Thursday, 4 June 2009

Goodbye Matador

Photo: AP

On retirement many of us will be lucky to receive a pension. Things on Planet Football are somewhat different, sixty thousand Chilean fans packed into Santiago's National Stadium on Tuesday night to show their appreciation and pay thanks to a special talent: Marcelo Salas. Chile's record goalscorer bowed out in a testimonial between members of Chile's 1998 World Cup squad and the 'Friends of Marcelo' comprising some of the player's ex-club teammates including Enzo Francescoli, David Trezeguet and Ariel Ortega. As is customary on such occasions the game ended in a diplomatic 3-3 with El Matador scoring a hat-trick. 'This is a very special moment. I only want to thank everyone who came to this match. I will never forget this night. I quit happy. I am done' - Marcelo Salas.

One of Chile's greatest exports (along with Iván Zamorano and the bottle of Carmenére I enjoyed over the weekend) Salas moved from Universidad de Chile to River Plate in 1996 and effortlessly continued his goalscoring form making him an idol of the fans. River dominated the domestic game in 1996/97 and won 3 championships during this time with Salas contributing almost a goal every other game. Salas couldn't be described as a pin-up, looks wise he's the antithesis of today's waxed and moisturised pros. His talents as a striker however are deadly and no better demonstrated than in the first of his two goals against England at Wembley, fantastic close control and a bullet of a left foot:

After a successful spell in Italy winning the league with Lazio a serious knee injury meant that his most prolific period would forever be consigned to memory. He played a lowly 18 games for Juventus. His second phase at River was greeted ecstatically by the fans and in spite of injury he still managed to win the Clasura in 2004. His playing days ended back at his old stomping ground of Universidad de Chile.

What would River and their legions give now for an even half fit Salas to lead the attack?

Argentina is renowned as an exporter of fine football talent, occasionally an import makes a splash - El Matador we salute you.

Hasta luego!

A selection of goals from his first spell at River: