Injuries have limited Santa Cruz’s impact for both club and country in the past 18 months. After a strong start to the preliminaries, including a goal in the 2-0 win against Brazil, he was sidelined for Paraguay’s last 10 qualifiers.
The tall striker joined Manchester City for a reported £18m fee last summer, but a knee problem meant he did not make his first start until October. He also picked up a calf injury midway through the season and struggled to find his best form. The 28-year-old ended the campaign with just three league goals in 19 appearances, although only six were starts.
Santa Cruz recovered from tendonitis in his right knee in time to start all three games at the 2006 World Cup, though he failed to score. He also began all four games at the 2002 World Cup but limped off half an hour into the second-round defeat to Germany. The striker has been part of the Paraguayan set-up for over a decade, having made his debut as a 17-year-old.
He won three League titles with Olimpia before leaving for Germany in a £3m move in 1999. He won five Bundesliga titles and the Champions League with Bayern Munich but his progress was blighted by serious knee and ankle ligament injuries. He enjoyed a successful first season with Blackburn in 2007/08, scoring 19 league goals, but managed only four in the following season.
In 2005, his brother Oscar was killed in a car accident in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion. Another brother, Julio, is a youngster who plays for Blackburn’s reserves.
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