At the time of writing the deal is all but done between Cerro Porteño and Baniyas SC of the United Arab Emirates for one of Paraguay´s brightest young stars Oscar Romero. The left-footed playmaker who is one half of the Romero double-act (his twin brother Angel is also making waves with the azulgrana as a striker) is set to head to the Middle East after this round of World Cup Qualifiers. He has been re-called to the senior Paraguay squad having made his debut against Germany.
The obvious question is why is such a promising talent moving to what is probably a less competitive league than he is currently in, especially when there is a possibility that a European club will have noticed his considerable talent. The obvious answer is money. At this point I should probably roll out some such cliché as “football is a business now” and curse modern football and of course Daniel Campos, the footballer’s agent, for brokering this move that could “end” Romero’s career before it has even started. However, it might be a good time to take a reality check.
If the reported figures are correct then Cerro Porteño will receive 1.8 million dollars to loan Oscar Romero for 10 months, the player will earn 120,000 dollars a month and get a 300,000 dollar signing on fee. In other words he will receive 1.5 million dollars.
1.5 MILLION DOLLARS! Right now the kid is likely to earn 1.6 million guaranies a month, the minimum wage, which is usually given to players who have just broken through from the youth team. It is equivalent to $360 a month. “But the money goes much further in Paraguay ” those of you reading from abroad are thinking. Yes, but not that far. It is about $10 dollars a day once you remove national insurance payments (or the Paraguayan equivalent IPS).
Oscar Romero is from Fernando de la Mora, it is a satellite of Asunción, no offence to people who live there but it is your run-of-the-mill town for people who can’t afford the house prices or rental rates in the capital. They were brought up by their mum and grandmother, the dad was nowhere to be seen. In their early teens the 1986 World Cup midfielder, Adolfino Cañete, spotted their talents and they made the pilgramage of so many young Paraguayans searching for riches as they left Paraguay for Buenos Aires. For 18 months they played for Boca Juniors but a contract offer didn’t appear. Since 2008 the twins have been on Cerro’s books, the youth facilities are 25 kilometres away which on a Paraguayan bus in 40c heat can be a bit of a pain to say the least. Fortunately once they broke into the senior sideanother famous set of brothers, the Salcedos (Santiago and José Domingo), helped them out giving the youngsters lifts to training.
In an interview just under a year ago the brothers dreamt about moving to Italy, England or Spain – Baniyas SC wasn’t on either player’s list and the idea of being split up was also something they preferred not to consider. But now the money is on the table, a huge pile of it, and the reality sets in. After just one month´s wages even taking away taxes and the agent´s cut Oscar Romero can buy a house in Fernando de la Mora for his mum, the next month he could get his grandmother one, if he gets the right advice a lot of that money will go into land just outside the capital. With Paraguay´s economy growing fast and the young population needing housing near their places of work it shouldn’t be long until Romero sees a return on that investment.
So while the Champions League was always the footballing dream, you don’t say no to a million-dollar offer from a club you’ve never heard of when there are mouths to feed and other dreams to be realized.
I wish him luck, I’ll miss watching him in the local league and I hope the Middle East is just a springboard to a career in Europe so we can all get to see that wonderful left foot and ability to find the only bit of space in a packed midfield to work his magic.
By Ralph Hannah