Juan Sebastian Veron, who retires this
weekend at the age of 37, is regarded around the world as one of
the great players of his generation.
In England, though, doubts remain after his performances for
Manchester United and Chelsea did not quite meet huge
expectations, while among Argentine fans there are those who
cannot forgive him for the country's dismal 2002 World Cup
The pluses, however, far outweigh the minuses, particularly
after he led Estudiantes to a fourth South American Libertadores
Cup title in 2009, three years after his return home.
Much more than just the captain of Estudiantes, Veron is the
club's elder statesman, over and above directors twice his age,
funding from the fortune he amassed in Europe facilities for the
club in La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province.
Veron, shaven-headed with a goatee, has for some time shown
an inclination towards becoming club president in the long term.
He hinted as much in a message he posted during the week on
the club's website to the fans.
"When I look back [at the team's achievements since coming
home] I realise it was worth it and I want to carry on planning
for Estudiantes to carry on growing because there's still a lot
to do and improve," Veron wrote.
"I can't imagine myself far from the club after my
retirement," he added at a news conference.
"There are no regrets. I just would have liked to play a
Champions League final... [and] win something with the national
team," Veron, who reached the semi-finals of Europe's elite club
competition with Manchester United 10 years ago, told reporters.
An immediate managerial position may not be too far away for
Veron, however, with Argentina now coached by former Estudiantes
player and trainer Alejandro Sabella.
Veron, a Serie A champion with Lazio in 2000 before his much
heralded move to the English Premier League, recomposed his
image with a majority of Argentine fans after he made a comeback
for his country in the 2007 Copa America in Venezuela in a side
also boasting Juan Roman Riquelme and Lionel Messi that lost to
Brazil in the final.
A picture of where Veron stands vis-a-vis with the ills of
the Argentine game, notably a major hooligan problem with the
violent, so-called "barrabravas", was seen at an Estudiantes
home game earlier this season.
Hooligans threw flares onto the pitch from behind the
visiting goalkeeper's net, causing him to become disorientated
and the referee to abandon the match after just 13 minutes.
Veron, followed soon after by other senior players, went
behind the goal to remonstrate with the young fans who had
clambered up the perimeter fence, shouting at them to "get down
or I'll beat you up."
It is rare for players or coaches to stand up to the violent
and influential hooligans, who control many of Argentine football's peripheral business such as parking and vending outside
grounds, and hold directors to ransom for tickets and travel
expenses to away matches.
Veron, a player who stood out for his busy, all-running
style in central midfield, has earned the respect of his peers
and enemies enough to suggest there might be important benefits
for the Argentine game if he is allowed to hold positions of
power after hanging up his boots.
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