second Argentinian player in this list, Nicolas Medina carved out a massive reputation for himself as one of the burgeoning talents in his homeland at his boyhood club Argentinos Juniors before earning a move to Sunderland in 2001.
Medina made only a solitary FA Cup appearance for the club and never actually featured in a league game, making him one of the club’s worst-ever transfers.
Medina won the Gold Medal with Argentina at the 2004 Athens Olympics and played for Spanish second-tier clubs Real Murcia and Leganes before returning to his homeland.
Now 37, he is still active in professional football and currently plies his trade with Peruvian club Sport Huancayo.