Walter Samuel has had little opportunity to show Diego Maradona what he can do in recent times, failing to play a game in the preliminaries for South Africa 2010 and only making his first appearance under the national coach in the March friendly with Germany. Nevertheless, the man they call El Muro (The Wall) has done enough to warrant inclusion in Maradona’s plans.
Now 32, the rugged centre-half has run out for some of the biggest clubs in world football during a career that started with Newell’s Old Boys back in 1996, when he was still known as Walter Lujan. Later taking the name of his foster parents, Samuel shot to prominence with the Rosario club before earning a move to Boca Juniors, with whom he won two league championships and the Copa Libertadores in 2000.
An imposing and intimidating presence in the centre of defence, he then completed high-profile transfers to Roma and Real Madrid, before joining current club Inter Milan, where he has recaptured his best form.
Samuel was a member of the Argentina side that won the FIFA U-20 World Cup Malaysia 1997 and went on to become a cornerstone of the side that Marcelo Bielsa steered to the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™. On top of Argentina’s hugely disappointing first-round exit, Samuel suffered another setback when he failed to make the Albiceleste squad for Germany 2006. His late selection for South Africa 2010 gives him the chance to atone for all that.