Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rapids After El Tin?

Yesterday the blog MLS Rumors posted the rumor that the Colorado Rapids are looking to sign Ecuadorian Augustin "El Tin" Delgado on a contract rumored to be $2 million for 2 years ($1m/yr). It's unfortunate to see the Rapids going after a player like Delgado. Does he have skills? Yes, he does. He scored 2 goals for Ecuador in the last World Cup in Germany. But he is a player that at best has been plagued by injuries (he recently retired from national team play citing back problems). More likely he is a player that is a bit of a head case.

I wish I knew some Necaxa fans who could tell us more about his time there. That is because the only clubs he's played for outside of Ecuador are Necaxa and Southampton. It would help us better figure out if his time at Southampton was par for course. Either way, last march I wrote that New York Red Bulls had dodged a bullet in not being able to sign him.

Augustin Delgado's time at Southampton was a disaster. They bought him in November of 2001 for £3.5 million, about $6 million dollars back then (England wasn't going by FIFA's transfer windows back then). He was injured at the time and required surgery. Saints, then lead by the colorful Gordon Strachan, still went ahead with the deal and bought him. If you ever hear someone say that the medical a club gives when buying the player doesn't mean anything other than one last chance to back out, this deal was a good example.

Keep in mind that Ecuador was a hot commodity that year. They had done well in CONMEBOL qualifying including what was for them a huge home win over Brazil. Delgado had scored the winning goal in that game. El Tin scored 8 for Ecuador in qualifiers for the 2002 World Cup (That reminds me, did anyone else hear that Bruce Arena put an ad on Craigslist looking for a time machine that can take him back to 2002?).

As mentioned, Delgado was injured by the time Southampton bought him in the fall of 2001. It should be of no surprise that he only played 2 games for Saints that season, right? He made an early appearance in a game against Manchester United when then Saint James Beattie (now with West Brom) came off injured. He appeared against Rotherham in the FA Cup (minnows that then Premiership club Southampton lost to). He didn't go the full 90 minutes in that game. he was subbed out for LeGod, Mathew LeTissier, to give LeGod a chance to save Saints as the game wound down.

The funny thing is that his knee and / or back, with Delgado it probably depended on the day, bothered him and he didn't play anymore games for Saints that season. Whatever the injury du jour was for Delgado, it didn't prevent him from appearing for Ecuador in a World Cup warm-up against South Africa that spring. The injuries flared up again after Delgado's return from international duty. He wasn't able to play as the season wound down. That is except for being able to play in Ecuador's other friendly that spring against Yugoslavia ( i.e. Serbia & Montenegro) in which he scored a goal.

As you may have guessed by now, those injuries didn't keep from traveling with Ecuador to Japan / South Korea for the 2002 World Cup (they were co-hosts that year; I forget where their group was based). That summer El Tin played the full 90 minutes in all 3 of Ecuador's first round games. Ecuador didn't advance but Delgado did score a goal against Mexico.

The funny thing is after the World Cup, El Tin was again injured. And this time, at least according to his claims then, he needed treatment outside of England and refused to return to his club Southampton. Southampton had to take, or at least threaten to take, action with FIFA to get him to return to the club.

That year he went on to make a whopping 6 league appearances for Southampton and one in the League Cup (not to be confused with the FA Cup). He scored in that League Cup game against Liverpool. The only other tally he had that year for Saints was the game winner against Arsenal at St. Mary's. Out of those 7 appearances, he had only 3 starts. It's never a good sign when a striker isn't good enough to win a regular starting spot over Brett Ormerod.

Surprisingly Southampton didn't dump him after the 2002-2003 season. In the 03-04 season he made 6 appearances for Southampton. Again there were those supposed niggling injuries that he was facing. 5 of those 6 appearances were as a sub. He didn't go the distance in his sole start, Southampton's League Cup loss to Bolton (note ex-NY player Youri Djorkaeff played for Bolton in that game) Other than a 73' substitute appearance, all of his league appearances came after the 80th minute. Southampton tired of his antics. The last appearance Augustin Delgado made for Southampton was in early January 2004 against post-Kasey Keller Leicester. After that Southampton loaned him to Ecuadorian club Aucus. That loan deal soon turned into a free transfer as no clubs were interested in buying him.

Maybe it was just his time at Southampton and there is more to the story? Maybe that is the case. But since then he had a one year ban (later reduced to 3 months by FIFA) for his involvement in a brawl during a game in the Ecuadorian league for his club LDU Quito. It makes one wonder, doesn't it?

Perhaps the most notable thing about Augustin "El Tin" Delgado during his time at Southampton, beside the niggling injuries that always magically healed when Ecuador called and the FIFA action the club took against him was a quote by then Saints manager Gordon Strachan. If you're not familiar with Gordon Strachan, currently managing Celtic in his native Scotland, you really should be. This guy is famous for the things he's willing to say to the press. One time when asked about Delgado he gave a spot on assessment as to El Tin's importance to the club. When asked about Delgado he replied :

I've got more important things to think about. I've got a yogurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today. That can be my priority rather than Agustin Delgado.
That's right, he was more worried about some yogurt in his fridge than what El Tin was up to.

I can only hope that Fernando Clavijo, Charlie Wright and Jeff Plush at the Colorado Rapids remember that they too have some yogurt in the fridge that requires their attention and forget about signing Augstin "El Tin" Delgado. Delgado's never done anything notable on the field when not in Ecuador or not playing for Ecuador. At 33 years old and with ongoing back problems, there is no reason to believe he ever will. I hope this will all turn out to be a mistake and that the Rapids are actually on the verge of signing Chucho Benitez from the Mexican club Santos.

1 comment:

A.N. said...

A bit late, but actually, he's been rather good everywhere except southampton. The English game, as i'm sure you know, is a little unique as to whether people adapt to it or not. He had a good spell at Necaxa who as I'm sure you know were comparable to just about any team on the continent at the time (witness their showing in the club world championship 2000). Before this he also had an excellent spell with Cruz Azul.

Frankly, as long as he can keep up a half-decent level of fitness, he should be a success in MLS. He has a decent amount of technical skill (certainly a natural finisher) and is relatively strong and an especially good aerial threat.

Note that he's Ecuador's all-time top goalscorer as well. You could do a lot worse.