A World Cup reincarnation for two ex-United players
Manchester United have a wonderful reputation for being a breeding ground for bright, fresh talent. They are too admired for their maturation and further development of already-established players who join the club. That wasn’t to be the case for two South American additions in the early noughties, who had both enjoyed success in previous World Cups.
Big things were expected of Kléberson when he joined United shortly after the 2002 World Cup, on the back of inspiring his country to a record fifth triumph in Japan. Of course, £18.1m signing Juan Sebastián Verón the year previous had turned more heads. This was indeed a hefty sum, but the Argentinian was already a more-than established footballer, not quite world-class, but Englishman certainly were familiar of his quality.
On that fateful night in France ’98 where David Beckham saw red for a kick on Diego Simeone and England once again succumbed to penalties, I seem to recall a somewhat dogged performance from Verón, but duly scored one of his side’s penalty kicks showing David Batty how its done. Veron was just 23 back then, without any hair surprisingly, and it is remarkable to think that three World Cup’s later, he is still competing at the highest level. Diego Maradona has acknowledged his good form for his club Estudiantes, thus picking him in their 23-man squad.
Kléberson will also serve his country and the fact that the one-time ‘flop’ has managed to get his career back on track is nothing short of inspiring. When he had arrived at Manchester United back in 2002, many saw him as a ‘replacement’ for Verón when he had departed but that wasn’t to be as his time at United was difficult to say the least, unable to settle into the fast-paced English game. Large chunks of his United career was spent on the sidelines, whether that was an injury or just bad form. Fortunately for him, he didn’t endure as much hard luck as he did at Old Trafford.
How much he’ll feature for the Seleção remains to be seen. The excellent santapelota blog by Roberticus has mixed feelings for the midfielder ahead of South Africa. In the most recent article to date on the site, Roberticus looks at Dunga’s squad, and has some harsh words for Kléberson:
“But that Kleberson would go on to be one of the stars of that team is telling: whilst winning the Brazilian title with unfancied outfit Atletico Paranaense in December 2001 surely stands as a worthy achievement”.
But goes on to say:
“Kleberson, in recent weeks, has been ushered towards the fringes of a dysfunctioning Flamengo squad, and when he did make an appearance recently in the Libertadores quarter-final versus Chilean side “La U”, he was anonymous.”
How the duo will fare in South Africa will be intriguing, especially as this most certainly could, and would, be their final bow in a major tournament, especially Verón, who is quickly approaching the wrong side of 30. Don’t write off either’s chances of making an impact in the World Cup just yet, especially Verón, as he certainly isn’t there just to make up numbers in Maradona’s squad, in fact, he is a player who managers alike will wish to have in their squad. Kléberson, too, looked impressive for the Canarinho (excuse me) in last year’s Confederations Cup. Labelled as flops from the English tabloids, these two have got on with their careers almost as if nothing happened, as if they’d never played for Manchester United.