Costa Rica is not usually a country associated with footballing greatness. But one player helped put Costa Rican football on the map at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. That player was Paulo Wanchope, a flamboyant striker that played in the Premiership with Derby, West Ham and Man City, before leaving England in 2004. Whatever happened to Paulo Wanchope?
Wanchope signed with Derby in 1996, after playing for Herediano in his native country. The striker hit the headlines when he scored a wondrous goal on his debut for Derby against Manchester United, beating four players before slotting the ball past Peter Schmeichel. The Costa Rican became a fan favourite at Pride Park, with a talent for both the sublime and the ridiculous, and scored 28 goals in his two years at Derby.
A £3.5 million move to West Ham followed for Wanchope, but the striker never really settled in his one season at Upton Park. He did manage to score 15 goals in 47 games, but was sold to Man City in 2000. At Maine Road, Wanchope had mixed fortunes. Injuries ruled him out for long periods of time, but he was still capable of scoring goals, finding the back of the net 27 times in 64 appearances for City.
Unable to stay fit, City sold the Costa Rican to Malaga for £500,000 in 2004, where Wanchope scored 6 goals in 26 games for the club. After that, the striker drifted from club to club for a few years, spending time in Qatar, Costa Rica, Argentina and in America with Chicago Fire, before retiring in 2007, aged 30. Injuries had taken their toll on Wanchope, and even though he was successful in these short stints at each club, he was unable to get into good enough shape to play regularly.
On the international stage, Wanchope is the only Costa Rican to score at two World Cups and the second all-time leading scorer for his country, with 45 goals in 73 appearances. Since retiring, Wanchope has took up coaching, spending last season in charge of his first club, Herediano in Costa Rica. He led the side to third in the league, but resigned due to the way the club was ran.
Wanchope will be forever remembered as a player who was capable of the spectacular and he was an extravagant talent. But his reputation for inconsistency on the pitch often infuriated fans and managers, and overshadowed his talent. But it is at Derby in particular, where Wanchope’s heroics will be remembered, as his goal against United was voted the best in their history by Derby fans.
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