32 players to watch, March 2010

Player To Watch #18: Diego Forlán

Number 18: Diego Forlán

Country: Uruguay

Position: Forward

Club Team: Atlético Madrid

American-Based Professional Sport “Soulmate”: “Sugar Shane” Mosley, Welterweight Boxer

Contrary to what you might have heard from Manchester United supporters whenever his name is brought up, Diego Forlán is no bum. Not only is he a financially well-off homeowner who’s had success (almost) everywhere he’s played, but Forlán represents his home country of Uruguay’s best shot at actually creating enough offense to make a splash in the World Cup. Diego is a world class do-it-all striker whose best attribute may just be his nose for the goal – not a horrible specialty for a striker.

Sports fans love to have the “pick one player to start a team with” argument. And assuming you’re going to start your soccer team with an offensive player rather than a keeper or defender, you’re probably choosing between three player “types.”

Maestro Attacking Mid: Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fábregas, James Milner

Big “Donk” Striker: Didier Drogba, Kenwyne Jones, Brian McBride

Do-It-All Striker: David Villa, Louis Saha, Diego Forlán

Just as James Milner isn’t the game changer that Stevie G is, Diego is no David Villa, but on a given day he can be, and that’s precisely what makes him so dangerous. Forlán can play up front as a target man or link up with another striker to produce goals like he does with Sergio Agüero in Madrid. He’s not the biggest, the fastest, or the most skilled with the ball, but he’s enough of each of those attributes to have been effective everywhere he’s been, except at Old Trafford. So where does the Diego Forlán/”Sugar Shane” Mosley comparison come into play? While comparisons between the beautiful game and the sweet science may not be immediately apparent to most sports fans, the parallels between these two athletes are easy to see.

While Forlán is a do-it-all striker, Mosley is a do-it-all boxer. He’s not the fastest, not the strongest, and not the most technical boxer on the planet. He never has been. But he’s certainly ONE of the fastest, ONE of the strongest, and ONE of the most technical fighters in whichever weight class he happens to be boxing in at the given moment. His inclusion in the exclusive group of fighters who have reigned in three different weight classes is a reflection of his versatility. Just as Diego adjusts his game to different formations and defensive strategies, Mosley has decides whether to out-box, out-punch, or out-point his opponent in each match. He’s one of few boxers that can actually beat down some of the best in the world using almost any fighting style.

But both of these amazing athletes have faltered on the largest stage, and the world won’t let them forget it. Shane seemed poised to become the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world after defeating Oscar De La Hoya in 2000, only to drop two matches in a row to Vernon Forrest. He then went back to his bread and butter, beating The Golden Boy again in 2003, only to set himself up for dropping another two matches in a row, this time losing two decisions to Winky Wright. These losses when Mosley seemed to be on the precipice of true greatness are why the world of sports often forgets to put Shane in the conversation of top boxers. The same goes for Forlán’s time at Manchester United. Billed as the next big thing, Forman arrived at Old Trafford and flopped.

But full credit goes to both of these competitors, each of who responded positively to the downturns in their respective careers. Mosley just keeps fighting, and just keeps winning. Forlán just keeps scoring, and scoring, and scoring. After notching less than twenty goals in his two years at Man U, Diego has notched over 100 goals for Villarreal and Atlético since 2004. Similarly, Mosley has kept fighting against the toughest opposition that would take him on, and he’s still kicking ass. In fact, just last year “Sugar Shane” knocked out the seemingly indestructible “Tijuana Tornado,” Antonio Margarito. Both men are aging like insert-adult-beverage-of-a-red-or-white-variety-here, and can lay claim to being in the form of their lives at 30 (Forman) and 38 (Mosley) years old. And most excitingly, both these athletes have the greatest opportunities of their careers directly in front of them.

This summer Mosley gets a shot at the world’s pound-for-pound champion, the undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. He’ll have to fight the match of his life to win, but lately he looks more capable of that feat than ever. As for Forlán, the Cup’s the thing, and for a man who’s already a folk hero in his home country, bringing the trophy back to what all of Uruguay views as its rightful home would mark the greatest of achievements. Granted, Uruguay is drawn with South Africa, Mexico, and France, and they’re bigger underdogs than the U.S. even if they make it out of one of the toughest groups in the tourney. But Forlán will be paired with a clone of his Atlético striking partner Sergio Agüero in the form of 23-year-old Ajax dynamo-speedster Luis Suárez. If these two can create the kind of magic in front of goal that Forman and Agüero put together on a weekly basis in Spain’s capital, start preparing for the gratuitous ESPN “Forlán and Suarez” fluff pieces.

And now a ridiculous aside…

Classify the forthcoming sentence as my most shameful admission of the day. I had a brief foray into online gaming. This foray came in the form of me playing Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, or PES, online on my Playstation2. I have to emphasize that my online experience with the game was only about a month long. Here are just a few of the reasons for my terminating of the practice.

–         Stop selecting Inter Milan or Man U when I pick West Ham! I throw you a bone and pick Arsenal or Barca from time to time for competition’s sake. Do me the same favor and pick Tottenham or Everton now and again when I select the Hammers; not asking anyone to be Bolton here.

–          I come home “happy” from a “bar and grill” only to have what I always assume to be a 13-year-old punk on the left coast dribble around all of my defenders with Wayne Rooney… without even hitting the turbo button. In such a state, watching The Big Lebowski or Office Space for the millionth time is always preferable to soul crushing embarrassment.

–          I enjoy the company of women.

But one of my very few positive experiences in the realm of online gaming came when I faced off against a dude who was playing as Atlético Madrid. We played a close match that I believe went to extra time and penalties, but anytime Diego scored or even came close this dude would unleash a string of premade text comments (yeah I wasn’t “cool” enough to be on the headset). Here’s an example of one. “¡¡¡Forlán!!!! Golazooooooooooo!!!!!!”

I eventually learned that this dude that I was playing against was Uruguayan, big surprise, and we played multiple matches. The culmination of which was of course Uruguay vs. Atlético Madrid. I don’t remember who won that game, but there were a lot of goals scored for each team, most of them by Diego Forlán.

Jon Levy is a senior writer and managing editor for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at jon@yanksarecoming.com or @TYAC_Jon.

Jon Levy

  • Steven

    What’s up with the music in the video? Otherwise, nice work, Jon. I’m a big boxing guy myself (along with soccer).

  • Nice to know there are other boxing/soccer guys out there Steven! Check out Yuriorkis Gamboa any chance you get!… but you probably already knew that

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