Juan Sebastián Verón was named on the 30th December as the 2008 South American Footballer Of The Year by Uruguayan newspaper El País, in a bit of a surprise for many critics because in spite of not winning any titles during 2008, he beat of competition from the likes of Juan Román Riquelme and other Argentines such as Andrés D’Alessandro, as well as Ecuadorian goalkeeper José Francisco Cevallos, who won the Copa Libertadores with Liga de Quito.
In spite of their trophies, Cevallos finished the voting – which took in journalists from 18 countries in the Americas – in fifth place and Riquelme in second, just three votes behind Verón, who took 66 votes. Third place went to last year’s winner, Paraguayan striker Salvador Cabañas of Ramón Díaz’s Club América de México, 19 votes behind the winner.
Internacional do Porto Alegre’s playmaker Andrés D’Alessandro finished fourth thanks to a strong showing in his side’s Copa Sudamericana win in December, when they beat Verón’s Estudiantes in the final after extra time.
Verón, on holiday in Uruguay until tomorrow when he’ll return to La Plata for Estudiantes’ pre-season training, told the continent’s media: ‘This prize comes at a very special time of my life, because my aim is always towards being the best in what I do and I’ve always felt this very keenly.’
He also congratulated Argentine football in general for a very good year: ‘Boca got to the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores, Estudiantes were finalists in the Copa Sudamericana and Edgardo Bauza [the Argentine who took charge of Liga de Quito’s successful Copa Libertadores campaign] was voted South American Head Coach of the Year,’ Verón pointed out, referring in that last case to an award also handed out by El País.
The Best XI of the year was made up of the five players named above, as well as Nílmar and Alex, both of Internacional, Thiago Silva of losing Copa Libertadores finalists Fluminense, and – to general surprise – Verón’s team-mate Marcos Angeleri, whose good performances have, of course, also been recognised by Diego Maradona recently.
How on earth they’ll get a formation out of that lot, I don’t know, but fortunately, of course, they don’t have to bother. Congratulations, Seba!