On 18 January last, the Costa Rican sports media was abuzz with news of Celso Borges' transfer to Norwegian outfit Fredrikstadt. His destination may have been something of a surprise, but not his move abroad, as a host of foreign clubs had been linked to the Deportivo Saprissa midfielder in recent months. Though sad to see their rising star depart, Costa Rican fans are convinced the youngster will succeed wherever he goes.
That confidence does not appear unwarranted either. Still only 20, Borges has already picked up several domestic club titles and represented his country at junior and youth level. Moreover, he has been capped seven times with the senior side and looks likely to play a leading role for the Ticos in the years to come.
A talented family
For those who know Borges, his meteoric rise to fame will have come as little surprise. He is, after all, the son of Alexandre Guimaraes, a formidable player in his time and one of Costa Rica's most successful coaches.
With such expert guidance, the talented youngster was predictably quick to blossom. Like many of his country's top players, he began his career at Saprissa where, after shining in the youth sides, he went on to make his full debut in January 2006 at just 16.
From his very first appearance, he impressed with his speed of thought and ball control, showing a degree of composure rare for someone so young. He also displayed remarkable vision and a facility for picking out better-placed team-mates.
A year before his much-vaunted league debut, the midfielder had created a splash at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru where, aided by strike partner Jean Carlo Solorzano, Borges and Co came within minutes of knocking out eventual champions Mexico before losing in extra time
Despite his undeniable talent, questions remained as to how well he would cope with the rigours of the professional game. Within a couple of seasons, however, he had silenced his doubters and was holding down a first-team place at Saprissa. During the 2007/08 campaign, his first full season, he made 22 appearances and scored one goal, helping El Monstruo Morado to back-to-back league titles.
Player of the year
The best was still to come, though. In the 2008 Apertura 2008, the midfield schemer was simply superb, orchestrating the play like a veteran. No less significant was his tally of five goals in 20 games, which helped the club to pip arch-rivals Alajuelense to the title after a dramatic finish.
It came as no surprise then to see him crowned Player of the Year by Costa Rica's sports-writers, an award he accepted with impressive humility. "This year was about pushing myself, consolidating my place and becoming much more confident. Thank God, things have gone my way. I always feel honoured when I get recognition for my hard work, but there are another 32 people behind this [award] - not to mention my parents, who are pillars of strength for me," the player said.
His league form soon earned him a call-up to the senior Costa Rica squad, where he has become a first-choice figure under Rodrigo Kenton. Even though deployed a little deeper than at his club side, Borges has still found the path to goal, scoring twice against Suriname in a FIFA World Cup™ qualifier last October.
Next up for Borges and Co is even tougher examination in the shape of Honduras. The classic Central American showdown will be the teams' opening fixture in the 'hexagonal' final qualifying group for South Africa 2010, and the youngster is well aware of the task ahead of him. "We'll be facing a very powerful team who have overseas players that can make a difference. But with all due respect, we've been working very well towards improving our game and are capable of winning this fixture."
Borges also feels that the key to securing victory is to focus on one's own game, saying, "We have to play well and go out there to win. What they do is much less relevant."
The future looks bright indeed for this exciting young prospect. Due to join Fredrikstadt in June, where he hopes to launch the next phase of his career, we can expect to hear lots more about Celso Borges.