Skip to content

The Little Witch of La Plata: Juan Sebastian Veron

by on February 22, 2013

It’s probably one of the queerest of nicknames afforded to a footballer, but it’s something he got as an inheritance. And when a certain something is bequeathed to you, you cannot do away with it. La Brujita they called him, the Little Witch. They called his father, La Bruja or The Witch. Juan Sebastian Veron.

On the day Juan Sebastian was born, Juan Ramon Veron, was playing for Estudiantes against city rivals, Gimansia. Affectionately known as The Witch, was Juan Ramon was instrumental in Estudiantes’ success in the 60s.  And also most famously remembered for scoring a goal against Man United at Old Trafford. The father raised the club to its apex in his days, and then the son would return to do the same in his.

Juan-Sebastian-Veron

Many will prefer to remember Veron as a traitor, a choker who failed to deliver when necessary. But the truth remains that the bald genius was passionate and loyal to the game, above club and country, and most of all, he was massively talented. Probably it was the latter that prevented him from remaining at one club for too long. He was loved by the cheese makers, hailed as a great by the top coaches in the world, battered by the English media (you know what they are) and had a bitter-sweet relationship with his country and hometown.

That all being there, Veron was a footballer in a class of his own. Born into a generation of greats, the Argentinian crafted history across the greens of Europe. He was a midfield giant with a certain grace to his game. Bedded deep into the midfield he controlled games like few others could. A brilliant dribbler of the ball, he could glide across defenses cutting open the opponents for the strikers. Dispossessing him was often acknowledged as a foolhardy task. Occasionally, the Witch would take things in his own stride and fire salvos at goalkeepers, unleashing splendid shots, often with spectacular results. Seeing Veron effortlessly place the ball past goalkeepers was a sight to savor.

If there ever was an amalgamation of the beauties of physics, it was Juan Sebastian Veron.

Juan Sebastian Veron rose to prominence as an 18-year old at the Estudiantes Academy, in the 1993/94 season. The club were relegated to the second division that season, but Veron helped the team gain an immediate promotion in the next. In the next season, he was sold to giants, Boca Juniors, where he played a solitary season alongside the phenomenal Diego Maradona.

In 1996, Europe happened. He was signed by Sampadoria, where he began his love affair with the Serie A. His visionary and slow paced  style suited the Italian game. Veron switched clubs again, moving to super-rich Parma and then to Lazio, where he was reunited with Sven-Goran Eriksson. He led the Biancazzurri to domestic and UEFA Cup success. At Lazio he was a part of an extraordinary midfield containing the likes of Pavel Nedved, Dejan Stankovic, Matias Almeida and Diego Simone.

Following the infamous passport scandal, the swarthy Argentinian moved to the most glorious football league in the world to join Manchester United. Expectations were immense, but so were the doubts being raised. No one had a clue as to how the player would fit into a midfield ganged by the likes of Giggs, Scholes, Butt, Keane and Beckham. The ever critical English media doubted his deployment in the Man United squad. But…

“He’s a fucking great player. Youse are fucking idiots,” was Ferguson’s response.

Veron was then the brightest star in United’s galaxy, the highest earner and also lauded the record of being their then-heaviest purchase. Veron’s shirt sales outweighed those of fellow summer signing, Ruud van Nistelrooy.

But his career wave was to hit an ebb on English shores. Veron suffered a number of injuries during his time at United, and despite a few brilliant performances he belied his hefty price tag. Two seasons later, he was sold to Chelsea for an equally commanding value. But more injuries deprived him off any good show and he was loaned to Inter Milan in 2004. Though he couldn’t recreate the brilliance of his heydays, Veron was key to Inter’s re-emergence in Italy.

With his career on a down, Veron was linked with a move back to Argentina, like most other South American footballers do after their sojourn in Europe. With offers being tabled by River Plate and Boca, Veron chose to return to the club in his heart, Estudiantes. Even during his days in Europe, Veron continued to fund the club to purchase equipment and other stuff.

South American football suited Veron’s style more. In his first season back, he became an inspiration on the field and a leader who would take Estudiantes back to their glory days. In his first La Plata clasico, Estudiantes defeated fierce rivals, Gimnasia by 7 to nil. Veron captianed Estudiantes to an Apertura Championship in his first season back in 2009. Then the Copa Libertadores and another Apertura title in 2010. Veron was himself named the South American player of the year in 2008 and 2009.

“I would swap all my achievements, everything I won in Europe, everything I’ve won till now, for this title.”, he told Ole’ on the eve of the Libertadores final.

Stadiums may have rung up in boos calling him a traitor, for he failed to take charge when Argentina needed him the most in the crunch games. But Veron was a legend for the national team as well, with 73 appearances, spread over three World Cups: 1998, 2002 and 2010. Despite his failings and injuries, Veron was a force to reckon with when fully fit and in his game.

While he may have hung up his boots last June after a stellar 20 year career, Veron will forever be remembered as one of the most phenomenal midfield metronomes of all time. Some players go on to become one club talismans, Brujita endorsed world football as his only playing field.

Advertisements

From → Players

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: