Many great players have come to the Premier League and failed to make the grade, and Juan Sebastian Veron is perhaps the most famous example of all.
The Argentine was considered one of the world's greatest midfielders when he arrived at Manchester United in 2001. Signed for a British-record £28.1 million, Sir Alex Ferguson was convinced the former Lazio creator would become a superstar at Old Trafford.
While Veron did win a Premier League title in Manchester, he was deemed a flop by the English press, and was sold to Chelsea two years later in a cut-price deal. However, he insists he has no regrets about joining the Red Devils.
"No, never," Veron tells the March edition of FourFourTwo, which you can order here. "I signed for United because I had a passport issue in Italy [part of a nationwide scandal; Veron was eventually cleared] and thought a change of scenery would be good for my mind. Truth be told, I had a pessimistic view about playing in England, as I imagined that life there would be so different to what I was used to: the Latin lifestyle. But I found an extraordinary club. You could hardly find one as well-organised, with so many people willing to help.
"Everything that happened to me there changed my mind [about England]. I had two great years in Manchester, winning the Premier League title, and I’m still in touch with several of the guys I met: Dwight Yorke, Paul Scholes, Rio Ferdinand, Quinton Fortune, Wes Brown, John O’Shea. I met Gary and Phil Neville again at some point, too."
In Manchester, Veron joined a midfield already containing David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane and Ryan Giggs. Competition was fierce, and the Argentine believes that, as well as different approaches to fitness training than he was used to, made it tough to adapt to Premier League football.
"I know that people expected a lot from me in England – and I did, let me make that clear," he reflects. "Perhaps it was something related to the characteristics of the players; if the club really needed me, in a position where there were decent options already. To make things work for me, the side – which was doing well – had to be changed.
"If there was one thing that played against me, I’d say it was the physical conditioning. I was used to the Italian way, which was key for our game, but in England during that time, the physical conditioning was to play games. I wasn’t used to playing without an intense preparation, and it wasn’t ideal for me in the long term. As we played more matches, my performance levels dropped. I had so many up and downs: a few really good games, but other poor ones. In Italy I managed to have a more stable spell, but I know that my time in English football wasn’t the best.
Veron registered 11 goals and 11 assists in 82 Manchester United before going on to play for Chelsea, Inter and Estudiantes, where he ended his career.
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