The Second Tale of Glory from Copa America

I was off sick yesterday. I needed something to restore my health and ease the grogginess. I needed Copa America.

Argentina brushed aside Ecuador, turning on some second-half style to win 6-1. Javier Saviola scored a perfect hat-trick, left foot, right foot, header. The last is remarkable considering Saviola is dwarfed by his mascot in the pre-match line-up.

I’ve been championing Saviola so much over the past few years I almost feel like his agent. I was in Argentina when he burst into the World Youth Cup, finishing top scorer. By that time he was River Plate’s biggest asset, scoring for fun and attracting the inevitable attention of Europe’s big boys. Barcelona bid the highest and as Argentina’s economy collapsed, Saviola bailed out to Catalonia, bought ‘for the future’ among a huge spending spree which included several duds like Giovanni and Patrick Anderson.

In a team full of huge egos, he seems almost human. The story of justifying his move to Spain to finance his father’s medical care gave a glimpse of his character. Saviola didn’t come to Barcelona for after-dark fun down the Ramblas, he came to play. Tragically, his father passed away just days after he signed.

Initially Barcelona struggled (by last season, Saviola had already played under four managers), but it’s Rijkard who has given him a consistent chance. As Barcelona clicked into gear last Christmas, Saviola was the catalyst, happy to play in Ronaldinho’s shadow, darting onto the goofy Brazilians’ clever passes, anticipating his feints.

He has the acceleration that characterised Michael Owen’s initial success and the face of a happy 14 year old; all butter wouldn’t melt. Saviola’s not the only player to graduate from that bunch of precocious Argentine teenagers, but he is the best.