Juan Sebastián Verón
Juan Sebastián Verón (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈhwan seβaˈstjam beˈɾon]; born 9 March 1975) is an Argentine former professional footballer and current chairman of Estudiantes de La Plata, where he had served as Director of Sports. A former midfielder, Verón's career started in Estudiantes, continued in Argentina's Boca Juniors, and included stints in several clubs in the Italian Serie A (where he won the Scudetto with Lazio and with Inter, and a UEFA Cup with Parma), and England's Manchester United and Chelsea. In 2006, Verón returned to Estudiantes, where he remained until his retirement in 2014, aside from a brief spell with Brandsen. He announced his short return to first team football would occur in the 2017 Copa Libertadores.
Verón with Estudiantes in 2017
|Full name||Juan Sebastián Verón|
|Date of birth||9 March 1975|
|Place of birth||La Plata, Argentina|
|Height||1.86 m (6 ft 1 in)|
|2004–2006||→ Internazionale (loan)||49||(3)|
|2006–2007||→ Estudiantes (loan)||30||(2)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
At international level, Verón obtained 73 caps for Argentina between 1996 and 2010, scoring nine goals. He represented his nation at three FIFA World Cups, and at the 2007 Copa América, where he won a runners-up medal.
In 2004, he was included in the FIFA 100 centenary list of the 125 greatest living footballers, selected by Pelé as part of FIFA's centenary celebrations. Verón has both Argentine and Italian citizenship. His nickname is "La Brujita" [la βɾuˈxita] (The Little Witch), a nod to his father Juan Ramón who was known as "La Bruja" (The Witch) and was also a championship winning player with Estudiantes.
In 1993, Verón signed for Estudiantes de La Plata and in 1995 helped the team to return to the Argentine Primera División. In 1996, he joined Boca Juniors, playing 17 games and scoring three goals, alongside Diego Maradona. He made his international debut for Argentina against Poland in the same year. Sven-Göran Eriksson signed him for Sampdoria shortly afterwards.
Italian triumphs and passport controversy
In 1998, after playing for Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, he signed for Parma in a £15-million deal. The following year, Parma won the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup. Eriksson then signed him again, this time for Lazio in an £18.1-million deal, with Verón reportedly netting a weekly wage of £48,000. He made his debut for Lazio in the Italian side's 1–0 victory over Manchester United in the European Super Cup, in Monaco.
But in February 2000 he was under investigation by Italian police for a possible fake Italian passport in order to avoid the non-EU quota. However, the charge was cleared by FIGC in June 2001, because his passport really had been issued by Italian officials, and he avoided a ban. However, a new controversy was exposed that Verón and his agent may have used fake documents submitted to the Italian government in order to allege to the government that Verón had Italian descent and granted him an Italian passport, which claimed an Italian, Giuseppe Antonio Porcella was Verón's great grandfather Ireneo Portela. Manchester United even inserted a clause in the transfer document for a possible ban. In July 2002, he was called to appear before Italy's state prosecutor to answer allegations he illegally acquired an Italian passport. Elena Tedaldi, the agent who helped Verón to get the passport, was jailed for 15 months, but Verón and Sergio Cragnotti, former Lazio chairman were acquitted in 2007. It is because Verón also had Italian descent through another great-grand parent, and it was Tedaldi who used the fake documents.
Spell in England
After the 2000–01 season, he moved from Lazio to Manchester United on 12 July for a fee of £28.1 million on a five-year deal, the most expensive transfer in English football at that time and becoming the first Non-UEFA player to break the English transfer record. On signing for Manchester United, he was quoted as saying that he had no fear of the Premier League.
Verón's first season at Old Trafford started well. In September 2001 he found the back of the net in three of Manchester United's four outings, ultimately being awarded the Premier League Player of the Month. But as the season progressed and fatigue settled in, his performances declined. He would have trouble adapting to the relentlessly faster pace of the Premier League, where he was not allowed the same space and time on the ball.
There was plenty of pressure on him at the start of his second season at Old Trafford and his performances did improve considerably, especially in the Champions League, where he excelled due to the slower tempo of the matches, scoring four goals, and was at the heart of United's successes in the group stages. However, injury meant that he missed much of the end of the season. Questions over his performance led to an expletive-laden tirade against the media by manager Sir Alex Ferguson in support of Verón: "[Verón] is a fucking great player" were his parting words. "And you're all fucking idiots." However, fans and pundits alike agreed that the signing was an expensive flop. Verón later commented that the reason for his fitness problems and struggles with injuries at Manchester United were due to the less intense summer pre-season training in England.
When Chelsea paid £15 million for him two years on, following the arrival of Roman Abramovich, Verón claimed that he wanted to stay and fight for his place at Old Trafford but Ferguson was willing to let Chelsea talk to him and he was eventually convinced by then Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri that his future lay at Stamford Bridge, where he had much to prove. His transfer fee to Chelsea was about half that of his record-breaking transfer of just two years before.
Verón made an excellent start to his Chelsea career by scoring the opening goal in a 2–1 victory over Liverpool at Anfield, but he fell away with injury problems as the 2003–04 season progressed and made only 15 appearances for Chelsea.
The Times listed Verón's transfers to Manchester United and Chelsea among the 50 worst transfers ever in Premier League history. His several big-money transfers made Verón, at the time, the most expensive footballer in history, with a cumulative total of £77 million.
Return to Italy
When José Mourinho took over as Chelsea manager the following season, Verón was loaned out to Inter Milan initially for 2004–05, but he subsequently returned to Inter on loan for a further season. With Inter, he was part of the squad that won the 2005 Coppa Italia, 2006 Coppa Italia, and also by default the 2006 Serie A title after Juventus were stripped of the title for a match fixing scandal.
In mid-2006, Verón made it known that he wished to return to his native Argentina for the 2006–07 season. He received offers from Boca Juniors and River Plate, but chose his boyhood club Estudiantes de La Plata, of whom he is a declared fan and has made significant donations in the past to upgrade the club training facilities. Chelsea agreed to loan Verón to Estudiantes for a season, until the end of his contract with the English club. On 13 December 2006, he helped Estudiantes win the Apertura 2006 tournament, its first in 23 years, in a final play-off match final over Boca Juniors. Some rival fans booed him, arguably dating back to his sub-par performances during the 2002 FIFA World Cup, but Verón was ranked among the top three players in the 2006 Argentine League by sports newspaper Olé.
Following his donations to the club's training grounds, Verón was a decisive factor in the agreement with La Plata city hall to update Estudiantes' historic stadium to modern standards. Verón personally engaged then Argentine president Néstor Kirchner to kick-start the negotiations, which had been stalled by La Plata mayor Julio Alak. Verón indicated that he may run for Estudiantes president in the future.
In July 2007, Kevin Payne, president of Major League Soccer club D.C. United, met with Verón in Buenos Aires to discuss a possible transfer, but Verón decided to stay in Estudiantes. Verón suffered from a string of minor injuries after his return from the 2007 Copa América, and missed a number of important games during the 2007–08 season. In early 2008, several football personalities chose Verón as the best player in the Argentine league.
Veron's fitness improved in time for the 2008–09 season, in which Estudiantes reached the finals of the Copa Sudamericana and secured a place in the 2009 Copa Libertadores. In 2009, he played in the Copa Libertadores for the second time, having seen Estudiantes eliminated in the round of 16 in the previous year by eventual champions Liga de Quito. After displaying his usual excellent level of play throughout the tournament, he found himself leading Estudiantes into the final for the first time since 1971. The Copa Libertadores has long been a special competition for Estudiantes and its fans, ever since the team won three consecutive titles from 1968 to 1970 with Verón's father playing a key role on the left wing. Verón certainly shared this affinity for the most prestigious title in the American continent, as evidenced by his declaration before the final: "I would trade everything I've won for this title." His dream came true as Estudiantes won the final, after an aggregate of 2–1. A 0–0 tie in La Plata and a dramatic 2–1 win away in Belo Horizonte against Brazil's Cruzeiro sealed el pincha's triumph. Verón was chosen by visitors to fifa.com as the best player of the 2009 Copa Libertadores.
Returning from retirement
In December 2016, Verón returned to professional football, signing an 18-month contract to play for Estudiantes in the 2017 Copa Libertadores. Verón had vowed to return if fans bought 65% of the boxes at the club's new stadium, and fulfilled that promise by signing an 18-month contract; he will be given a minimum salary that will go directly back to the club for everyday operations. He made his first appearance for the club since coming out of retirement in a 1–0 friendly victory over Bahia in the Florida Cup, in Orlando, on 15 January 2017, playing the first half, before being substituted.
Verón was called up for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, where Argentina was eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarter-finals following a 2–1 defeat; during the match, Veron set-up Claudio López's goal. A rumour (never confirmed) that Verón had failed an internal doping test, and allegations of laziness hampered his relationship with the media and fans. He was called up again for the 2002 World Cup in South Korea/Japan, where Verón was regarded as a key player and captained the side in place of the injured Roberto Ayala. Some fans held him personally responsible for Argentina's dismal performance, which included a loss to England and elimination in the group phase.
After then-national coach José Pekerman omitted him from the 2006 World Cup squad, his replacement, Alfio Basile recalled Verón to the national squad in February 2007, based on his performance in Estudiantes's 2006 championship team. Verón was a starter in the Argentine team that reached the final of 2007 Copa América. Due to injuries and Estudiantes's busy schedule, Verón did not feature in the immediate plans of national coach Diego Maradona, but was recalled to the Argentine squad as a second-half substitute in the 4–0 win over Venezuela on 28 March 2009, Maradona's first competitive game in charge of the national team. He also played in the starting XI in a 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Colombia on 6 June 2009 and was selected by manager Diego Maradona in the final 23-man squad for the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Verón started Argentina's first group match against Nigeria, and provided the assist for Gabriel Heinze's goal. After missing the match against South Korea due to injury, Verón returned to the starting line-up against Greece and played the full 90 minutes as Argentina won 2–0. He came on as a substitute for Carlos Tévez in the 69th minute in Argentina's 3–1 victory over Mexico in the Round of 16, but did not feature during the quarterfinal loss to Germany.
On 26 August 2010, Verón retired from international football. Nevertheless, Verón appeared again for Argentina in the 2011 Superclásico de las Américas, a two legged, non-FIFA sanctioned exhibition, between Argentina and Brazil's domestically-based players.
In December 2012, Verón returned to Estudiantes to work as Director of Sports of the institution. In a press conference, the president of the club, Enrique Lombardi, stated that Verón will not receive any remuneration for his work at the club.
Juan Sebastián Verón is the eldest son of former Argentina striker Juan Ramón Verón, who scored against Manchester United for Estudiantes at Old Trafford in the 1968 Intercontinental Cup. He was born the day his father played a derby for Estudiantes against cross-town rivals Gimnasia y Esgrima. As a boy, Verón dreamed of playing for English club Sheffield United, as his uncle, Pedro Verde, played for the club at the time. When his son started to play professionally, his father tried to persuade one of his former clubs Panathinaikos to sign him. However, after a short trial with them, they finally decided that he was not good enough for their team. After his transfer to Manchester United, Verón said, "So there I was hoping to play for Sheffield United and here I am at Manchester United!"
Style of play
Verón was a talented, complete, influential, and versatile midfielder, who usually functioned as a playmaker; he was capable of playing both as an attacking midfielder, and in the centre, or even just in front of the defensive line, as a deep-lying playmaker, due to his awareness, ability to read the game, tackle, and dictate the tempo of his team's play or orchestrate his team's attacking moves from deeper positions with his passing after winning back the ball, in addition to providing assists and creating goalscoring opportunities for teammates. He could also get forward and score goals, and often functioned in a free role in midfield. A strong, athletic, tenacious, hardworking, and physical player, in his prime, he was gifted with pace, good footwork, and excellent technical ability, as well as outstanding vision, creativity, and passing range, also possessing a powerful shot from distance with either foot. He was also an accurate corner kick and set piece taker, known for his powerful, bending free-kicks with his right foot.
|1994–95||Primera B Nacional||38||5||—||3||1||—||41||6|
|Boca Juniors||1995–96||Primera División||17||4||—||0||0||—||17||4|
|Manchester United||2001–02||Premier League||26||5||1||0||13||0||0||0||40||5|
|Inter Milan (loan)||2004–05||Serie A||24||3||5||0||10||0||—||39||3|
|Estudiantes (loan)||2006–07||Primera División||30||2||—||—||—||30||2|
- Argentina score listed first, score column indicates score after each Verón goal. Sign ‡ indicates goals scored from a penalty kick.
|1.||6 July 1997||Estadio Defensores del Chaco, Asunción, Paraguay||Paraguay||2–0||2–1||1998 World Cup qualification|
|2.||4 September 1999||El Monumental, Buenos Aires, Argentina||Brazil||1–0||2–0||Friendly|
|3.||29 March 2000||Chile||2–1||4–1||2002 World Cup qualification|
|5.||3 September 2000||Estadio Nacional, Lima, Peru||Peru||2–0||2–1|
|6.||28 March 2001||El Monumental, Buenos Aires, Argentina||Venezuela||3–0||5–0|
|7.||15 August 2001||Estadio Olímpico Atahualpa, Quito, Ecuador||Ecuador||1–0||2–0|
|8.||27 March 2002||Geneva, Switzerland||Cameroon||1–0 ‡||2–2||Friendly|
|9.||20 August 2003||Stadio Artemio Franchi, Florence, Italy||Uruguay||1–1||3–2|
- Primera B Nacional: 1994–95
- Primera División: 2006 Apertura, 2010 Apertura
- Copa Libertadores: 2009
- Coppa Italia: 1998–99
- UEFA Cup: 1998–99
- Serie A: 1999–2000
- Coppa Italia: 1999–2000
- Supercoppa Italiana: 2000
- UEFA Super Cup: 1999
- Premier League: 2002–03
- Serie A: 2005–06
- Coppa Italia: 2004–05, 2005–06
- Supercoppa Italiana: 2005
- FIFA World Cup All-Star Team: 1998 (Reserve)
- ESM Team of the Year: 1999–2000
- Premier League Player of the Month: September 2001
- FIFA 100
- Footballer of the Year of Argentina: 2006, 2009
- South American Team of the Year: 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010
- South American Footballer of the Year: 2008, 2009
- Copa Libertadores Most Valuable Player: 2009
- FIFA Club World Cup Silver Ball: 2009
- Konex Award Merit Diploma as one of the five best football players of the last decade in Argentina: 2010
- In isolation, Sebastián is pronounced [seβaˈstjan].
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- La Brujita nació en un clásico (in Spanish)
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