Ex-Werder Bremen and Brazilian Playmaker Diego's Fall from Grace
In football, talent is just not enough to achieve dizzying heights. Good fortune is as important as anything else for a footballer vying for the topmost spot.
VFL Wolfsburg midfielder Diego Ribas da Cunha's career tells the story of a footballer having enormous ability but little luck.
Diego was the product of the famed Youth Academy of Brazilian club Santos. He made his debut as a 16-year-old and won the Brazilian championship in his first season. Diego and his Santos teammate Robinho forged a mighty partnership which terrorised the Brazilian League, and both were then tipped for great success in the future.
Whether it's coincidence or not, both players later failed to maximise their potential following transfers to European clubs.
Diego, after two fruitful seasons in the Brazilian League, moved to Portuguese giants FC Porto. However, in Portugal he failed to replicate the stellar performances that he did at Santos and as a result endured a precarious spell before moving to Germany.
In 2006, German club Werder Bremen snapped up the talented playmaker for €6m and it was just the beginning of something very special. Diego adapted very quickly to the German football and soon started portraying his footballing abilities with his magical feet.
By the end of his first season in German Bundesliga, Diego established himself as one of the best players in the League, and rightfully was named the Bundesliga Player of the Season. Diego consistently weaved his magic for two more seasons in the Bundesliga. During that period, he was constantly linked with many big European clubs, including Real Madrid and Arsenal.
He was expected to move on to bigger and better things once his stature as a footballer had grown beyond the club Werder Bremen. It was only natural for him to take that next step, and his hunt for glory continued with a move to Italian club Juventus.
However, this was a wrong step, and he should have been aware of all the underlying hardships that would come with such a move. For record, the Old Lady of Italian football were going through a dreadful phase.
So, the pressure was enormous and even more so on a newcomer who was preparing for a fresh battle in a different battleground to the ones he had seen before. Moreover, his €25m price tag demanded immediate success but although he did well for a starter, he failed to replicate the astonishing displays that he managed in the colours of Werder Bremen.
On the other hand, Juventus collectively failed to find any consistency whatsoever, and it was unfair and cruel to make a scapegoat out of one player who was new to the League. Diego was subsequently transferred back to Bundesliga, but not before amassing five goals and seven assists in his first and only season for the black and white colours of Juventus.
Diego's €15m move to VFL Wolfsburg might just be enough to resurrect his career and bring him back to prominence in European football. We will have to wait and watch.
At International level, too, he was unlucky. For all his talent, he had to surpass a once-in-a-generation player to nail down a regular spot in the International setup. Without any need for further introduction, that midfield maestro is Ricardo Kaka. You have to be some player to outmatch Kaka, and Diego was forced to be content with a subordinate role.
He has been out of the International reckoning for quite some time, but if he can find the back of the net on a frequent basis like he did at Werder Bremen, 38 goals in 84 games, then he should be back in the National squad which he thoroughly deserves for all his talent.
Diego is more of a creator than a scorer. The 25-year-old's mesmerising dribbling skills, incredible vision, and impeccable passing abilities help him orchestrate games like how the very best in the business do. He's a constant threat from free kicks and has an eye for goal which makes him even more deadly.
It remains to be seen whether Diego can turn the tide in his favour. What he can do now is buckle down and strike a chord between his flair and consistency that has eluded him for most part of his career. If he does that he could go on and become one of the best attacking midfielders, and what better place to regain your touch than the League that you are most comfortable playing in?
He was unfortunate enough to be deemed a total failure after his first high-profile season with a team that was already destined for shipwreck even before he had landed on the deck. Yet, he was alleged to be responsible for all the woeful football that Juventus played as a unit. That's history now.
Doesn't Manchester United's midfield lack creativity with Paul Scholes' impending departure looming over the head of Sir Alex Ferguson? Would Old Trafford become the theatre for Diego to show his true class to the entire footballing world?
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