'Little Witch' Veron hangs up broomstick again
Buenos Aires : Former Argentina midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron retired for the second time on Sunday at the age of 39, bowing out with a 2-1 loss for boyhood club Estudiantes but with "no regrets" from a career that yielded silverware across the globe.
Veron came out of retirement last year to play another season in Argentina`s top flight, having already taken a role as a sporting director at the club where his father Juan Ramon was known as `La Bruja` - `The Witch` - for his spellbinding runs on the left wing in the 1960s.
Nicknamed `Brujita` (Little Witch), captain Veron played every minute of his final game in Buenos Aires, battling in vain in defence as home side Tigre overhauled an undermanned Estudiantes, who were reduced to nine players after two were sent off with red cards.
With away fans banned all season in an effort to curb crowd violence, Veron was given a standing ovation by Tigre supporters as he came off the pitch.
“I was lucky to start at this club when I was five and I’m leaving at 39," the shaven-headed, goatee-wearing Veron told reporters.
"There’s no reason to cry. If you gave everything, you don’t have anything to recriminate yourself for."
A Serie A champion with Lazio in 2000, Veron`s big-money move to Manchester United the following year was later judged an expensive flop for the Premier League giants as he struggled to make an impact while battling injury.
He was also blamed by Argentine fans for the national team`s disappointing World Cup finals in 2002, where they crashed out at the group stage.
Following struggles at United, a stint at Chelsea was similarly ill-fated but he returned to Italy on loan to Inter Milan, where he was part of the squad that won domestic trophies in 2005-06.
After heading home to Estudiantes in 2006, Veron repaired his image with a majority of Argentina fans after a comeback for his country at the Copa America the following year, playing in a side boasting Juan Roman Riquelme and Lionel Messi that lost in the final to Brazil.
He led Estudiantes to a fourth Libertadores Cup title in 2009, carrying on from his father who was involved in the hat-trick of South American club championships from 1968-70.
Much more than a captain, Veron has become the club’s elder statesman, donating part of the fortune he amassed in Europe to improving facilities for their base in La Plata, the capital of Buenos Aires province.
“In the near future I’ll see how I can carry things forward on a personal level, with a staff, to face another stage in my life as a director,” said Veron, who has dreamt of one day becoming Estudiantes president.
“There are no regrets. I just would have liked to play a Champions League final ... (and) win something with the national team.”
A player who stood out for his busy, all-running style in central midfield, Veron reached the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition with Manchester United 12 years ago and played for Argentina at three World Cups.
Having earned the respect of his peers and won over detractors, Veron will hope for similar success off the field if allowed to hold positions of power after hanging up his boots.