Diego Forlan writes a weekly column for The National, appearing each Friday. The former Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid striker has been the top scorer in Europe twice and won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup. Forlan’s column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.
Penarol won the league at the weekend, the first time for three years. It’s my first and only season playing in Uruguayan football and I was delighted to be league champion. That was the most important thing. It was a challenge to come back age 36 and I think I met the challenge, I was happy with my contribution.
I played the most minutes and made contributions assisting goals. I played on the right wing, left wing, midfield and up front, as usual. I did it because I’m a Penarol fan; they are my team and have been all my life. They were my father’s team and he had a lot of success with them. I made sacrifices from my own usual position. That meant sacrificing goals, which didn’t please everyone.
Everybody was expecting me to do great; I did my best, I had a good season, but some fans wanted more goals from me. I apologise if I didn’t do enough for them, if they expected more from me. My dream came true though. And I was able to take my baby son on the pitch when we won the title. It meant so much to me and my family.
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After, I decided to leave the club. I had six months left on my contract. I spoke to the president, a good man who helped me come back to Uruguay. He wanted me to stay but understood that I wanted a new challenge.
So I have left the cold of Uruguay and taken a week’s holiday in the Bahamas. My agents, one of whom is my brother, are speaking to clubs about my next move. I have always loved to travel around the world and play football and that remains true. I’m open to offers.
In the meantime, I'm still watching the Copa America and Euro 16. I'm sure my wife would like me to watch a little less, but I love watching football and can't change the habit of a lifetime.
Uruguay are out of Copa America. It's unbelievable and I'm surprised. We didn't have good results. We lost against Mexico in the first game, a tough match. We played Venezuela in the second game, another tough game and another defeat. They went ahead, Uruguay didn't play well and didn't take their chances. It's not good enough for Uruguay. We are not used to going out in the group phases of Copa America. Players were tired after a long season in which many of them played as many as 60 games.
We have to be positive, though. Uruguay are first in the South American qualification for the 2018 World Cup. We still have many reasons to be positive, many great players. We're also not the only team who has surprised. Brazil are out of the competition at the group stage, too. Standards are rising across world football, so expect more surprises like Leicester City winning the Premier League. Everybody can beat everybody. Almost.
I have noticed very close games in France, it doesn't matter if a country has a great history. I watched Albania hold France in Marseille for 90 minutes before conceding two late goals. Football continues to change. Albania has players playing at a really good level, players who can go back to their country and help raise standards. The so-called smaller teams are also especially motivated; we've seen that with Iceland against Portugal. They are frustrating the bigger teams, who then start to suffer because of the pressure on them.
Like France, Spain needed until the end of the game to get their first win against Czech Republic. Andres Iniesta was superb; he's wonderful with the ball. He creates time for himself; he can go past a man with a whoosh. He assists and he scores the winning goal in World Cup finals. He doesn't seem to have suffered after Xavi retired from international duty.
For the smaller teams, it’s like the Uruguay factor: us against the world. They find strength in that and it’s always easier to defend than attack, to break up play.
Argentina are the team who have most impressed me in Copa America. They are the favourites and are justifying their reputation. This talented generation are desperate to win something. With Uruguay and Brazil out, they are in a superb position.
In the Euros, I maintain that Germany are the best. Italy seem tactically very smart though and I was impressed how they beat a creative Belgium side 2-0. They are a top tournament team and their manager Antonio Conte is a smart man. He rebuilt Juventus into one of the best teams in the world.
When I played in Italy, Juventus had not won the league for eight years. Inter Milan had been the dominant team, then AC Milan. But Conte took charge and won the league in his first season, 2011/12. He made them great again, hard to beat but with top attackers. He wasn’t afraid to use players in their mid-30s. He trusted experience and he has done that with Italy, too, who, despite lacking the world-class stars that previous Italian teams have, look formidable. Well, they do have Gianluigi Buffon, a world-class goalkeeper, full of experience. Any defence in the world would love that man in goal behind them.
Despite bright spots, decent passages of play and a late win against Wales, England still disappoint, but I will keep on watching them because I'm a fan of English football. Don't tell my wife, but I'll watch when we take a short rest this week. Then I'll weigh up my offers. I'm 37, but I'm fit and feel like I could play for a couple more years. I liked the feeling when we won the league last week with Penarol. I want some more of that.
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