South Africa 2010 will be a first FIFA World Cup™ for Argentina-born midfielder Jonathan Santana, but he is no stranger to international football.
After securing Paraguayan citizenship in 2007 he was called up by national coach Gerardo Martino for that year's Copa America and went on to play in most of his adopted country’s South Africa 2010 qualifying campaign. Allied to his recent start in the warm-up friendly against the host nation, he did more than enough to help seal his dream ticket to the finals.
Santana was born in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires and started his career in the modest surroundings of San Telmo in Argentina’s third division. After spells with Club Almagro, San Lorenzo and Nueva Chicago, stardom beckoned when heavyweights River Plate signed him in 2005.
The following year he made the long trip to Europe, signing for Wolfsburg in the German Bundesliga. However he slipped down the pecking order behind the Brazilian Josue, and Santana was loaned back to San Lorenzo, returning to Germany the following season.
In fact, the 28-year-old Santana will be grateful to have his moment in the limelight in South Africa. In 2002, while he was with Nueva Chicago, he was shot three times while out driving by two unknown assailants. The talented midfielder survived and showed astonishing powers of recovery in getting back to full fitness in time to help his team avoid relegation.
Although he has never played for a Paraguayan club, the player is very much at home in the Guaraní squad as his mother’s family hail from the landlocked South American country.