After two decades, from Manchester United to Mumbai one of Uruguay’s greatest strikers might be about to hang up his boots. Is it farewell to Diego Forlán?
Diego Forlán has reached a stage in his career where it might be time to say goodbye to his playing days. It’s a hard decision to make for any footballer, but few would feel as fulfilled as Forlán after enjoying the beautiful game on as many as four continents. The Uruguayan, at 37, has stated that he’s still physically capable of continuing his career but if he decides to call it quits, he has a wonderful career to look back on.
Forlán started off in the youth academies of Peñarol and Danubio before moving to Argentina, aged 15, to play for Independiente. In Argentina, Forlán quickly made a good impression and even attracted interest from European clubs at the tender age of 16. French side AS Nancy, for example, invited him for a trial. At the end, Nancy opted against the signing of Forlán but at Independiente it was clear; we have a future world beater.
In 1998, Forlán made his long-awaited debut for El Rojo and after slowly being integrated into the team, Forlán proved his worth for the seven-time Copa Libertadores champions scoring 40 goals in 91 games in his time at the club. After three-and-a-half years, Europe once again came calling with Premier League sides Middlesbrough and Manchester United emerging as frontrunners. United eventually secured Forlán’s signature.
Sir Alex Ferguson had acknowledged Forlán’s potential and for roughly €8M it seemed a good deal. Forlán, however, could never really find his feet at Old Trafford. Big goals to win away at Liverpool, which gave him the song “Diego wooah, Diego wooah, he came from Uruguay, he made the Scousers cry” made him a popular player within the fan base, but it’s fair to say Forlán failed in the Premier League. 17 goals in 98 games is simply not good enough.
The forward was on the way out at United and found Villarreal as his new challenge. In Spain, Diego Forlán was beginning to demonstrate why Ferguson signed him. His creative brain along with his deadliness on both feet became a hit in La Liga. Accompanied by midfield maestros Juan Román Riquelme and Marcos Senna, Forlán’s Villarreal finished third in La Liga and qualified for the Champions League. Forlán finished the season as top scorer in both Spain and Europe, finally showcasing his qualities.
His two following seasons at the club weren’t as good, but Forlán still retained a decent return of goals and contributed to a Champions League campaign that ended in the semi-finals. After three magnificent years at Villarreal, Diego was signed by Atlético Madrid for 21 million euros in the summer of 2007. It turned out to be a match made in heaven.
Forlán needed no time to settle in at the Vicente Calderón as he scored 58 goals in his first two seasons at the club. He even managed to pick up the Golden Boot as well as the Pichichi award in 2008/2009. In his third season at Atléti, Forlán’s goalscoring drift in the La Liga eased off. In Europe, however, the Uruguayan showed no signs of easing off as he scored some big goals.
With two goals vs. Liverpool (semi-finals) and two vs. Fulham (final), Forlán was the key man in Atlético Madrid’s 2009/2010 Europa League winning campaign and once again underlined his tremendous ability as well as his big-game mentality.
Forlán picked up the form he exploited all season for Atlético Madrid for Uruguay in the World Cup of 2010 and with five goals in seven games guided La Celeste to the semi-finals. Forlán was one of the star players in South Africa and was deservedly awarded the Golden Ball for being the tournament’s best player.
After the World Cup, Forlán’s performance levels dropped. When the Copa América of 2011 was around the corner, there was an uncertainty of what to expect from Diego. Uruguay’s No10 showed he could still give one last big performance, though, as he scored two goals in Uruguay’s 3-0 win in the Copa América final vs. Paraguay.
At 31 years of age, Forlán was at the peak of his powers. However, after his glorious year with Uruguay his years ‘came knocking’. He couldn’t reach the levels of his prime days anymore. Neither for Atléti in 2010/2011 as for Inter Milan in 2011/2012. Diego knew it was time to leave European fields.
The summer of 2012 saw Diego Forlán come back to South American football, ten years after his departure from Independiente. Brazilian side Internacional signed him up and found out that Forlán still had undeniable qualities. In fact, Forlán was Internacional’s top scorer in the Campeonato Gaúcho of 2013.
Having enjoyed a good spell in Brazil, Diego Forlán, aged 35, went on to make his most inventive move yet as he signed an 18-month-deal with Japanese team Cerezo Osaka. Despite the adoration he got from the fans, his time in Japan wasn’t great from a footballing perspective.
After a long successful career abroad, Forlán returned to his home nation by joining his boyhood club Peñarol in the summer of 2015. Forlán had the dream of winning the league title with Peñarol. It was fulfilled. After accomplishing his goal, he decided to leave the club and move to India to play for Mumbai City on a three-month-deal.
In December 2016, Forlán left Mumbai City and he is now without a club. Whether the Uruguay legend will add another chapter to his playing days remains uncertain. His legacy is one thing that’s certain, though, and it will leave a mark on the rich Uruguayan football history.