Blog – Sunderland’s Latin American XI

Sunderland’s two deadline day recruits hail from South America, which inspired me to put together this Latin American XI. After the ill-fated signing of Claudi Marangoni in the late 1970s, it took almost two decades before Sunderland chanced their arm on another South American player. That man was Marcus Di Giuseppe aka Bica (thanks to Michael Graham for reminding me of his existence!), and he was even less of a success. Since then, we’ve had enough players from Latin America to put together a team and manager, with substitutes. “In goal, number 32…”


Goalkeeper – Oscar Ustari


One of three Argentinians signed by Gus Poyet in January 2014, Ustari acted as backup to Vito Mannone. He made three FA Cup starts, keeping two clean sheets and saving a penalty in the process. Obviously, having been here for such a short time, he didn’t become a hero, but that penalty save at the KC Stadium was essentially the only good thing about the day. He even got himself a chant for it.


Central Defender – Santiago Vergini


Signed at the same time as Ustari, Vergini initially looked dreadful as a central defender in a three man defence. Once he moved to right back, he settled into English football quite nicely and has started this season very well. A player who has cult hero written all over him in capital letters, I can’t wait until he finally scores a goal in a competitive match. In fact, I’m gutted I wasn’t there when he scored in a friendly.


Central Defender – Emerson Thome


Normally you’d associate Brazilians with flair, pace, skill, dribbling, goals and samba football but this being Sunderland, we managed to sign the only one who couldn’t pass a ball. He was however, a wall of a man. I was a big fan of the uncompromising centre back and it was a shame that his time with the club was blighted by injuries. He also left under rather unusual circumstances, with rumours abound that if he played a certain number of games the club would have had to pay Chelsea a considerable sum of money. As a result, he was left out of the team towards the end of his Sunderland career.


Central Defender – Paulo Da Silva


Despite the fact Vergini looked out of sorts in a back three, if this was a real team I think both he and Da Silva would thrive either side of the rock like presence of Thome. Da Silva is the first of two Paraguayans in this XI and was generally underrated in his time on Wearside; it was a shame he never quite lived up to expectations after he captained his country at the World Cup in 2010. His major issue was that he never really got to grips with the physicality of the Premier League, being relatively small for a defender. Not a bad ball player though and certainly did not disgrace himself in red and white.


Right Wingback – Marcos Angeleri


I was there when Angeleri started in the FA Cup against Notts County. It was a game to forget, as the Magpies rather embarrassingly eliminated us. Angeleri’s performance was however, unforgettable, but not for the right reasons. I’ve never seen a professional player turning out for a top flight English club look quite so out of their depth. It’s no exaggeration to say he was like a dog with a balloon. He also made a couple of very brief Premier League appearances where he looked equally bemused to be on a football pitch and was best known for being quite handsome. I remember seeing him near Seaburn beach with his wife, looking rather forlorn, probably dreaming of Plata Del Mar. At other clubs since then, he’s shown himself to be quite a decent player and could probably do a job as a right wing back in this continental system.


Left Wingback – Julio Arca


Julio could probably still do a job in this position now, if we could tempt him away from the Willow Pond. There’s not much to say about the lad that hasn’t already been said a million times and like most people, I still drool over that goal at Valley Parade. If I’m totally honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of his when he played for us and thought he spent too much time spinning around in circles, without producing much. That said, he was vastly superior to most of the dross around him and what makes him so endearing now is that he’s chosen to stay in the area and even turn out for a Sunday League team. One of the star turns of this XI and as a player who flitted between left back and left sided midfield, he was born for the wing back role.


Central Midfielder – Nicolas Medina


Media arrived while Arca was still at the club. Arca was extremely popular and proving to be a success for us so the Medina signing was a welcome one at the time. He even came from Argentinos Juniors, the very same club that Arca played for prior to us snapping him up. There was no way he could fail, but fail he did. His career at youth level had been so promising, with call ups to Argentinian squads at various youth levels. In fact, you could argue we destroyed him and ruined his career. In this team, the Argentinos version of him would sit at the base of the three man midfield; the Tommy Miller version that played for Sunderland can be consigned to history. At 32 years old, the only chance he has of emulating Arca now is if he joined him at the Willow Pond and even then there’s no guarantees he’d get a game.


Central Midfielder – Cristian Riveros


With Medina holding, Riveros would act as the midfield metronome; the Xavi of the team. In reality, like Da Silva, he simply failed to get grips with the Premier League while at Sunderland and headed to Turkey after just one season working under Steve Bruce. Had the Corbridge Geordie utilised a different system, maybe he’d have gotten more out of him, but given where he’s spent his career since departing Wearside, the chances are he was just a poor signing. The player who did so well for Paraguay – he has over 70 caps for his country – in the 2010 World Cup, however, would be an asset to this Latin American side.


Central Midfielder – Claudio Marangoni


Marangoni has typical Sunderland written all over him; a player good enough to make hundreds of appearances for three of Argentina’s “Big Five”, he summarily flopped in red and white. Much like other South Americans who failed to make it for us, he simply did not settle and after one season, had his contract terminated before returning to his homeland. After his spell on Wearside, he won South America’s version of the Champions League, the Copa Libertadores, while playing for Independiente. To this day, I’ve no doubt that he wishes he’d stuck around and played for Lawrie McMenemy instead.


Striker – Ignacio Scocco


Like so many of the players in the team, it’s a case of what might have been for the Nacho Man when it comes to his Sunderland career. Ustari had his penalty save, Vergini is back and more popular than ever, but Scocco just never lived up to his billing as the star signing of the trio of January Argentinian recruits. I still believe he’s a talented player, who will no doubt do well back at Newell’s, but it was just destined not to work out here for him. Had he stuckaround and settled into the area, then I think he just might have started this season in the “Fabio Borini role”. Perhaps surrounded by his fellow countrymen in this fictional squad, he’d feel more at home.


Strikers – Marcus Di Giuseppe


I must confess to completely forgetting about Di Giuseppe. His nickname was Bica, apparently, and he may or may not have launched a 25 yard effort off the bar in his single game for Sunderland (again, thanks Michael Graham), against Walsall in the League Cup. Other than that, he was as far as I’m aware, not signed up and not seen again. Ironically, he went on to play for Walsall, though just once if Wikipedia is to be believed. Most amusingly, later in his career he also played for Deportivo Wanka; one for fans of banter there. I’m going to say he’d be a powerful foil for Scocco, despite having no clue what type of player he was. He only gets in the team ahead of Alvarez because our new Argentinian and inspiration for this XI is yet to kick a ball for us.


Manager – Gus Poyet


Gus seems to have a penchant for South Americans and I’m sure he’d relish managing a squad full of them. Given the number of flops present in the XI, I’ve gone for a back three. During his short time at the club, Poyet’s flirtation with three at the back has been his only obvious failing, so in a world of ironies he’d get the best out of a bad bunch using it; or more than likely not.


On the bench…


Ricky Alvarez


Once he reaches match fitness, likely to oust any number of flops ahead of him in the side.


Sebastian Coates


It’d be a tougher task for Coates to break into a team whose hallmark is defensive strength, but the young Uruguayan could oust Angeleri in a move that would see the versatile Vergini slot in at right wing back


Tyson Nunez


The Honduran is not South American like the rest of this line-up but to form an old school bench of three substitutes, he gets in as he is from Latin America and was ultimately hilarious. One of Peter Reid’s most fascinating signings, the pint sized forward will be best remembered for being paraded around the pitch and playing in a reserve game at the Stadium of Light in front of a bumper crowd. Apparently, Reidy signed the wrong player and for that reason alone, he belongs with this collection of heroes, misfits and (hopefully) potential future stars.