He may currently be one of the top strikers in European football but Diego Forlan certainly did not get off to anywhere near that sort of start when he first moved to Europe. Fans welcomed an exciting prospect to Old Trafford, albeit a fairly unknown one, but at £6.9million the fans may have expected a more instant impact. In fact, the fans would be left waiting 8 months until Forlan scored his first goal for the club. A penalty against Macabi Haifa.
It can’t have been easy coming in as a striker with undoubtedly Europe’s best striker already in the team.
While Ruud Van Nistelrooy was tallying up 110 goals in 136 appearances, Forlan would end his United career with 17 from 95 games. However, a double against Liverpool at Anfield and a spectacular volley against Chelsea combined with a high work-rate still meant that Forlan was always cheered by the United faithful.
One big impact he did make not only affected the Premier League but also football all over the World. After taking his shirt off celebrating a rare goal, Forlan spent the next 3 minutes running around half naked with his shirt while chasing opposition players. The hilarious scene prompted FIFA to ban the shirt removal celebration and all thanks to Diego.
He left United for Villarreal in a £3million move which would turn out to be a bargain for the ‘Yellow
Submarines’. In his first season in La Liga he smashed home 25 goals and ended the season as La Liga’s top goal scorer. Suddenly the confidence he so dearly lacked at United was restored with every passing match. He helped Villarreal reach the Champions League and was joint European golden boot award winner with Thierry Henry.
In 2007 he was signed by Atletico Madrid who paid around £20million for his services. Again he was faced with a huge task in replacing Fernando Torres who had joined Liverpool. Forlan has become a cult hero at Atletico and again won the La Liga and European Golden boot awards in 2009, scoring 32 goals in 33 games. Along with Sergio Aguero, the two have practically carried Atletico through a number of seasons.
There is a tendency for players from South America to join clubs in Portugal, Germany or Spain in order to adjust to life in Europe before possibly taking the step to the Premier League. Players such as Diego (Juventus), Anderson (Man Utd), Dani Alves (Barcelona) and Diego Milito (Inter) have all taken routes through Portugal, Germany or lower clubs in La Liga before making their mark.
The example of Forlan could be used as a perfect example of why players should not be thrown into the deep end. Since his departure from Old Trafford, Forlan has flourished and proved himself on a number of occasions. It was merely a case of a step too soon rather than a lack of talent.