A player who was good enough for senior international football over four years ago has now failed to make the grade at Under-20 level
Talented young South American players should be issued with a warning; the money is certainly attractive, but going to Europe too early could be bad for your career.
I remember a bitterly cold afternoon in Luque, Paraguay back in July 1999.
Colombia were playing Argentina in the Copa America, a game that most people recall for the three penalties missed by Argentina's Martin Palermo.
My most vivid memory, however, is the odd flash of genius from Colombia's 16-year-old sensation Jhonnier Montaņo.
Introduced 10 minutes into the second
half, he crowned a performance of joyful promise with a glorious goal.
Watching him play, and listening to his calm analysis in the post-match press conference, I was convinced that Montaņo was on his way to being a big star.
He may still be. He is only 20. But he is certainly taking the long and winding road.
Last week Jhonnier Montaņo was dropped from the Colombia squad for this month's World Youth Cup.
A player who was good enough for senior
international football over four years ago has now failed to make the grade at Under-20 level.
It is a sad tale of unfulfilled promise - for which
Europe bears part of the blame.
In their own country they
were made to feel important - In Europe they feel surplus to requirements
Soon after making his dramatic appearance, Montaņo was snapped up by Parma, of Italy.
He found himself loaned out to Verona, loaned out to Piacenza, and getting precious few opportunities in the Parma first team whenever he returned.
It is a typical story with young South Americans.
It robs them of all continuity, and eats away at their self-esteem. In their own country they
were made to feel important. In Europe they feel surplus to requirements.
Motivation suffers, and, as in the case of Montaņo, physical condition suffers too.
Reynaldo Rueda, Colombia's Under-20 coach, feels that Montaņo is simply not fit enough to produce his best in the World Youth Cup.
Had he stayed in Colombia, the story may well have taken a different course.
He took his first steps in football with his hometown club, America, of Cali.
Montaņo has struggled to make an impact at Parma
This year they reached the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League.
He could have been part of that success,
maintaining his momentum, gaining in prestige and picking up experience.
He could have established himself as a key member of the national team. Moving to Europe under these conditions makes all the difference.
The player is then seen by his new team-mates not as a promise, but as a reality.
He is more mature, better equipped to handle the process of adaptation.
The club have paid more for him, so the coach will be expected to select him.
Montaņo is still young enough to come again. But his experience should stand as a lesson for youngsters all over his continent.
There are many roads to the top, but the safest of them is to develop as much as possible
in South America before making the move across the Atlantic.