In the first part of this series, we explored the undetected deals in Spain, and in the second part, we looked at the underrated deals in the rest of Europe. This is the last part, where we tour the rest of the world’s continents.
On the subject of leaving continents, many focused on Xavi’s saddening departure to Al-Sadd. But maybe they should focus on Sergio García, a player who captained Espanyol through thick and thin, and left for Al-Rayyan aged 32. Guess what he said in February this year?
A captain can’t jump ship. These are my people and this is my home. My heart told me I couldn’t leave and so it has proved, which is why I rejected the offer. I’m very happy here and I hope the fans are with me too.
If you think Xavi and Sergio did a lot of travelling, think again – the real racking up of air miles was done by Joan Verdú. The ex-Real Betis playmaker left for Baniyas last year – only to go all the way back to Fiorentina this summer. But the multi-city booking tour was probably reserved for Ricardo Quaresma, who in two-and-a-half years has gone from Besiktas to Al-Ahli (Dubai) to Porto, and back to Besiktas again.
Major League Soccer has long been known for signing ageing stars who want to wind down their careers. But Sporting Kansas City changed all that with the singing of 21-year-old former Barcelona B attacking midfielder Jordi Quintillà from Ajaccio, who was once widely earmarked for a first team spot.
Everyone sang the praises of Atletico Madrid when they signed 19-year-old second striker Rafael Santos Borré from Deportivo Cali. But maybe the bigger surprise was that no one batted an eyelid on Albeiro Sánchez, the 17-year-old who was already earmarked not just as a replacement, but as an upgrade by the Valle de Cauca-based club.
In fact, no one even mentioned Harold Preciado, the striker who made Borré’s goals possible, a player who is two years older much a much more complete footballer. And Millonarios FC, who could do nothing to prevent Alfredo di Stéfano’s departure to Real Madrid, could also do nothing to prevent the sale of 29-year-old Panamanian center-back Román Torres to Seattle Sounders, who has 95 caps for his country – more than Martín Demichelis and Ezequiel Garay combined.
Not many would anticipate a bargain in the Paraguayan league, but Cerro Porteño bagged a quality player in Cristian Álvarez, 31-years-old and in his prime. The San Lorenzo goalkeeper, fresh off a successful loan spell at Rayo and with five years of La Liga experience at Espanyol, was widely expected to sign for a mid-table club in a top European League. Instead, he joined the very team he made his professional debut against while playing for boyhood club Rosario Central.
But that’s not all – the Asunción-based club shockingly released legendary Spanish goalscorer Daniel Güiza, who was the Pichichi winner in 2008 playing for seventh place Mallorca – ahead of the likes of Luís Fabiano, Sergio Agüero, Raúl, David Villa, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Diego Forlán, Frédéric Kanouté and Samuel Eto’o. He was instrumental in Spain’s Euro 2008 win too.
Now 35-years-old, he has signed for third-tier Andalusia-based Cádiz. Whose fans are irritated by his origin from fierce rivals Xerez, and by his commitment made ten years ago to never play for – you guessed it – Cádiz.
And the award goes to…
In January 2013, 19-year-old Uruguayan left-back Gianni Rodríguez was sold to Benfica for €800,000. In July 2013, 18-year-old Uruguayan center-back José María Giménez was sold to Atletico Madrid for €900,000.
In August 2014, 20-year-old Uruguayan center-back Emiliano Velázquez was sold to Atletico Madrid for €1.1 million. And in July 2015, 20-year-old Uruguayan right-back Guillermo Cotugno was sold to Rubin Kazan for €1 million.
The common link between them? All four were born in Uruguay, all four are world-class players in the making and all four players were bargains. Plus they would make a fearsome four-man defence.
The other common link? All were sold by Danubio FC, a club that settles for mid-table status in the Primera División Apertura year-on-year and has produced the likes of Walter Gargano, Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlán and Christian Stuani – yes, the same Christian Stuani who was sold by Espanyol this summer.
The transfer window gives clubs the scope to strengthen and build a better squad. This year was marked by more money being pumped into the European leagues, which meant bigger signings by smaller clubs.
Hopefully we will see these clubs exceed their objectives from last season – and celebrate the uncertainty that comes with the opening of every new transfer window of opportunity.