It may seem strange, but there are some talented players who are happy to avoid the limelight as they go about furthering their careers. Yet, whether they like it or not, such are their gifts that recognition is bound to come their way eventually.
As FIFA.com discovered, Paraguay centre-back Paulo Da Silva is a case in point. The 28-year-old, who plays his club football for Toluca in Mexico, has become a cornerstone of the Albirroja side currently leading the way in South American qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. In fact, out of the entire Paraguay squad, only he and defensive partner Julio Cesar Caceres have played every minute of their first six qualifying matches.
His consistency was rewarded with a place in last season's South American Team of the Year, following a poll of the continent's coaches organised by the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais. And yet despite the praise, Da Silva is determined to keep his feet on the ground.
"Why? Because my father taught me that the most important values in life are respect and humility. Those are the things that can open or close doors and that's why I'd rather talk about the team than me," he said.
Modest as he is about his own achievements, Da Silva is convinced his side are firmly on course for a place at South Africa 2010, his confidence unshaken by Saturday's daunting assignment against Argentina. "We're first and they're second," he says. "So if we want to stay top, we need to go out and get the three points."
Born to defend
As a youngster growing up in his hometown of Asuncion, Da Silva was just another kid who played football in the street and dreamed of one day becoming a footballer. Unlike his peers, however, stopping rather than scoring goals was his preferred vocation. "Although I played in goal a few times when I was a boy, I've always wanted to be a defender," he explained. "I never wanted to change position."
After signing, at the age of 12, for the unfashionable Atlantida Sport Club, he made his top-flight debut four years later for Club Presidente Hayes, another of the Paraguayan capital's lesser-known outfits. His first big opportunity came in 1997 when he signed for one of the country's biggest clubs, Cerro Porteno.
Da Silva's fine performances the following year attracted the attention of Perugia, but after signing for the Italian club his career was marked by instability and further moves followed to Lanus of Argentina, Venezia and Cosenza. Then, in 2001, he returned home to sign for Libertad.
With Los Gumarelos, Da Silva recaptured his form of old. A commanding presence in the air and a composed tackler, he helped Libertad to the league championship in 2002 and again in 2003, before packing his bags once more. His new port of call was Toluca, where he would have a fresh opportunity to show he could make the grade outside Paraguay.
Today, five years, one Mexican league title and one Mexican Super Cup crown later, there is little question that Da Silva has achieved just that. ". And when the time comes for me to leave here I hope I'll be remembered as a good person."
I matured as a player in Paraguay, Italy and Argentina, but at Toluca I've grown up in every sense
Out to win
Da Silva's relationship with the Paraguay jersey stretches back many years, having represented his country at two FIFA U-20 World Cups. At Malaysia 1997 he was the youngest player in his country's squad, but by Nigeria 1999 he had graduated to become captain.
His debut with the full national team came in a Korea/Japan 2002 qualifier against Bolivia in July 2000. He failed to hold down a regular place in the side, though, and it came as no surprise when he missed out on the finals themselves.
Undeterred, Da Silva continued to work quietly at his game. His excellent form with Toluca earned him a return to the national fold and he played an important part in Paraguay's successful bid for a place at Germany 2006, appearing in 14 of the 18 qualifying matches. The only action he saw in the finals, however, came in his side's farewell victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
Happily, the centre-back has been an ever-present in the current campaign and despite coming up against the likes of Marcelo Salas and Robinho, he has yet to pick up a yellow card. Against Chile in Santiago last November, he celebrated his 50th international cap by scoring his first two goals, a high point in his burgeoning career. "I've had some good and bad times but I don't look upon this as payback for me," he said. "I'm happy for the team and we just need to keep it going."
With the Argentina game in Buenos Aires just days away, Da Silva is not letting Paraguay's win over Brazil cloud his judgement. "We are not thinking about losing and we need to go out and play the way we always do," he vowed. "That means not defending deep, taking the game to our opponents and attacking whenever we can. The only good result for us is a win."
Modest he may be, but few can doubt Da Silva's determination to succeed.