Paraguay International, Roque Santa Cruz is set to lead his country to possibly his last Copa America tournament before he retires after playing 20 years as a professional footballer.
The 34-year-old striker has not only made himself a glittering career on the pitch, but managed to do some good off it as well. The player is Paraguay's all-time leading scorer, which is as much a result of longevity as it is quality.
Santa Cruz started as a professional for Olimpia in his home country before most American kids even learn to drive, at the absurdly young age of 15. Two years later he moved to the club where he truly made his name - Bayern Munich. In eight years with the Bavarian giants, Santa Cruz won a number of trophies, but never found any real consistency and never scored more than 10 goals in a season.
After leaving Bayern, he landed in England, bouncing from Manchester City to Blackburn - he scored 20 goals in a season there, the best year of his career - before taking off to Spain with Betis and Malaga. In 2015 he signed with Cruz Azul for a short spell before then returning to Spain, where he currently plays with Malaga on loan.
The player is also unsurprisingly a hero in Paraguay. The people love him for his work off the pitch, but it also helps that he's been brilliant on it. And now he gets another big stage to shine on in Copa America Centenario.
Drawn into Group A with the United States, Colombia and Costa Rica, Paraguay face a tough test even though they have beaten Brazil in penalties at last year's Copa America, expectations are high. With Santa Cruz as vice captain of the team and other experienced player, Paraguay can only wish for the best in the tournament.
Malaga manager Javi Gracia has ended speculation about his future by signing a new contract with the club. He has now extended his stay until 2019.
The former coach of Almeria and Osasuna has been impressive in his first two campaigns at the Spanish club. One of the major highlights of his time at Malaga would be the 1-0 win over Barcelona last season. Further, he has also been able to draw both matches against Real Madrid this season. Despite the successes, the club has not been able to make huge inroads as far as league position is concerned.
This turned out to be a source of concern for the manager amidst rumours that Malaga were considering a managerial change in order to start moving up the table. Inconsistent results mean that the club are mid-table in the Spanish league. They have secured just nine victories throughout the campaign while scoring less than a goal per game on an average.
The lack of free scoring comes as a surprise considering that Javi Gracia has a wealth of attackers at his disposal including the experienced Roque Santa Cruz. The former Manchester City and Blackburn Rovers striker returned to the club after a spell in South American football, and a summer on a yacht with a Scotland yacht charter.
"Personally I have not received any offer. My agents could maybe tell you better. I am renewing my contract due to the interest from the club, from [sporting director Francesc] Arnau, and because I do not want to be speculating about my future any more.We are going to play now against a series of teams my name has been linked with, and this is a way to show my gratitude to the club. I wanted to end all this speculation," said the Malaga manager. The club brought an end to a five match winless run with a narrow win over Sporting Gijón.
Roque Santa Cruz is hoping that his recent underwhelming spell with Cruz Azul will be forgotten as the Paraguayan attacker signed a 2 year long contract with Cruz Azul for a fee of €2 million per year and Santa Cruz also became the highest paid player in the entire Mexican League after agreeing a salary where he was going to earn around USD$200.000 each month.
Unfortunately for Cruz Azul, the player that they spent so much cash in didn’t manage to live up to his salary as the Paraguayan sustained an injury which kept him out of the playing grounds for a long period of time and his contract with the Mexican club ended sooner than initially expected.
Despite having signed a 2 year long contract with Cruz Azul, the time that Santa Cruz spent in the club didn’t even reach 1 year as he would later go on making a return to Malaga.
After Santa Cruz officially completed his return to Santa Cruz, the 34 year old Paraguayan attacker went on saying that retiring with them was always on his plan; it was what he wanted to do and had planned on doing for a long time.
Santa Cruz revealed his happiness in returning to Santa Cruz as he said:"It's always important my family feels comfortable. My children have their friends and so does my wife. Malaga as a place has charm, and it's good for the children to live. Then there's the sporting factor. I spoke to my friends here and I longed to share their experiences. I watched two matches on television. I saw how the stadium was against Sevilla and to come back here is a dream. I feel very honored to be here and to receive this affection. I'm grateful for this opportunity. This is my home."
The Paraguayan player is considered to be as one of the worst signings that the Mexican club Cruz Azul has ever done in their history. The amount of money they spent in signing Santa Cruz was just too much for the small amount of matches that he actually get to play before eventually getting injured and offloaded back to Malaga.
Former Blackburn and Manchester City striker Roque Santa Cruz recently joined Malaga to end his spell with South American football once again.
When the striker had joined Cruz Azul, it was thought that this would be the end of his time in European football. Despite being a Paraguayan, Santa Cruz has largely spent much of his professional career in Europe playing for the likes of Bayern Munich, Blackburn, and Manchester City. In the last five years, though, he has been on loan at various clubs. Poor form coupled with homesickness saw him return to South American football with Mexican club Cruz Azul.
The striker scored four goals in only 10 appearances for Cruz Azul before deciding to return to Malaga. He has come to the Spanish club on a loan deal, but it was feared that the striker may never make a competitive appearance due to a succession of injury problems. For the first time, Santa Cruz seems happy that the injury problems have started to clear and he will be able to make his debut, for the third time, in front of the Malaga supporters. Santa Cruz has already been to the club in two loan spells. The striker has revealed that he could make his debut in the upcoming match against Espanyol.
Malaga have been in poor form throughout this season and they could certainly use with some goals from the Paraguayan centre forward. Malaga have the worst record in the league when it comes to scoring goals. They have managed only seven in 13 games this season. Most of the goals have been from Charles whereas the likes of Ricardo Horta and Cop continue to disappoint, as they still for the opening goal of their season.“Now I am happy to serve the training and equipment from the environment to live from day to day,” said Santa Cruz.
Roque Santa Cruz recently sustained a hamstring injury during Paraguay’s 6-1 defeat when playing against Argentina which made him unable to play in the play-off match of the Copa America which would decide what team was going to secure the 3rd spot. During this 3rd place play-off match, Paraguay faced off with Peru and ultimately lost 2-0.
Fans of the Paraguayan national team and of the former Manchester City player Roque Santa Cruz were in doubt of just how serious the hamstring injury of the veteran player was and he stepped up to the media and said that it isn’t as bad as initially believed and this injury will not require any type of surgery or anything of that nature.
Roque Santa Cruz said: ‘’ I am fine, I will be starting my vacations soon but my vacations will be in rehabilitation. I only have a muscular problem and don’t need to have a surgery, it’s only a small tear on my thigh, studies have already been done in Cruz Azul and those were the results after it was analyzed by the medical team’’
During the third place play-off match that was disputed between Paraguay and Peru, the match resulted in a 2-0 victory for Peru with Andre Martin Carrillo and Paolo Guerrero scoring both goals for the Peruvian team in the 2nd half of the match.
Paraguay had to cope with the absence of Roque Santa Cruz aswell as Derlis Gonzalez as both players were recovering from injuries and they couldn’t do anything else other than what their national side fall in the hands of Peru.
The Paraguayan forward Roque Santa Cruz has had a very extensive playing career where he managed to perform in some of the biggest clubs in the world including: Bayern Munich and Manchester City, even at his 33 years of age, he still continues playing not only for his club but also for his country.
Despite having a comfortable lead in the Mexican league table, everything is not ideal at Cruz Azul. The team has managed just two goals in the last four matches and this is threatening to destroy their lead at the top of the table. The club just has a one-point advantage over second placed Tijuana after six matches into the new season.
The failure to score a lot of goals may be a problem, but it has not been a huge issue so far because ofCruz Azul’s ability to defend well. Apart from scoring just two goals, the club has not conceded a single goal in response during this period.
Manager Gerardo Torrado, though, wants to win as soon as possible with a lot of goals and he does not want to put all of the pressure on striker Roque Santa Cruz. The former Manchester City forward is one of the quality players in the squad, butTorrado says that depending only on the Paraguayan could lead to more trouble at the club. He wants the midfielders to move forward and contribute goals as well.Torrado has picked Roque Santa Cruz for two matches but the 33-year-old is yet to open the scoring. Rojas has been the only striker to score four goals so far.
"Roque is important but I am of the idea that a player is not the team. Roque is certainly an important reference on offense, but we must work together to get him the ball up. Maybe we have to step over the area, the people in the media have to reach the area to worry anymore rival. They are spatial circumstances. The court (the BUAP Stadium) and last week (Veracruz) the truth that neither helped to play football. We have to keep it looking, still have options, I think we need to move a little more to hurt the opponent,” said Torrado.
Carlo Ancelotti has certainly been very successful in the one and half years that he has spent at helm at Real Madrid, but, would he be able to win as many titles with Madrid as Sir Alex Ferguson won with Manchester United?
Well, Luka Modric, the Yugoslavian playmaker, thinks so.
According to Modric, Ancelotti is as calm as Sir Alex and he can stay at the top post at Madrid for many more years to come.
Talking about Ancelotti yesterday, Modric said, “Carlo is such a calm guy. He is a bit like Sir Alex and I really think he is in here at Bernabeu for a long, long time.”
In the modern era, the managers generally don’t get to stay at a club for more than 2-3 seasons and that’s probably because the owners are more impatient these days than what they used to be earlier.
There is always pressure on the manager to make the team produce the results. One bad season and they are handed the sack. It has happened with many managers of late.
But, the Madrid owners might be a little patient with Ancelotti if he goes through a bad patch because the Italian has won the club a bit too much since his arrival.
Barring La Liga, the Los Blancos have won almost everything in Ancelotti’s tenure and this season, they might be able to clinch the Spanish top division title too. It’s more than likely to happen considering the way they have been going till now.
Although Madrid is only one point clear at the top in Liga at the moment, but, the thing which is worth noting is that they have played only 15 games so far which is one less if compared to their closest rivals Barcelona.
The Malaga boss, Javi Gracia, has hailed his team for securing a point in the home game versus Barcelona, but, he believes that securing three points was possible too if the chances were taken.
Speaking to the reporters in the post match press conference, Gracia said, “Even securing a draw against Barca is a fantastic result. Not to allow a team like them any goal, it’s something that, as a manager, you feel very happy about and so I am. But, I think we, perhaps, could have been slightly better.”
“We were in the position to net a couple of times, but, we couldn’t and the opposition couldn’t either. So, our defence was up to the task. I would say this one point, that we have got, we surely deserved that.”
It was a scoreless-draw actually, the second one for Malaga this season. They had the same score line against Levante as well a couple of weeks back.
Now, Malaga has three draws to their name in 5 games. They had won their first Liga match in the season against Athletic Bilbao, but, ever since, they have been playing average football.
The next match they have to play against Getafe. That game is to be played at Coliseum Alfonso Perez, Getafe’s home ground.
As far as Barcelona is concerned, it was their first Liga game this season out of which they did not manage to bag full points. They had made their way to La Rosaleda with 4 back-to-back wins.
Barcelona however, despite this draw, is still leading the Liga table at the moment with 13 points.
Barcelona has to play Granada CF next at Camp Nou. They would surely be looking to get back to winning ways during that game.
The manager of Malaga CF, Javi Gracia, is not concerned with the fact that his team failed to register victory against the A-League side Perth Glory in a pre-season match yesterday. He believes that the fatigue was the reason why his boys couldn’t capitalize on the scoring chances in that match.
Malaga had begun the Australian tour with a bang by thrashing Adelaide United by a big margin of 5-1, but, against Perth Gory, they were not able to put up the same sort of show and could only play a draw.
In the press conference after the match against Perth, Garcia said, “We did struggle a little bit today, but, I am not worried. With so much of travelling and all, the boys were fatigued and it was clear the way they went about it on the pitch. There were some tired legs out there and that’s why, the chances could not be grabbed.”
“However, I would say this has been a good tour for us. We got to face a couple of quality sides and we were tested by them.”
“The game standard here is Australia seems to be decent. The league, of course, is not that big at this point of time, but, it’s been developing pretty well. I am very impressed.”
Malaga hadn’t had a great La Liga in the 2013-14 Season. They hadn’t managed to finish in top 10.
That prompted the club board to make change in the management and Gracia got the job.
In the last season, Gracia was in charge of CA Osasuna which suffered relegation after having finished at the 18th position.
Gracia has management experience of more than 10 years. He had started his career as manger in 2004 once his playing days were over.
Malaga managed to finish the season without much troubles largely because of the goals from striker Roque Santa Cruz. Even though the Paraguay striker finished the season with only six goals, they proved to be very important ones. Despite the financial troubles, the team finished just below the top half of the table. At 32 years of age, Santa Cruz still has a lot to offer for the Spanish outfit. He recently made his move to Malaga, and after the disappointing with Manchester city. Santa Cruz has often performed well with smaller teams and this has been the case with Blackburn Rovers as well.
Malaga will be able to do with the striker leading the attack next campaign after it is learnt that they could be losing another key player in the next few weeks. It has been stated that Barcelona are keeping tabs on Willy Caballero – the Malaga goalkeeper. Barcelona will be looking to sign at least two players in the summer after losing Victor Valdes and Pinto on free transfers towards the end of last season. They have already signed Borussia Mönchengladbach Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the close season but it is understood that they are also looking for a backup as well.
Caballero stated that he is happy to be linked with Barcelona. "I do not know if what they say will come true, but it is an honour and makes me proud. At the moment though there has been no contact. If [Barcelona] were to call, however, I would have to think about it. We would have to see, of course, if Malaga have any intention of selling me," said the goalkeeper, who has been playing in Spain for almost a decade. His previous clubs include the likes of Elche. He has been playing for Malaga since 2011.