Honduras’s hopes of causing an upset or two at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ will depend largely on the creative capacity of Julio Cesar de Leon. Much of their attacking threat lies at the gifted feet of this quick-thinking midfielder, who sets the tempo for Reinaldo Rueda’s side and has the vision and technique to open up opposing defences.
De Leon showed his talent at a very early age. His first division debut came with Deportivo Platense when he was only 16 and he made an instant impact, scoring a goal against Real Maya in that maiden outing, going on to become the revelation of the Honduran league season. It was no surprise when he moved on two years later to Mexico’s Atletico Celaya, then in the first division.
Known as Rambo, the young De Leon struggled to settle at his new club and came back home to join Olimpia. It was not long before another opportunity for him to try his luck in foreign climes arose though, and this time he made a much better fist of it.
Stopping off in Uruguay for a brief spell with Deportivo Maldonado, De Leon signed on the dotted line for Italy’s Reggina in 2001. The Honduran import played a valuable part in the Serie B side’s promotion to the top flight. He found it hard to hold down a first-team place the following season, however, and with his form tailing off he was loaned out to a number of lower-division sides.
Gradually working his way back to something like his best form, he returned to Reggina before helping Genoa climb out of Serie B, a feat he then repeated with Parma. His reputation as a promotion talisman brought about another move to newly relegated Torino at the start of last season, though he was unable to work the oracle on that occasion.
Though his club career has been patchy at times, the same cannot be said for his recent contribution to the national team’s progress. De Leon has carried much of the responsibility for creating play in the Catracho midfield since the arrival of Reinaldo Rueda, a burden he has been more than happy to shoulder. The Torino man was one of the stars of the final six-team group in the CONCACAF Zone and had a hand in a great many of the goals that took Honduras to South Africa 2010.
He will now be pitting his playmaking skills against the world’s best as Honduras go in search of their first FIFA World Cup™ finals win. Should they achieve that goal, it will be no surprise if their midfield visionary has something to do with it.