Fiorentina Club Focus: Reunited with El Loco and it feels so good
How many of you expected to hear the name Juan Manuel Vargas regularly this season?
How many of you expected him to be the Viola’s third leading scorer after 14 matches?
Safe to say the answer to that question is nobody, as before the start of the season the 30-year-old was more likely to be seen warming the bench with the likes of Ruben Olivera and Cristian Lupatelli than play a starring role for this year’s edition of the Viola.
Coming off a disappointing campaign on loan at Genoa last season that ultimately resulted in the Rossoblu declining their option to sign the left footed dynamo, El Loco’s career was certainly in limbo upon returning to the Viola camp this summer.
The player they had acquired from Catania for €12 million in 2008 was seemingly gone. Genoa owner Enrico Preziosi, when asked about why the Liguria side were rejecting the chance to sign him, suggested that he needed players who would consistently perform rather than alternate between good and bad displays. Clearly not a description that fit Vargas at the time.
As such he returned back to home base in Florence this summer as his contract stipulated, but certainly not because the Viola were counting on him.
While his talent has always been evident, his label as a “poor professional” has followed him around in recent seasons in Florence.
All of that came to a head during the 2012 preseason retreat when Vargas was kindly asked to train away from the first team during the club’s stay in Moena.
In fact that summer the Viola included Vargas in several friendlies in hopes of generating interest in the former Catania man in order to sell him, not to the highest bidder, but to anyone willing to take him off their hands.
Initially it worked as Fatih Terim’s Galatasaray came knocking and seemed intent on bringing El Loco to the fiery cauldron that is the Turk Telekom Arena.
However it never materialized.
Why? Well there were about 8kg’s of reasons as it was apparent that Vargas had not been taking the label of “professional football” seriously. And so with no clubs willing to sign him and a disappointing run at Genoa set to follow, the Peruvian’s future in the Serie A looked bleak.
With Vincenzo Montella and the upstart Viola preparing for what would be an exciting season thanks to the return of Giuseppe Rossi and the signing of Mario Gomez, little to no attention was paid to the return of the man that Alberto Gilardino once described as “the best crosser of the ball he had ever played with”.
However things didn’t end there. Thankfully.
After agreeing to spread his wages over two seasons (with his contract now set to expire in June 2015), Vargas rededicated himself to the game. No longer gaining notoriety for his late night escapades and acts of insubordination on the training ground, Vargas quietly rededicated himself and worked his way back into the good graces of the Viola.
It didn’t happen overnight. Kept in the stands for the Viola’s first two matches, Vargas didn’t make his first appearance of the season until September 30th during the Gigliati’s 2-2 draw at home against Parma. An occasion that he marked with an impressive goal.
Since then he has appeared in six of the Viola’s eight Serie A matches (no Europe League appearances since he was kept off the squad list for the competition), an impressive run for someone who was reportedly close to calling it quits on his career only a few months prior.
This Sunday’s match against Roma will most likely provide the Peruvian with another opportunity to further ingrain himself into Montella’s good books as captain Manuel Pasqual looks set to miss yet another game due to injury.
Despite being more of a left winger than a leftback, as his recent performance against Hellas Verona showcased, his return has brought along with it more positives than negatives given his predominately attacking skillset.
With that attacking prowess there will no doubt come criticism, as the Viola’s defence will never be mistaken for one of Italy’s finest back lines to begin with. As a result it won’t take long for the criticism to pour in.
No player is exempt from the wrath of fans and pundits as it comes with the territory of being a top flight footballer on a team that is looking to challenge for honours this season.
However it can’t hurt to forget about all that, even for just a few minutes, the next time you see a tattooed laden Peruvian once again grace the Serie A with his number 66 imprinted on a Viola jersey.
It’s not as loco as it sounds…
Follow Adriano Boin on Twitter: @Boin44