For Colombian football fans, the name Sergio Galvan Rey has been synonymous with goalscoring ever since the Argentinian-born striker first touched down in Cafetero territory over 12 years ago. And on 15 February 2008 the Atletico Nacional front-runner hit his 201st league goal in his adopted country, just 16 short of Ivan Rene Valenciano's all-time record.
"To have hit this number of goals in Colombia makes me very proud. It's not easy to play here and be successful, and that's why my family and I really celebrated this achievement," said the man himself after a two-goal display against Bucamaranga took him past the double-century mark. Read on as FIFA.com brings you the story behind this staggering statistic.
An unexpected opportunity
Turning the clock back to late 1995, Sergio Galvan Rey could hardly have imagined the direction his career was about to take. Having failed to make the grade at his beloved Boca Juniors, the slightly-built attacker had returned to his home province of Tucuman to play for Concepcion Futbol Club. There he was spotted by Alfonso Nunez, a scout for Colombian side Once Caldas sent to scour Argentina for a quality striker within his club's limited price range.
For Orlando Restrepo, coach of the Manizales outfit at the time, the signing of an unproven 22-year-old front-man was considered to be something of a gamble. As things turned out, the move for the pacy, hard-working Argentinian proved to be a masterstroke.
The gifted right-footer's official debut came in January 1996, his first two goals coming in the clásico against Deportivo Pereira six months later. He caught the eye again in 1997 with a five-goal burst against Cucuta Deportivo, but it would not be until the 1998 campaign that his career really took off, the former Xeneize youth product hitting 29 goals to finish second in the scorers' charts.
His immense contribution helped Once Caldas to a runners-up berth which led to the club's first ever appearance in the Copa Libertadores. Just eight years later, they shocked South American football by becoming only the second Colombian team to win the continent's most prestigious club trophy.
Goals, silverware and a fond farewell
Galvan Rey finally made the top scorers' crown his in 1999, his tally of 26 including another five-goal performance, America de Cali his unfortunate victims this time. In 2000 and 2001 the goals continued to flow, the Cañonero de Manizales (Manizales Sharpshooter) grabbing 20 and 21 goals respectively.
In 2003 he further endeared himself to the Once Caldas faithful with a ten-goal contribution to the club's first league title in 53 years, including the winner in his side's 1-0 second-leg victory over Barranquilla side Junior in the Apertura championship decider.
"Without a doubt that was one of the most important goals in my career," says this self-confessed fan of Brazilian legend Romario. Proving there is more to his game than goals, Galvan Rey's deft assists proved crucial in team-mate Arnulfo Valentierra topping the Apertura scoring charts with 13.
Paradoxically, El Rey del gol (The Goal King) ended up leaving his spiritual home with the 2004 Copa Libertadores group stages still in progress. Having helped put Once Caldas on the continental footballing map, Galvan Rey subsequently missed out on the most glorious moment in the club's history.
"Looking back, I did feel sad not to have been there, but I was also pleased because I knew I'd played a part in that success," said the player, scorer of three goals in that year's group phase. "These things happen in football sometimes and you can't know what's going to occur tomorrow."
American adventure, new start at Nacional
Next stop was a two-year spell in Major League Soccer with the MetroStars (now New York Red Bulls). Despite hitting just ten goals during his stay, Galvan Rey believes his North American experience was a valuable one: "The football there is different to what I was used to. There's more physical contact and the tempo never lets up, everybody plays at full throttle all the time. You learn another way of playing and that makes you a better player."
Armed with this knowledge, Galvan Rey decided to head back to Colombia at the age of 33, though not to his beloved Once Caldas. Pulling on the shirt of Medellin side Atletico Nacional, he quickly reclaimed his Rey del gol tag with 19 strikes in the 2006 campaign and another 21 in 2007 to fire the Verdolagas to consecutive league crowns. Astonishingly, the 2006 haul included yet another five-goal game, with America de Cali once again on the receiving end.
Having been stuck on 199 goals since December, Galvan Rey was forced to wait a further two months before reaching 200 against Bucamaranga. Clearly in with a chance of surpassing Valenciano's record, the veteran goal-getter prefers to err on the side of caution. "There's no doubt that would be an honour, but I'm not going to show any lack of respect to my team-mates. The team is more important than anything else, and all I hope to do is to keep doing what I can to ensure Atletico Nacional's run of success continues."