Palermo Becomes Boca Juniors’ Highest-Scoring Player in 80 Years
By Dialogo March 03, 2009Is this the same guy that broke his leg when playing for Villareal (while celebrating a goal during one of the soccer drills during the practice? Martín Palermo, “the goal optimist,” a title given to him several years ago by coach Carlos Bianchi, who coached him while Boca Juniors achieved most of the titles and championships in their history, is Boca’s highest scorer in the last 78 years. On Sunday, he scored the 195th goal wearing Boca Juniors’ blue-and-yellow shirt against Huracán (3-1), surpassing Francisco "Pancho" Varallo, who has held the club record of 194 since Argentine soccer was professionalized in 1931. Significantly, the “optimist” label was given to him by the 13th-ranked goal-scorer in the world; that's why it is Bianchi, Boca's current coach, whom Palermo honors by scoring goals at the age of 35. "Bianchi’s phrase, which has become famous, is appropriate. I am a born optimist. In any circumstance, I believe I am going to score a goal. Always,” the forward player stated. Palermo scored 195 goals for Boca a year after being named by FIFA as the best header player in the world, after a survey carried out by his web site among Spanish-speaking fans. And his optimism leads him to dream of more goals in the fifteen encounters left in the Argentine “Torneo Clausura 2009" tournament, and in the matches coming up in the second phase of Copa Libertadores. The main goal-scorer currently active not only in his country, but also in "La Bombonera" stadium with more than 100 goals, is still scoring goals for Boca Juniors, and by all indications he will not wear a different team shirt before the end of his career. As has happened many times in his career, two years ago the player received more criticism than praise, and in order to silence his critics he set another record by scoring four goals in one match. Until then, on four occasions he had scored three goals in one match. But on that March evening in 2007, playing against Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata (his lifelong rival, since he still had some ill will because he used to be a player for Estudiantes de La Plata), he scored a 'hat trick' in eight minutes, between minutes 6 and 14, and scored another one in minute 73 to finish the match 5-1. Palermo has overcome numerous phases fraught with mistakes and criticism, such as his short stint with the Argentine team when he failed three penalties against Colombia during the 1999 Copa América, in the Paraguayan town of Luque. He has also suffered from three significant injuries during his career. The first one took place in November of that year, when he tore the ligaments of his right knee and was benched for six months. The second one occurred when he was playing in Villareal in November 2001, when after scoring a goal against Levante in the Copa del Rey, a concrete wall collapsed on him and fractured his right ankle. The last one took place about six months ago, when he tore the ligaments of his right knee again. Before that, in 2006, he went downhill when his son died six hours after he was born. His most spectacular performance was in 2006 against Independiente de Avellaneda, with a goal shot from 61 meters away from goalkeeper Oscar Ustari, currently playing for Spanish Getafe, who could not stop it. Palermo has been league champion for Boca Juniors on six occasions, and seven times in international tournaments: Copa Libertadores (2), Copa Intercontinental, Copa Sudamericana (2), and Recopa Sudamericana (2). In 1997, he scored his first goal for the blue-and-yellow team against Banfield, after he was transferred to the most popular soccer team in Argentina from Estudiantes de La Plata, where he had scored 34 goals since his debut in Primera División in 1992. Among the most curious goals scored by this soccer player, who is nicknamed "el loco" (the madman) in his country, and who played for the Spanish teams of Villarreal, Betis, and Alavés between 2000 and 2004, we find a penalty kicked with both feet due to a slip, against Platense in the 1999 Torneo Clausura. His masterpiece came nine years ago in Japan, where he scored two goals in the first six minutes of the game at the tournament Copa Intercontinental against Real Madrid (2-1). To his 195 goals scored with the Boca Juniors Palermo adds 34 with Estudiantes, three with the Argentine football team, 21 with the Villarreal, one with Betis, and three with Alavés.