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Lost in translation

ESPN staff
July 13, 2012
Fans did not see Diego Forlan celebrate a lot at Manchester United © Getty Images

Oscar, Lucas Moura, Henrique Ganso - it seems this week we haven't been able to move without getting presented with yet another new story about a top Premier League club chasing a highly-rated South American youngster.

Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United are all believed to be scouring Brazil and the rest of that talent-blessed continent, but how often do such players turn out to be the world beaters the English clubs?

Ignoring the success stories for a moment, we take a look at a few South American stars whose skills got lost in translation once they reached British shores:

Juan Sebastian Veron
The Argentinian - as detailed in this more in-depth piece on Soccernet - arrived on British shores for a then-record fee of £28 million, with the intention that he would become Manchester United's midfield playmaker in the same way he had previously shone for Parma and Lazio.

The man known in his homeland as 'El Bruja' ('the witch') could not adapt to the combative nature of the Premier League, however, as a reasonable start to his Old Trafford career degenerated into a series of displays where games seemed to pass him buy. Chelsea - for £15m - offered United an unlikely escape from their expensive acquisition but he struggled at Stamford Bridge too, eventually being shipped back off to Serie A as his English experiment failed horribly.

Diego Forlan
One of the more famous Premier League flops of recent times, Forlan was a notable failure during a brief spell at Old Trafford but went on to score goals for fun with Villarreal and Atletico Madrid during an almost relentlessly successful spell in Spain.

Perhaps the Uruguayan was just not ready to leave his first club, Independiente, or not quite football-literate enough to adjust to the different style of English football. There were a few highs in his 63-game United career (a brace to beat Liverpool at Anfield stands out) but the overriding feeling was frustration - not until he left did he begin to return to the form he showed in Uruguay.

Claudio Pizarro
Some way behind Nolberto Solano in the list of Peruvian stars who graced the Premier League, Pizzarro's inability to prosper at Chelsea can perhaps be put down to the same mystery affliction that prevented the likes of Mateja Kezman and Andriy Shevchenko finding the Stamford Bridge net during the same period.

Pizzarro scored goals for fun at Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich before moving to Chelsea, and scored goals for fun once again after returning to Bremen. In between, however, he was abject - scoring just twice in 32 appearances.

Agustin Delgado
So bad he was almost ... no, he was just terrible. Ecuador's finest, Delgado arrived with talk of him being the South American country's 'answer to Emile Heskey' (which in itself should have been a warning sign), but could only score once in 11 appearances for Southampton before everyone agreed it was best for him to pursue his suddenly injury-ravaged career elsewhere. A World Cup appearance in 2006 saw him help Ecuador into the knockout stages with two goals - but thankfully he was back to his old impotent ways when his side faced England, a poignant reminder of how bad he had been for Saints.

Christian 'Chucho' Benitez was not as good as advertised © Getty Images

Rodrigo Possebon
Perhaps a true cautionary tale for those currently fawning over Oscar, Lucas Moura and the like - Possebon arrived in England as an extremely highly-regarded midfielder who supposedly had all the ability in the world but eventually headed back to Brazil to pick up the pieces of his career.

Now 23, Possebon was unlucky at Manchester United - suffering a horrific broken leg in a challenge against Emmanuel Pogatetz just as he was beginning to get a few League Cup chances to exhibit his talent. He recovered from the injury physically, but never forced his way back into the reckoning and was soon shipped out.

Lest we give the impression that only Manchester United make mistakes with such players, Manchester City have their own torrid recent record in this department. Robinho is probably the best example - the former Real Madrid star cost over £30m but made just 53 appearances (exactly none of which he seemed to enjoy) during a fraught two-year stay that saw him regularly go back to Brazil when he shouldn't, or complain about anything he could think of.

Eventually loaned to Santos before being sold off to AC Milan, Robinho was a real headache for the club - although ironically he now looks like a remarkably useful warm-up act for having to deal with Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli.

Christian Benitez
Benitez, a Colombian, arrived at newly-promoted Birmingham on loan with the idea that he would be the sharpshooter that ensured the club would stay up. Instead, by the end of the campaign (where they did stay up) manager Alex McLeish was preferring everyone's favourite non-scoring goalscorer, Cameron Jerome, in a leading role.

Birmingham were initially delighted to agree a £6m clause to make Benitez's transfer permanent - but in the end it was never exercised.

Signed by Tottenham as the supposed answer to the club's problems at left-back, the Brazil international (they evidently don't make them like they used to) made just seven appearances before all parties agreed it was probably for the best if his contract was just ripped up. No sooner had he arrived, then his spot in the White Hart Lane dressing room was cleaned out and hosed down and he was never mentioned at the club again...

While he wasn't quite as bad as the midfielder Manchester United signed at the same time - Eric Djemba-Djemba, so bad they named him twice - Kleberson was nevertheless a quite spectacular failure for the club. Signed, not only as a newly-crowned World Cup winner, but as a player supposedly with a goalscoring eye from midfield, Kleberson made 30 appearances over two seasons for the club before being dumped off to Besiktas - a path the erstwhile Bebe would later also tread. Which tells you a lot.

Nicolas Medina
Peter Reid described Medina, perhaps somewhat unhelpfully, as "the complete midfield player" upon his £3.5m arrival at Sunderland - although, having not been accustomed to watching such a player regularly before, it's not as if the Black Cats supporters wouldn't have been able to spot that for themselves had it been true.

What they were left to watch, however, was ... well, they never really got to watch the Argentine - Medina (who now plays for the marvellously titled O'Higgins in his homeland) made just one FA Cup appearance during his time with the club, becoming their most expensive signing never to feature in a league encounter. More "the complete benchwarmer", then.

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