In April, with less than 100 days before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, Paraguay coach Gerardo Martino received a huge boost when Argentinian-born striker Lucas Ramon Barrios Caceres was finally granted Paraguayan citizenship.
After the loss of their main goalscorer in qualifying, Salvador Cabanas, in a tragic shooting incident in Mexico which left the attacker with no chance of making the finals, the inclusion of Barrios is a stroke of good fortune for La Albirroja.
Martino was quick to welcome his new recruit, and was delighted that his team can now boast a centre-forward with a genuine international pedigree. “Ever since he got Paraguayan citizenship, I’ve had him in mind. It would be crazy to overlook such a talented player,” said the coach, after hearing Barrios’ good news.
The striker was born in Argentina, but although he spent his formative years in his home country and in Mexico, it was on the other side of the Andes in Chile that he made his name, with Deportes Temuco, Cobreloa and in particular Colo Colo. He enjoyed an outstanding campaign in 2008 with the men from Santiago, finishing top goalscorer in both the Clausura and Apertura championships, scoring 37 goals in the process, and equalling a Colo Colo record held by Luis Hernan Alvarez that had stood since 1963.
Known as “La Pantera” (The Panther), Barrios has won a host of admirers for his power and unerring eye for goal. When he decided to leave Chile, there were plenty of potential suitors, but it was German outfit Borussia Dortmund that won the race for his signature. Alongside his now-international team-mate Nelson Valdez, Paraguay’s latest recruit settled quickly into his new surroundings.
“He is a goal poacher, but he is also willing to drop deep to help link up play and create chances for others. He is strong in the air and a great finisher,” was how Martino described his new No9. “He is technically very good and is hungry for goals. It isn’t easy to leave Chile, to go to Germany and to score so many goals in your first season.”