A new season is set to kick off in Europe and there has been some movement in regards to our Paraguay Abroad brigade. Here is a list of Paraguayan players plying their trade in Europe this season with a short bio on some of the players you may not know much about. In general I’m sticking to the top divisions but have dropped down for players worth of a special mention.
Antolin Alcaraz (Everton) – you can read more about the man who began his professional life as a builder here
Javier Acuña (Watford) – the Encarnación-born striker raised eyebrows when he finished topscorer at the 2004 U16s Sudamericano and was quickly taken to Spain where he played for Cadiz and Salamanca before Real Madrid took an interest. He was once on the bench under Manuel Pellegrini, the closest he got to playing for the senior side. Last season he played for Girona in the Segunda and had a great year scoring 18 goals in 38 games and almost getting the club promoted (they finished 4th and lost the playoff final to Almeria). Udinese have signed the 25-year-old forward who has been loaned to affiliate club Watford.
Hernan Pérez (Villarreal) – The right winger stuck with the submarino during their time in Segunda but it is still baffling how underused he is. He began life south of Asunción in Ñemby with Cristóbal Colón before moving to the Primera with Tacuary and later Libertad. He was picked to play for the national side by three consecutive managers featuring in Tata Martino´s Copa América Squad, Chiqui Arce’s World Cup Qualifiers and he scored a goal in Gerardo Pelusso’s first match in charge in a 3-3 draw with Guatemala.
Roque Santa Cruz (Malaga) – There isn’t much you don’t know already about the all-time leading scorer for Paraguay and ex-Bayern Munich, Blackburn and Manchester City star. His younger brother is currently playing for Deportivo Capiatá in Paraguay and he is married to the sister of former Paraguay goalkeeper and Copa Libertadores winner Ricardo Tavarelli.
Antonio Sanabria (Barcelona) – while not in the senior side this kid is worth keeping an eye on, when you are one of the hottest properties at La Masia then the future is bright. While the Juvenil A may have lost the final of the Otten Cup this month to Real Madrid it was the blaugrana star who won player of the tournament. He has also been called up to the Paraguay squad to face Germany in August.
Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) – he is the top foreign goalscorer in Benfica’s history and is a cult hero. Transfer speculation surrounds him every year and a move to Fenerbahce is said to be on the cards. It would be a great shame for the Aguila´s to see somebody of Tacuara´s skill and penalty area prowess leave the side.
Lorenzo Melgarejo (Benfica) – a proposed move to Liverpool seems to have fallen through over work permit issues. Melgarejo could still be loaned out by the Portugues giants who have brought in cover for the left-back.
Jorge Rojas (Benfica) – the former Cerro Porteño winger brings pace and flair to the Portuguese capital, he will probably feature in the youth team. You can learn more about him here.
Javier Cohene (Paços de Ferreira) – Cohene is a player who arguably deserves more attention from the national team coaching staff. Having won the local league with Pirayú early in his career he moved to General Díaz of Luque where he played in 2006 as they finished runner-up in the third division to earn promotion to Intermedia. He found his way to Passo Fundo in Brazil before making the big leap to Portugal and Olhanense where he remained for two years. In 2009 it seemed he had taken a step back, returning to South America first with River Plate of Argentina and then to Sportivo Luqueño in Paraguay but in July 2010 he found his way back to the Iberian peninsula with Paços de Ferreira. He has been a key part of the side that reached the Portuguese League Cup Final in 2011 and that qualified for the Champions League last season.
Mauro Caballero (Porto) – The 18-year-old son of Olimpia’s all-time top goalscorer is a wonderful finisher and a great talent, hopefully he will have a happier time in northern Portugal than Juan Manuel Iturbe. There is more on Caballero here.
Daniel Jara Martínez (Genoa) – Daniel joins that rare club of players to have gone to Europe having not represented the national side nor a Primera side even at youth level. He was part of the Nacional de Itacurubi de la Cordillera side that traveled from rural Paraguay (90 kilometres from Asunción) to Italy for the Torneo de Viareggio where some of the best youth teams in the world compete. There he was picked up by Palermo and while he didn’t play much he scored the winning penalty for the Scilians against Parma in the Coppa Italia Quarter Finals. Now he has moved to Genoa and will hope to try and get some minutes in Serie A.
Celso Ortiz (AZ) – Ortiz is now into his fifth season with the Dutch club having joined in 2009/10 from Cerro Porteño. A perennial substitute he has only racked up 1000 minutes with the club but seems to enjoy the European football and lifestyle. Maybe this year could be his breakthrough should he recover well from an injury suffered last year.
Luis Nery Caballero (Krylya Sovetov) – Caballero managed ten goals in his first season in Europe, a great return for the 23-year-old who has struggled a lot off the field in recent years. In 2005 his father, who had been member of the 1986 World Cup Squad, was killed in his bookmakers during an armed robbery. He is divorced from Pamela Trotte with whom he fathered a child, and in 2012 was accused of sexually assualting his underage ex-sister-in-law (although the accusations proved to be unfounded). His ex-father-in-law Adolfo Trotte is currently in jail serving a 40 year sentence for murdering his ex-mother-in-law in 2011. As you can imagine he is probably enjoying being on the other side of the world. Before Krylya he played for Olimpia and has scored twice for the national team against Guatemala in a friendly and a fine strike against Ecuador in a World Cup Qualifier earlier this year.
Pablo Zeballos (Krylya Sovetov) – Caballero’s former strike partner is reluctantly back in Russia but he wants out claiming (fairly) that he was played out of position last year. A disastorous spell in Ecuador with Emelec hasn’t done anything to raise his profile but he still hopes to find a spot in Europe away from the cold of Russia.
Eric Ramos (Neftchi Baku) – The former Rubio Ñu man with one international cap to his name under Chiqui Arce (his father-in-law) won the Azeri league last season and was a regular feature in the side.
Aldo Adorno (APOEL) – the midfielder is recovering from a long term injury but should be back before the end of the year, learn more about his life in Cyprus here.
Diego Ayala (Nybergsund IL-Trysil) – the ex-Libertad youngster popped up on my radar last week when the defender scored for Nybergsund IL-Trysil in the third tier. He was previously playing for All Boys in Argentina.
Antonio Rojas (Halmstad) – the 29-year-old playmaker started out life with Cerro Porteño but moved to Scandanavia in 2005 to join newly-created club Helsingor in Denmark. He eventually moved to the fourth tier of Swedish football to play for Lunds BK before stepping up a level and joining Ängelholm. He helped the side gain promotion and in 2011 they missed out on joining the Allsvenskan by losing the playoff final. However last year with new club Halmstad he has finally hit the top division having won the playoff and are currently battling to get out of the relegation zone. Even if they were to fail, Rojas´rise through the ranks is a tremendous example of determination and sacrifice.
Dario Lezcano (Luzern) – Amazing to think he is still only 23, Lezcano left Sportivo Trindense in the Paraguayan capital for FC Wil in the Swiss Challenge League before moving up a division to FC Thun. In January 2012 he joined Luzern and managed a couple of goals last season. This year´s campaign has got off to a good start, Lezcano scored in the win against FC Zurich and his team are currently second in the standings.
By Ralph Hannah