Legends of international football: Diego Forlan
Strikers, what we’d give to be them? Blazing past hapless defenders, beating the advancing goal-keepers with a beautiful touch, and then finally blasting the ball past them to tear the net apart.
Strikers are and always have been the poster boys of their football team, appearing on commercials and posters outside stadiums, lifting the team’s morale in times of adversity and subduing fan’s anguish in times of loss. If football is considered a religion rather than a sport, then the strikers would more often than not be the deities of worship. Ask a child who they support in a team, and the answer will most probably be a strikers name.
When I started following football, I started with World Cups and European Championships. International competitions have always fascinated me and have made me the football fan I’m today. The perfect footballer for me is one who is prolific at both the club level and the international scene, because the service to a nation is greater than any personal victory at the club level.
International legends are those who have served the nation with utmost pride and passion, and an undying lust to win. They are the beacons that have guided their nation to victory almost every time they stepped onto the field, and supported the team with unparalleled love in times when they missed the match, without a feeling of regret.
One of those gems of international football is undoubtedly Diego Forlan- the striker, ex-captain and poster boy of Uruguayan football. This brilliant footballer from Montevideo is the focus of this piece.
Born on 19 May, 1979 in Montevideo, Uruguay, Diego Forlan is the most capped Uruguayan player and is one of the world’s best strikers. Forlan is the son of former Uruguay international Pablo Forlan.
Forlan started as a tennis player in his youth, but decided to follow into his father’s profession to earn more money for his sister, who was involved in a horrific accident that paralysed her for life.
Diego Forlan started his career as a footballer at the age of 16 when he was brought to France by manager Lazlo Boloni. He thereafter tried for the AS Nancy team. Fortunately/unfortunately, Nancy decided against signing him, and he went back to South America to pursue his newly found interests.
His return to South America was followed by his signing for Argentinian side Independiente. He excelled as a striker there, scoring a respectable 36 goals in 77 league games. His flair for goals attracted interest from English and European sides, and in the winter of 2002, he finally got his dream move to England when Independiente agreed a £6.9 million deal with Middlesbrough.
He travelled to England expecting to sign with Middlesbrough, but at the last minute Manchester United offered Independiente a down-payment of £6.9 million, and offered a more lucrative deal to Forlan, and he signed for the English giants.
Forlan made his United debut on January 29, 2002, as a substitute, and made his first start on March 6. He made 18 appearances in 01-2002 season, but failed to score.
He scored his first United goal, a penalty, in the 5-2 win against Haifa in September 2002. He wasn’t at his peak during his time at United, having scored only 17 goals in 98 appearances. His dismal form forced United into selling him, and what came next for the Uruguayan was some magnificent goal-scoring streak and a brilliant career revival.
Forlan was linked to Spanish clubs Levante and Athletic Bilbao, but he signed for Villarreal in the summer of 2004. He played some beautiful football to help Villarreal secure their first Champions League finish in their history, with a third place finish in the league.
He finished the season winning the 2004–05 Pichichi Trophy for most goals in La Liga, with 25. That season also saw him share the European Golden Boot with Arsenal hitman Thierry Henry. His influence started to wane in the 05-2006 season, but helped Villarreal to a respectable semi-finals finish in the Champions League.