Juan Sebastián Verón might have called an end to the European leg of his illustrious career a few years back, but he’s quality has not diminished one bit. One the eve of 2009, the former Sampdoria, Parma, Lazio, and Inter star was chosen as the South American Player of the Year by the Uruguayan daily El País.
Verón beat national team partner and former Villarreal playmaker Juan Román Riquelme by three votes. Riquelme comes off a very impressive second half of the year where his team won the Apertura tournament and the South American Recopa. He also won the Olympic gold medal with Argentina in Beijing.
Verón also beat last year’s winner, America (MEX) striker and Paraguayan international, Salvador Cabañas by 19. Another Argentine, Andrés D’Alessandro came out in fourth place despite leading Inter to the Copa Sudamericana title.
Liga de Quito goalkeeper José Cevallos, who was the hero in this year’s Copa Libertadores rounded out the top five. Cevallos was instrumental in the Ecuadorian side’s first-ever international title when he stopped three penalties in the tournament final against Brazilian side Fluminense.
Verón’s selection was controversial. Despite leading Estudiantes to the final of the Copa Sudamericana, he did not win any titles as compared to some of the players that ened up behind him in the results. Verón was one of the biggest stars in his seven years in Serie A. He made the leap to Europe after Sampdoria paid Boca Juniors and was sold to Parma the following season where he would team up with players like Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, Gianluigi Buffon, and Hernán Crespo. He would win the UEFA Cup and and Coppa Italia double in 1999.
The following season he would play in Rome for Lazio and his streak of success continued as he would with a domestic treble (Scudetto, Coppa Italia, Italian Super Cup) in the 1999-2000 season.
After an unsuccessful stay in England and a time where he was the scapegoat for Argentina’s disastrous World Cup run in 2002, he returned to Italy. Inter Milan put him back on top of the football scene there as he “won” two more Scudettos and two Coppa Italias.