Tribute: Rebirth of Juan Sebastian Veron

When Juan Sebastian Veron decided to take a pay cut in 2006 and return to his hometown club, Estudiantes de La Plata, it could have been interpreted as a chance to wind down his career peacefully. Many South American stars return from long careers in Europe with little left in the tank, and although they can supply moments of brilliance, long term success is usually not in the cards, which is what makes Veron’s rebirth so incredible.

Although many felt that “La Brujita” was finished after a less than satisfying spell in England with Manchester United and Chelsea, Veron actually played very well upon returning to Italy for Inter. Roberto Mancini, Inter’s manager at the time, seemed ready to resign the former Parma, Lazio, and Sampdoria star, but Veron went home to continue the love affair that his family has had with the modest club that resides in La Plata.

Veron’s father, Juan Ramon, won three Copa Libertadores between 1968 and 1970 and won the Intercontinental Cup against Manchester United in 1968. The younger Veron made his debut for the club in 1993 helping them gain promotion to the Argentine First Division before leaving for Boca Juniors, where he played with current National Team coach Diego Maradona.

While in Europe, "La Brujita" helped the club financially with the millions he earned in Italy and England, but upon returning, his position amongst the pantheon of club idols was anything but assured. Then came the 2006 Aperatura, when Veron inspired the unfancied Estudiantes to the title, beating Boca Juniors 2-1 in a dramatic one game playoff after the sides finished level on points during the tournament. His success with Estudiantes brought about a shock recall to the National Team under Alfio Basile for the 2007 Copa America after three years in the International Wilderness.

Veron helped Argentina reach the Final in South Africa. After falling in the 2008 Copa Sudamericana Final in 2008, Veron pushed his team forward to win the 2009 Copa Libertadores while winning the South American Player of the Year Award for two years running. In December, Veron picked up the Silver Ball in the Club World Cup, as Estudiantes came within minutes of knocking out Lionel Messi’s Barcelona. Veron has also pushed himself into a key role for Maradona’s Argentina, acting as the midfield organizer, using his patience to wear down defenses and hold up the ball before springing the likes of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, or Angel Di Maria.

During the current season, Veron, now 35, and Estudiantes are attempting to achieve an improbable feat: fighting for the title on both fronts, both domestically and in the Copa Libertadores. While this is common practice in Europe, South American teams are faced with longer distances to travel, more hostile environments, and perhaps the most difficult of all: altitude.

Football Monkey would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Juan Sebastian Veron a.k.a La Brujita with the below video for his contribution to the development of Estudiantes and for being a model professional. The midfield maestro and dead-ball specialist will always be remembered as one of the best!

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