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Serie A Legends: Alvaro Recoba

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It is time to remember the Uruguayan legendary footballer Alvaro Recoba – the man who is considered as ‘the laziest football genius’.

Alvaro Recoba was born on 17 March 1976 in the capital of Uruguay – Montevideo. He started his professional career at Danubio at the age of 17.

Recoba moved to Nacional in 1996 and scored 20 goals in 41 appearances for the club, making the Inter president Massimo Moratti to fall in love with him.

Moratti stumped up £15 million for ‘El Chino’ (it is Recoba’s nickname because of his Oriental features) and shipped him over to Italy in the summer of 1997.

The young Uruguayan made his debut for Inter on the same day with the Brazilian phenomenon Ronaldo Nazario, who was the most expensive football player at the time.

Inter were trailing 1-0 to Brescia in the opening game of the 1997-98 season when 21-year old Recoba was brought on with a tough task of saving the game for the Nerrazzuri.

First, with 10 minutes remaining, he received a short pass from Benoit Cauet before immediately launching the ball into the back of the net from 30 yards out with a ridiculously powerful strike with his left foot.

A few minutes later, Inter were awarded a free kick around 25-yards from goal and there was only one candidate to take it.

Recoba now used more curl and precision than power, whipping the ball over the wall, into the opposite corner of the net. ‘El Chino’ won the game for the Nerazzurri, stealing the spotlight from Ronaldo on his Serie A debut.

However, he played only seven more games until the end of the campaign, as he struggled to adapt to the physical demands of Italian football.

Recoba’s biggest asset was his magical left foot. He was a set-piece specialist, renowned for his trademark curling free-kicks. The Uruguayan possessed amazing dribbling skills and technical abilities and was one of the most talented playmakers of his generation.

Despite his talent, ‘El Chino’ was criticized for his poor work-rate and inconsistency. His laziness is probably the reason why Recoba never fulfilled his full potential as a footballer.

Alvaro played only one Serie A game in his second season at Inter, which lead to his loan move to Venezia in January 1999. The Uruguayan scored 11 times and made 9 assists, guiding Venezia to the respectable 11th place on the table.

Before he left, his teammates gifted him a watch, as he was regularly late for training – another proof of his unserious approach of the game.

On his return to Inter, El Chino scored 10 Seria A goals and Moratti, who obviously loved Recoba, rewarded him with a £4 million after-tax annual salary, making him the highest paid football player at that time.

In the summer of 2001, the Uruguayan was banned by the Italian Football Federation for carrying a fake passport to get around the Serie A’s limit on foreign players.

Fortunately for Recoba, the original season-long ban was reduced to four months on appeal allowing him to return to the football grounds in December 2001.

His best season on an individual level at Inter was in 2002/03 when he formed a partnership with Hernan Crespo and Christian Vieri, to lead the Nerazzurri to the Champions League semi-finals.

El Chino won two back-to-back Serie A titles in 2006 and 2007 – in his final two seasons at Giuseppe Meazza.

He spent the 2007-08 season on loan at Torino, and the following two years at the Greek side Panionios, before returning to his youth club, Danubio back in 2009.

The history has repeated itself for Alvaro Recoba, as he moved from Danubio to Nacional once again, where he spent the last four seasons of his career. He won two Uruguayan Primera Division titles and retired in 2015, at the age of 39.