Juan Sebastian Veron may have turned 33 but he is enjoying his football as much as ever. Since returning to Argentina to play for his beloved Estudiantes, La Brujita (The Little Witch) has continued to perform with the style that made him such a success in European football.
The midfield sorcerer has been in impressive form since his homecoming, helping the club that set him on the road to stardom to the title in 2006 and earning a recall to the national team, with Diego Maradona recently announcing that he will definitely be part of the Albiceleste squad for this month's friendly against France.
The hugely gifted Pincharrata midfielder has been a busy man of late, travelling to Uruguay to collect the 2008 South American Player of the Year award, presented by the newspaper El País, and helping his club prepare for their Copa Libertadores group campaign and the start of the Clausura championship. Despite his hectic schedule, Veron still found time to answer a host of questions put to him by the users of FIFA.com.
kaka10ed: Did you always want to be a central midfielder or did you plan to play in another position at some point in your career?
Juan Sebastian Veron: I started out as a forward in the lower leagues and then I played in defence. But as I grew older they started putting me in midfield instead, and the fact is I don't think I'll be changing at this stage of my career because I like it (laughs).
argentina193: Out of all the leagues you have played in, which is your favourite and why?
I enjoyed Italy the most because that's where I really developed as a player. I don't know if it's the most entertaining league or not. A lot of people prefer some of the other championships. The English league might be more spectacular, for example, but I'm going to stick with Serie A. The seven years I spent there defined my career.
arsenal94360: At which club did you experience the bitterest rivalry?
It has to be here, in La Plata. I'm a huge Estudiantes fan and it's something I'm very conscious of in everyday life. I've played in a few big derbies but the best of the rest is Lazio-Roma. The passion and the fervour that fixture arouses is very similar to what you experience here in Argentina.
Ennerstee: A lot of people feel that South American players are not suited to the English game. Having played in England, what is your view on that?
I don't agree. I think it's got a lot to do with the timing and the shape you're in when you get to England. Carlos Tevez adapted really well for example. The way they prepare for and approach games is different to other leagues, but if you feel good about yourself you can do well there, no matter where you come from.
I've achieved almost everything wherever I've played, and while there
are still some things I'd like to do, you can't get everything you
want. Overall I think I've had a very good career.
j.c.g.a: Why did you never play in Spain?
I never had the opportunity. There was a lot of talk but nothing ever came off, although I would have like to have played for Barcelona or Real Madrid. I don't lose any sleep over the fact I didn't, but it would have been important for my career for sure.
pollo5: Why do you think Argentina have been struggling in the World Cup qualifying competition up to now?
Because all the key players in the other teams are playing abroad now. Look at Venezuela. They used to be the weakest side and now they've got two or three players overseas and that makes a big difference. Football has evened out an awful lot and the standard has got better, not worse, which is what some people have been saying. Even Brazil have been finding it tough.
becu211284: What are you more proud of: playing under Diego or having played by his side on the pitch?
Being in the same team as him. I haven't had him as a coach yet, but playing with him was one of the high points of my career. The things he said, the changing room, the team get-togethers, the trips... With Diego everything took on an extra dimension. I think he will always be the definitive Argentinian football player.
aligoal9: Do you think Argentina were good enough to win the 1998 and 2002 World Cups? If so, why did things go so wrong?
It's hard to say yes or no to the first question. We had the makings of a good side in both cases. We didn't have much luck in 1998 because the game against Netherlands could have gone either way. And if you get to the semis then anything can happen. In 2002 on the other hand, we almost made it through but we didn't go into the tournament in good shape.
ayayay: Some people blame you for Argentina's elimination from the 2002 World Cup. What do you think about that?
Nothing, because I've never paid any attention to comments like that. I've learned to be objective about praise and criticism. People can say whatever they want; I just don't take any notice. Sometimes it's hard to handle the huge demand for success in football so I try to distance myself from it all.
thisdude7: Have you achieved everything you wanted in football? If not, what goals do you still have?
I've achieved almost everything wherever I've played, and while there are still some things I'd like to do, you can't get everything you want. Overall I think I've had a very good career.
javier.che: What does the tape on your right knee signify? Is it a lucky charm?
It all started with an injury I had in 1997 and then I left on. So, yes, it is a lucky charm. And I don't think I'll be taking it off either, as it's worked pretty well for me (laughs).
1234567890yo: What advice do you have for young players like us who have only just started and want to become professionals and, like you, play in the world's top leagues?
First, you have to be happy about what you are doing. Second, you have to chase your dreams. Third, you need to work very hard and be dedicated. And the most important thing is that you should never think you've made it. Because if you start thinking that, that's when you stop performing.
intertifosi: I am an admirer of Ernesto Che Guevara and I read somewhere that you are too. How was your relationship with the Lazio fans while you were there?
It wasn't good to start with. In fact, they even told me to get rid of the tattoo I have of his face on my shoulder. But when we won the championship a few of them came into the dressing room and they kissed it. That was a nice touch and from then on things were much better.
panchito.: Could you sum up your career in one sentence?
I can do it in one word: dizzying.
Pincharrata: Bruja, after seeing you in action and reading and watching your interviews, I think you have all the makings of a coach. Wouldn't you like to be the Alex Ferguson of Estudiantes?
No, not at all. Being a coach doesn't appeal to me and not because I don't like 'teaching', but because I wouldn't get the same feeling out of it that I've got through playing. For me it would be like extending my career by doing something I wouldn't feel comfortable with.
Mamadoso: What plans do you have once you retire?
I'd like to be a director of football. Abroad there's a bigger emphasis on former players becoming technical directors but it's not so common here. Velez Sarsfield did something with Christian Bassedas, and Boca Juniors have got Carlos Bianchi now but that's it. It's an important aspect that's lacking in Argentina. The relationship between a technical director and player is essential and no one understands that better than someone who has been there and knows how to express what the player thinks or wants.
mohfadli: Do you think you have made history in the game?
What a question! History is an awfully big word. I really don't know. I've never sat down and thought about it. I've made my own history, but beyond that I don't know. In any walk of life there are only a few people who manage to do that. Maybe you should ask someone else or consider it again when I finish my career. Time will tell.
FIFA.com: Mr Veron, which of our users' questions did you like the most?
(Rereads the questions). The one asking me what advice I'd give to youngsters, because they only really get taught superficial things today. They need a more rounded education because they have got all this access to the outside world through computers and it's easy for them to get confused. There's more to being a footballer than just posing for photos, expensive cars and private jets. Parents make mistakes too and sometimes put their desire for financial security before the happiness of their children. That's why I think you need to spend a lot of time teaching kids what a career like this really involves. You have to do everything you can to help them make a decision they're happy with.