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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 10:10 GMT
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

Juan Sebastian Veron has been recalled by Argentina
It was the coldest, most vicious treatment I have ever seen from the terraces

Behold the comeback king of Argentine football.

Juan Sebastian Veron, 32, has been recalled to the national squad for a second remarkable return to international duty.

The first came in September 2003, when Argentina played their first game in Buenos Aires since the immense disappointment of the 2002 World Cup, when they went as favourites but failed to make it out of the group stage.

Veron was singled out as a symbol of the failure. Short of fitness, he had played poorly in 2002 - and he was also earning his living in England.

'Veron is English,' read banners around the stadium.

In the match against Chile the crowd were really gunning for him.

It was the coldest, most vicious treatment I have ever seen from the terraces - and I've seen Brazil crowds so hostile they forced Rivaldo to contemplate stepping down from the national team.

There was no such reaction from Veron. He played through it, shut the crowd out and got on with his game.

From a moral point of view it was the bravest performance I have ever seen, and it was appreciated. When he was substituted there were as many cheers as boos.

Shortly afterwards he was struggling for fitness once more and lost his place.

Veron's sights are set on still being around for the 2010 World Cup

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By the time he had recovered, Marcelo Bielsa had given way to Jose Pekerman as Argentina coach, and Veron's face did not fit.

His feud with captain Juan Pablo Sorin led to him being branded a disruptive element - and though he was playing well for Inter Milan and had Diego Maradona in his corner, the door to a recall was firmly barred.

Then Veron came back from Europe to rejoin Estudiantes, his first club and the one his father had represented with such distinction.

The wheel of fortune turned his way. Moving back to Argentina not only gave him the chance to command the club to their first title since 1983. It also got him back in the national squad.

New boss Alfio Basile is adamant that he does not want to be just a selector. He wants to be a coach as well, working with players on the training ground.

So he has reactivated an idea from his first spell in charge in the early 90s - a squad drawn of entirely home based players, who he can work with on a weekly basis.

Of course, it does not mean that the door is closed for those players who are based in Europe - not least because plenty of those in the 21-strong home based squad will soon be moving across the Atlantic.

In fact, it could well be that the idea is simply not as viable as it was in the early 90s.

Veron looks dejected as Argentina go out of the 2002 World Cup
Veron was made a scapegoat for Argentina's poor 2002 World Cup

The world has moved on since then. Nowadays more players go to Europe, and they do so at an earlier age.

Argentina's friendlies are now being organised by a Russian company and for high profile games they will surely demand the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Fernando Gago in the starting line up.

Veron will not be worrying too much about all that. From his point of view, he has been offered a chance to achieve one of his major ambitions - win a title with Argentina.

His opportunity could come later this year; the home based squad will probably form the core of the group that goes to Venezuela for the Copa America.

But Veron is looking beyond. His sights are set on still being around for the 2010 World Cup.


Is 17-year-old striker Alexandre Pato as good as people say he is? Which team is he likely to move to and at what price?
Calum Stephens

When a player is instantly at home in senior football at the age of 17, based not on precocious physical development but on skill and technique, then it's clear that he is something special.

You can put him in potential genius category. We'll have to see how his mind and body cope with the demands.

Inter have him on a long term contract - no one is under any illusions, they will sell him in the end, but they'll try to get a couple of years out of him first.

Not since the days of the Zamorano-Salas partnership have I seen Chilean players with the quality of Fernandez, Gonzalez, Jimenez, Suazo et al - though height and strength could let them down at the back. Do you agree?
Phil Sutton, Chile

I totally agree - and would add Alexis Sanchez, Jorge Valdivia and perhaps Mathias Vidangossy to the list.

Then there's Claudio Maldonado, year in year out the best holding midfielder in Brazil.

But, yes, there is the lack of a latter day Elias Figueroa to command the defensive line. It will be interesting to see which position Arturo Vidal settles down in.

Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at



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