Striker has flourished elsewhere
22 June ~ Diego Forlán capped his 100th appearance for Uruguay by scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over Nigeria at the Confederations Cup on Thursday. That Forlán has become the first player to achieve such a feat in a country as blessed with striking talent as Uruguay will surprise many here – he was widely seen as a failure during his time at Manchester United from 2002-04. But that is more of a reflection on us as a footballing nation than it is on a player who has twice won the Golden Shoe for being top scorer in European league competition.
In some ways, the severe dent taken by the striker's reputation while in England is understandable. In his two-year stay, the Uruguayan took 27 games to score his first goal and, in total, averaged under one every six appearances, making his brace against Liverpool about the only reason he is remembered fondly – or at all – by United fans. However, in the context of his whole career, this is the exception to the rule. His relative failure in England is sandwiched by prolific periods in Argentina, Spain, Italy and on the international stage, during which he has averaged around one goal every two appearances.
What is unsurprising, however, is that Forlán's record elsewhere was not used to place his blip at United in context, but as way of explaining it. In particular, some saw his performances in Spain as further evidence of the superiority of the Premier League and the weakness of Spanish football as a whole. But when he signed for Manchester United, Forlán was only 22 with 80 senior appearances to his name and was joining a squad filled with established goalscorers such as Paul Scholes, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ruud van Nistelrooy. Two years on, when he moved to Villarreal in the more culturally familiar Spain, things were different.
It was only around 2010, when Forlán helped Atlético Madrid past Liverpool and Fulham to win the Europa League before impressing at the World Cup in South Africa, that he began to receive his dues in this country. Forlán himself has expressed his disappointment that he was unable to fulfil his potential in Manchester but he is not alone in enjoying the odd rocky road in the course of an otherwise successful career. His treatment should be a lesson to those who use the Premier League as the only yardstick of quality as he is by no means the exception to the rule. Daniel Matthews