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This article was first published 8 years ago  » Sports » Manchester United and South American players: Not quite a perfect mix

Manchester United and South American players: Not quite a perfect mix

By Bikash Mohapatra
August 11, 2015 09:02 IST
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Following Angel Di Maria's nightmare stint, Bikash Mohapatra/ draws the conclusion that the 'Theatre of Dreams' has never been a happy a hunting ground for players from the continent

A combination of images showing Rafael, Angel di Maria and Radamel Falcao. Photograph: Getty Images

Scenario 1:

In August 2014, Angel Di Maria broke the British transfer record – signing for 59.7 million pounds - when he joined Manchester United from Real Madrid.

A year later the club sold the Argentine to Paris Saint-Germain for 44.5 million pounds, a loss of more than 15 million pounds on their investment.

Scenario 2:

On deadline day last year, Manchester United agreed to sign Radamel Falcao on loan from Monaco, with view of a permanent move. The deal was worth six million pounds, the player getting a salary of 265,000 pounds a week.

In May, the club decided against making the deal permanent.

Scenario 3:

Rafael had been with Manchester United since 2008.

Never a preferred choice in the right-back position, manager Louis van Gaal even didn't hesitate to play Anton Valencia out of position last season.

Earlier this month the club did not hesitate to sell Rafael to Olympique Lyon for an undisclosed fee. 

What's common to the above three scenarios? 

It is the fact that all the three happen to be South American players. It won’t be wrong to say that the continent has never been that happy a hunting ground for the club.

It's also a fact that few South American players have made it big in the Premier League. The fast pace and physical nature of the competition in England doesn't allow these talented players the same space and time on the ball that, say, the La Liga or Serie A does.

The number can be counted on finger tips when it comes to United. We have had Carlos Tevez, Valencia and … takes a look at a few high-profile names from South America who failed to make their stay at Old Trafford memorable.

Juan Sebastian Veron

Juan Sebastien Veron in action. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

The Argentina midfielder moved from Lazio in 2001 on a five-year deal. A fee of 28.1 million pounds made him the most expensive transfer in English football at that time.

However, Veron, or La Brujita (The Little Witch) as he was fondly called, failed to adapt and justify his fee.

In fact, he was an expensive flop, considering his transfer fee to Chelsea two years later was about half of what United had paid Lazio.

Diego Forlan

Diego Forlan after a Barclaycard Premiership match between Manchester United and Middlesbrough at Old Trafford. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

Arguably one of the greatest players of all-time, Diego Forlan's time at Old Trafford is probably the most forgettable part of his illustrious career.

Signed by Sir Alex Ferguson for 6.9 million pounds in January 2002, it took 27 games before the Uruguayan forward opened his account.

A brace in an away 2–1 win at Liverpool and couple of memorable goals against Chelsea was all he had to offer.

He was later sold to Villarreal and found his mojo back in the La Liga.


Anderson of Manchester United in action during the Capital One Cup second round match against MK Dons last year. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

United forked out a whopping 20 million pounds to FC Porto to ensure the Brazilian's signature in 2007.

Anderson won the Premier League four times, the League Cup twice and the Champions League in 2008. However, he never quite made an impact as a player.

After falling out of favour, the midfielder was quietly shipped out during the January transfer window, joining Internacional on a free transfer.


A combination of images showing former Manchester United players Kleberson and Fabio. Photograph: Getty Images

United signed Kleberson for a fee of 6.5 million pounds in 2003 as a replacement for Veron.

The Brazilian was injured in his second match for the club, and made only 20 appearances in two seasons, before joining Beskitas in 2005.

Fabio, Rafael's twin brother, was signed in 2007 but made 18 appearances. He was initially loaned to Queens Park Rangers in 2012 and sold to Crystal Palace in 2014.

Gabriel Heinze

Gabriel Heinze of Manchester United takes a breather during the FA Cup semi-final against Newcastle United in Cardiff in April 2005. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Some may opine that Gabriel Heinze was a success story at Old Trafford.

Signed for a fee of 6.9 million pounds from PSG in 2004, the Argentine quickly established himself as United’s first choice left-back, being voted the club's best player for the 2004–05 season.

However, injuries and poor form followed. One of the injuries led to the signing of Patrice Evra, and Heinze failed to replace the Frenchman subsequently.

Subsequently, he became disillusioned with Sir Alex Ferguson by his lack of regular first-team action. Heinze was also involved in a controversial transfer saga (involving Liverpool) that went to court. In 2007, he joined Real Madrid on a four-year deal. 

Later he joined Olympique Marseille, and on the eve of a Champions League game against United in 2011, admitted the dispute that ended his working relationship with Ferguson was a mistake.

"I don't have many regrets from my career as a footballer, but that episode with Ferguson has to be one of them," he said. "I'm impulsive and strong-willed and this has got me into trouble at times, which was the case when I left United. I regret it (leaving the club) a lot," he said.

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Bikash Mohapatra /