Paraguay Abroad: Brian Montenegro set for return to England and Leeds United

Brian Montenegro is only 21 but he’s already done the rounds locally having played for Tacuary, Rubio Ñu and more recently winning the league with Libertad and finishing Copa Libertadores runner-up with Nacional. He also had a spell with West Ham a couple of years ago and although he only played 12 minutes with the senior team in the FA Cup he did manage 12 goals in 12 games for the reserves.

Montenegro Full Name: Brian Guillermo Montenegro

 D.o.B: 10 June 1993

 Place of Birth: Asunción, Paraguay

 Height: 1.81 metres

 Weight: 75 kg

 Position: Striker/Left winger

Hardly blessed with pace but he makes up for it with excellent movement, a very tactically disciplined player which is probably why English clubs have shown more interest in him than other forwards from the 2013 U20s World Cup squad. His versatility is an asset, he can play up top usually in a two off a more physical striker or he can be used in a front three on the left hand side and is a provider of goals as much as he is a poacher.

He may have been a bit raw at West Ham but he’s now played in important matches and scored at the highest level in South America, the Copa Libertadores. Most recently he scored in the semi-final for Nacional against Defensor Sporting on their run to the final. Last year for Libertad he also managed two goals during their Copa Sudamericana campaign reaching the the semi finals. However, my favourite Montenegro goal is his spectacular bicycle kick at the U20s World Cup against Greece – LUFC fans could be enjoying more of this before Christmas!

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay Abroad: 14 Paraguayans registered for start of Primera Division in Argentina

The Argentine Torneo de Transición has begun with 14 Paraguayans on the books of 10 clubs, here is a quick peek at each player.

Santiago Salcedo (Banfield) – The 32-year-old striker was instrumental in El Taladro’s promotion with 17 goals proving he’s still got it. He provides a good target up front and can battle well in the air.

José Devaca (Banfield) – Unlike his compatriot Sa-Sa the centre-back wasn’t a first choice during the Primera B campaign and is likely to be used as a back up. He knows the club inside out having been there since 2007 barring a couple of short seasons in Paraguay with Rubio Ñu and Capiatá.

Marcos Cáceres (Newell’s Old Boys) – The roving full back was a key part of Newell’s Torneo Final championship in 2013 and continued to be a regular until a knee injury in March. He’s back now and expect some dangerous crossing going forward.

Víctor Ayala (Lanús) – A versatile player who can be used at right back or across the midfield he has a dangerous delivery from dead balls and has scored several good goals from distance.

Photo: Club Lanús

Photo: Club Lanús

Gustavo Gómez (Lanús) – The new signing comes from Libertad (the same club as Ayala) and is one of the most exciting young Paraguayan defenders around. He was captain of the U20s at the World Cup and has since represented the national team. The 21-year-old has look unfazed so far including two strong displays marking Jô of Atletico Mineiro in the Recopa.

Enzo Prono (Arsenal de Sarandí) – A newcomer to Argentina arriving from Olimpia having previously played at Sol de América. Prono is an intelligent player and deceptively good in the air despite his short stature, expect the forward to be involved in a lot goals even if he doesn’t score many.

Jorge Baéz (Arsenal de Sarandí) – The midfielder can also play at full back and has great acceleration and a decent shot from further out. He was used sparingly in the 2014 Apertura but was an important part of Olimpia’s run to the Copa Libertadores final in 2013 so has experience in big games.

Jorge Baez - Photo: @ArsenalPrensa

Jorge Baez – Photo: @ArsenalPrensa

Néstor Ortigoza (San Lorenzo) – fans of Argentinian football will need no introduction to the portly porteño who has Paraguayan nationality through his parents. He is the conductor from deep for the Cuervo and he never, ever misses a penalty.

Jorge Rojas (Gimnasia de la Plata) – Will be fascinating to see what the rapid winger has learned during his time in Portugal, he terrorized defences with Cerro Porteño and I have a feeling he could surprise a few teams here.

Nery Cardozo (Gimnasia de la Plata) – Desperately unlucky to get injured on his loan to Viking FK in Norway but Cardozo came back and scored 13 for Rubio Ñu last year and 6 in 12 starts for Olimpia in the Apertura. A good finisher and strong in and around the box he should fit in well in the rough and tumble of the Primera División.

Adrián Fernandez (Quilmes) – The 22-year-old worked through the ranks with Independiente and looked an exciting prospect when he got some game time, but appearances for the left-footed striker weren’t regular which is why he’s giving it a shot at Quilmes. Will be interesting to see how he fares.

Orlando Gaona Lugo (Olimpo) – Originally from Villa Hayes the gateway to the Chaco,  the right winger was a promise at Boca and got plenty of time with the senior Paraguay side during Tata Martino’s final year. He likes to run with the ball and was used sparingly by the Bahia Blanca side last year, mainly as an impact sub. Could this be his breakthrough year?

The winger was a favourite of Tata - Photo: Golazo Tropical

The winger was a favourite of Tata – Photo: Golazo Tropical

Julio César Rodriguez (Defensa y Justicia) – Honestly know very little about Rodriguez who plays as a striker and has been at the club since 2007 but also played in Mexico with Dorados and Xolos before appearing in the Torneo Final with Godoy Cruz.

Rolando Garcia (Godoy Cruz) – Like Rodriguez he spent most of his professional career at Defensa y Justicia having left 2 de Mayo of Paraguay in his teens. The defender was a regular with Lobos in Mexico last season and has returned to Argentina with the Mendoza- based side.

 

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay Abroad: Why is Oscar Romero moving to Baniyas SC?

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 Romero twins - Photo: Pasionazulgrana.com

The Romero twins – Photo: Pasionazulgrana.com

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.

Angel Romero pictured with twin brother Oscar - Photo: D10.com.py

Angel Romero pictured with twin brother Oscar – Photo: D10.com.py

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

Paraguay Abroad: Paraguayan footballers playing in Europe 2013/14 season

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.

ENGLAND

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.

SPAIN

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.

PORTUGAL

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.

ITALY

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.

HOLLAND

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.

RUSSIA

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.

AZERBAIJAN

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.

CYPRUS

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.

NORWAY

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.

SWEDEN

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.

SWITZERLAND

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

Paraguay Abroad: Antolín Alcaraz, from a building site in Ñemby to Wembley glory

On Saturday Antolín Alcaraz made history, becoming the first Paraguayan footballer to appear in an FA Cup Final and 90 minutes later became the first guaraní to win the famous trophy. On the eve of the final he had been all but sidelined with injury so his place in the victorious Lactics line-up was somewhat unexpected, a fitting way to describe his whole footballing career. He didn’t come through the youth ranks of a club and didn’t even sign a professional contract until he was 20 when he joined Portuguese club Beira Mar. It was a case of ‘third-time lucky’ with stints at Racing Club and Fiorentina falling through as both clubs going bankrupt just as he was set to sign, as if the defender had a some kind of reverse Midas Touch. Here we recount the glorious rise of the man who didn’t set out to be a footballer.

Alcaraz celebrates the historic win - Photo: mirror.co.uk

Alcaraz celebrates the historic win – Photo: mirror.co.uk

Football for Antolin Alcaraz started in the bowels of the Paraguayan league system with Teniente Fariña de Ñemby, a club that if you try to Google their fixtures or what league they are in today you are unlikely to find anything. In an interview given to ABC Color a few years ago the left-footer mentioned “I just started playing with my friends. It wasn’t my intention to try and move up the footballing ladder”. In fact it was another ladder he was trying to scale, he had moved to Ñemby just south of the capital Asunción to work as a builder’s assitant leaving behind his life in the quiet town of San Roque Gonzalez (population 12,000) to try and make some money in construction, a common theme amongst young Paraguayan men from the countryside.

Call it fate, luck, divine intervention but in 2001 he was spotted by Carlos Bruni who put his faith in Alcaraz and took him on his first ever trip abroad to try out with Racing Club in neighbouring Argentina. Alcaraz remembers it as a “very hard” experience being so far from his family and after a year he couldn’t sign because of the financial problems at the Avellaneda club. Bruni took his player to Italy where he has contacts – the businessman remains Alcaraz’s agent to this day and has strong ties to both the Italian-Paraguayan and Anglo-Paraguayan Chambers of Commerce – a month at Fiorentina ended in tears again, like Racing the Viola went bankrupt and Alcaraz still hadn’t played senior football. He had a trial at Palermo before coming back to Paraguay with his hands empty.

By now he had got a taste of the trips to Europe and had faith in his own ability, especially the month in Florence where in the short space of time the player stated “I learned a lot”. He perservered and finally on 17 August 2003 Antolin Alcaraz made his professional debut for Beira Mar in a 1-0 defeat against Maritimo. He would only make one other appearance in the 2003/04 season yet things changed under Yorkshireman Mike Wadsworth, the former assistant to Sir Bobby Robson at Newcastle United took charge of Beira Mar at the start of the following season. In his first game under the new boss the Paraguayan defender got on the scoresheet with what would become his trademark, a header from a corner against none other than Portuguese giants Benfica. Even when Wadsworth left just a month later the performances of Alcaraz had earned him his spot on the teamsheet, and he would remain there even after they were relegated. That next season in the Segunda Liga was the making of him – the team went on a tremendous run losing just two games in 34 games as they won the league. Alcaraz played a part in 32 matches and one of the losses was a game he was absent for. By the time they returned to the top division he was captain and this time he was too good to return to the Segunda – with Beira Mar relegated again he moved to Belgium and Bruges.

He played for Club Bruges 86 times including 16 games in European competition during his time there they finished third twice and second in 2009/10, which must have helped convince both Roberto Martinez and Gerardo Martino of his quality. He was signed by Wigan Athletic just shortly after being called up to the provisional World Cup squad. He had played his first competitive international in the World Cup Qualifiers, so unknown to his fellow Paraguayans that upon his call up to the national team I remember some friends assume he was another one of Tata Martino’s nationalized players! In South Africa he became the 18th Paraguayan to score at a World Cup with a thumping header against Italy and played every minute of the historic run to the Quarter-Finals.

The stint at Wigan has seen the centre-back’s stock keep rising (apart from an unfortunate spitting incident in 2011) as he saved the club from relegation last season with a header against  Blackburn Rovers that relegated the fellow Lancashire side in their place.  This year the drop threatens again but the table below proves that if the Lactics do get relegated it will be in spite of Alcaraz who has been one of Martinez’s best performers.

Photo: Twitter @ASTVIL123

Photo: Twitter @ASTVIL123

And of course on Saturday he climbed the Wembley steps as an FA Cup winner, not bad for the man who originally said he didn’t want to climb the footballing ladder.

By Ralph Hannah

Author’s Note: Quotes translated from this excellent article in ABC in 2010 – http://www.abc.com.py/articulos/la-vida-de-antolin-alcaraz-197741.html

Paraguay Abroad: Top 3 goals from Tacuara, Bogado and Pajaro Benítez

In homage to our boy’s abroad who have been fighting on two fronts (Europe and South America) this week in continental battle, here are the best three goals from Paraguayan players.

3. Rolando Bogado (Real Garcilaso) vs. Santa Fe, Copa Libertadores, Wednesday 13th February

Move over Cristiano Ronaldo, if you thought the Real Madrid man’s header was a good one later that evening we had this spectacular piece of work from ex-Luqueño defender Rolando Bogado. Moving away from the ball at the corner and drifting behind the penalty spot he still managed to connect with the floated corner and power it into the top corner, like CR7 and important equaliser for his team at home.

2. Oscar Cardozo (Benfica) vs. Bayer Leverkusen, Europa League, Thursday 14th February

A vital away goal for the Portuguese giants as they hit Leverkusen on the break from a corner, as Tacuara received the pass he may have been tempted to shoot but instead feinted past the defender and showed even more composure with a delicate chipped finish.

3. Edgar Benítez (Toluca) vs. Boca Juniors, Copa Libertadores, Wednesday 13th February

How many teams go to La Bombonera and beat Boca…while managed by Bianchi?! Toluca join that exclusive list thanks to this wonderful winner from Edgar Benítez. Timed his run well to receive a beautiful pass from Sinha and with the covering defender closing him down he opted to shoot first time rather than take a touch…by shoot I mean execute a delightful chip/scoop over Boca’s goalkeeper who had strayed too far from his line.

By Ralph Hannah

Paraguay Abroad: Paraguayan players in Latin America

As the leagues get underway across Latin America it seems a good time to list the Paraguayans plying their trade in the region, I’ve kept it to the top divisions but bear in mind there are dozens of players in the lower leagues of Argentina and Chile particularly.

ARGENTINA

No new signings, although Adalberto Román (River Plate) returns to Buenos Aires following an unsuccessful stint in Brazil with the relegated Palmeiras. Víctor Ayala (Lanús) and Marcos Cáceres (Newell’s) were the best performers from the foreign legion last year and are set to continue with their respective clubs. There is hope that under Carlos Bianchi the talented midfielder Orlando Gaona Lugo (Boca Juniors) can hold down a regular spot.

Others

Federico Santander (Tigre)

Claudio Morel (Independiente)

Jonathan Santana (Independiente)

Samuel Cáceres (Independiente)

Víctor Aquino (Belgrano)

Jorge Achucarro (Colón)

Eduardo Ledesma (Godoy Cruz)

BRAZIL

The major new signing is Luis Cáceres (Vitoria) who I technically shouldn’t include as they are Serie B, but if I didn’t I’d have little to write about with the only other Paraguayan in the country Víctor Cáceres (Flamengo) who is of course no relation. I’m scraping the barrel so much that I’ll just mention 22-year-old Marcelo Cañete (São Paulo) who I found out has a Paraguayan mother making him eligible for the national side.

MEXICO

All eyes will be on Robin Ramirez (Pumas) who was topscorer in Colombia last year and has already scored for his new side in the league. Last year was a great season for the central defender Pablo Aguilar (Tijuana) who won the title in his first season while Edgar Benítez (Toluca) was runner-up. One of this blog’s favourite players Osvaldo Martínez has just moved to Club América which is a career-defining move for the 26-year-old.

Others

Paulo Da Silva (Pachuca)

Dario Verón (Pumas)

CHILE

Cristian Bogado (Iquique) continues his successful career across the Andes and will be in the Copa Libertadores if they can get through the preliminary round. Miguel Angel Cuellar has left Cobresal to join ‘Copper Derby’ rivals Cobreloa having scored a bagful of goals last year. Rodrigo Rojas (O’Higgins) is still in the squad with the champions while youngster Rodrigo Baez (Colo Colo) has also decided to stay on.

Others

David Portillo (Antofagasta)

Fabián Benítez (Audax Italiano)

Arnaldo Gimenez (Unión La Calera)

Pedro Vera (Rangers)

José Pedrozo (San Marcos Arica)

Rodrigo Riquelme (Palestino)

Derlis Barrios (Everton)

Richard Piñanez (Ñublense)

COLOMBIA

Deportes Tolima bring in Rogerio Leichtweis from Libertad who scored on his debut in the Copa Libertadores, he teams up with goalkeeper Anthony Silva. Another player to leave the Gumarelo is defender Nery Bareiro (Deportivo Cali) while right winger Jorge Nuñez (Once Caldas) also returns from Paraguay.

Others

German Centurión (Santa Fe)

Edison Gimenez (Itagui)

ECUADOR

The big news was of course the signing of Pablo Zeballos (Emelec) who arrived in the steamy port of Guayaquil from the frozen steppes of Russia. Another talented striker to move to the coast is Hugo Santacruz (Manta) who was hardly used by Ruben Israel at Libertad.  The midfielder Fulvio Duarte is one of three Paraguayans at newly promoted Deportivo Quevedo alongside Luis Espínola and the hero from last year, striker Cristian Hermosilla. The side are managed by their compatriot, Raúl Duarte. The man who nearly kept Tacuary up last year was the very talented Nicolas Martinez (Independiente) who is sure to shine with his new club.

Others

Enrique Vera (Liga de Quito)

Fernando Giménez (Emelec)

Librado Azcona (Independiente)

Edgar Balbuena (Independiente)

Delio Ojeda (Liga de Loja)

Emilio Martínez (Universidad Católica)

PERU

A few players have come back to Paraguay but the booming economy in the Andean nation means it is still a popular destination for our footballers, no more so than the historic city of Cuzco home to Real Atlético Garcilaso who were crowned runners-up last season in their first year in the professional division. Former Nacional striker Fabio ‘Pitu’ Ramos played a big part  in their success last season and has decided to continue, while his performances have prompted the club to bring in more Paraguayans including Victor ‘Cachi’ Ferreira and midfielder Oscar Gamarra. Also staying at altitude in 2013 is Mario Villasantti (Inti Gas) who was a key figure for the team from Ayacucho. An interesting signing is that of Aldo Jara (Sport Huancayo) who was most recently in the Intermedia with Sportivo Iteño, you assume he was recommeded by his compatriot Blás López.

Others

Rolando Bogado (Real Atlético Garcilaso)

Edgar Acosta (Real Atlético Garcilaso)

Carlos Perez (Pacifico FC)

Ever Benítez (Pacifico FC)

BOLIVIA

The new inclusion is Nelson Cabrera (Bolívar) who comes over from China, his rivals will be Pablo Daniel Escobar and Ernesto Cristaldo (both The Strongest). The team with most Paraguayan players is Real Potosí who have Henry Lapcyzk, Carlos Neumann and Sixto Santa Cruz in their ranks.

Other

Carlos Ortiz (Aurora)

Claudio Centurión (Nacional Potosí)

Cristino Ferreira (La Paz)

Francisco Arguello (Blooming)

URUGUAY

A few players have crossed back to Paraguay this season so it leaves us with precious few faces in the charrúa league, in fact the only two we have listed are left-back Aureliano Torres (Peñarol) and one of many sent off in the infamous brawl last year, Edgar Machcua (Juventud las Piedras).

EL SALVADOR

Juan Sosa (Atletico Marte)

GUATEMALA

Joel Benítez (Comunicaciones)

Aníbal Pacheco (Mictlán)

PANAMA

Julio Castillo (Chepo)

By Ralph Hannah