Diego Gavilan didn’t exactly take the Premier League by storm when he joined Newcastle in January of 2000 and you may have even forgotten that he ever signed for the Tyneside club. Don’t worry because you won’t be alone as many of Magpies’ fans will be racking their brains to try and remember whether they actually saw him play at St James’. Brought to Newcastle at the start of the century by Toon manager Sir Bobby Robson, Gavilan was signed as a skilful midfielder with bags of potential, but where did it all go wrong for Diego Gavilan at Newcastle United?
The list of Paraguayan footballers to grace the English Premier League is not exactly a lengthy document and when you have a look at the fortunes of Diego Gavilan at Newcastle it is easy to see why. When he arrived in Newcastle in 2000 Gavilan became the first Paraguayan to play in England but his arrival hasn’t opened the floodgates as yet. Given that he is nicknamed ‘Sparrowhawk’ referencing his pace, as well as being known as ‘Pampero’ in his homeland which translates as running like the wind, it seems like speed is one of Gavilan’s greatest attributes. However, Newcastle fans didn’t get to see much of this on the pitch and his exit from the Premier League was hardly swift either.
Signed for a fee of between £1m and £2m, Gavilan was just 19 when he signed for Newcastle and his inexperience didn’t help his cause in the Premier League. Bought from his boyhood team Cerro Porteño, Gavilan couldn’t have made his Toon debut in a bigger match as he featured in a 2-2 draw with rivals Sunderland and a couple of months later he scored his solitary Newcastle goal against Coventry. From the few glimpses that we got of Gavilan he seemed to be a diminutive and lightweight player who wasn’t built for the rigours of English football and was much more used to a slower speed of game. Like many foreign starlets, Gavilan’s technique was sound but he was caught out by the non-stop speed of the Premier League and his opportunities became limited.
To be fair to Newcastle and Robson they stuck with Gavilan and remained loyal to him, loaning him to Mexican side Tecos and in turn to Internacional and Udinese. Even though he was contracted to Newcastle for some time, he only actually made 7 Premier League appearances and was eventually signed by Internacional on a permanent basis. His torrid time in England didn’t affect his reputation in South America where he was still regarded as a hot prospect and was picked in Paraguay’s 2006 World Cup squad where he was an unused substitute. Gavilan has spent the rest of his career playing in the Argentinean and Brazilian leagues and recently moved to Independient as the 29 year old looks set to stay in South America until he retires.
Gavilan’s impact at Newcastle was so small that it makes it hard to say where it went wrong for him, but the Newcastle management must have seen something in him to sign him in the first place and then to keep him on their books to see if he ever flourished. All that really can be said is that he was a small risk who didn’t come off for the Toon, but are you one of the few who can actually vividly remember seeing Diego Gavilan pull on the famous black and white stripes?