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The good, the bad & Montero

Montero has been the cornerstone of the Juve defence the past years.
Paolo Montero is regarded as one of the most cynical players in world football. But as Peter Bourne reveals, the Uruguayan is keen to let his
football do the talking.

With 19 dismissals in nine seasons, Paolo Montero has sat out almost two campaigns in Italy through suspension. The Uruguayan stopper has the worst disciplinary record in Serie A history after being dismissed for just about every offence possible. Red card number 19 arrived in Lecce back in Week 5 when he was guilty of punching an opponent. Last season he was booked just twice but still sat out three weeks of the campaign when television replays caught him launching a punch at Inter's Gigi Di Biagio. These pitfalls have diverted the attention away from his footballing ability.

"I have let myself down at times," says Montero. "This is the only true regret of my footballing career. It's all born from my desire to be a winner. Sometimes you have to do anything to win and this is my nature. When I first came to Italy I was a bit impulsive although it is hard for young foreign players to settle immediately."

It's worth noting that not all Montero's dismissals have been for violent conduct - eight have been for second yellow cards and four for professional fouls since his move from Penarol to Atalanta in 1991. One thing he admits winds him up is opponents cheating. "It annoys me when players call to referees for yellow cards. This is the real ugly side of football. If a striker has a problem then he should come to me not the official."

Montero's winning mentality is born from his father Julio who played in the very successful Nacional Montevideo side of the late 1960s and early 1970s. This year, Montero Jnr will fulfil a childhood dream in captaining his country at the
World Cup Finals. "It's a major honour. Beating Australia in the play-off was an unbelievable feeling. It was a tough game but in the second leg we played
remarkably well and deserved to go through. Uruguay is a small country but a very proud one. Football can help distract from some of life's harsh realities like
the current financial problems. I hope to create a bit of history and follow in my father's footsteps."

Montero is commonly considered to be among the best center backs in the world today.

Back in Serie A, Montero has always received the support from his club despite being something of a liability. Marcello Lippi regards the 30-year-old as one of Italy's best defenders. Without him, Juventus never look as secure. Injury problems have surfaced in recent seasons including a recurrent knee problem and while he sat out the early part of this campaign, the Bianconeri defence leaked goals.

It's no coincidence that with Montero in the side, Juve are a tougher team to break down. He has been the lynchpin for the most consistent defence in Italian
football in recent seasons. Montero's greatest strength is his anticipation - both his teammates and opponents next move. A born leader his organisational skills have developed and his pace and ability in the air - despite a lack of inches - make him more than any ordinary defender. He believes his disciplinary record and reputation have been overblown partly because of his own dislike of the Press. "I feel its better for a player to talk less although perhaps this hasn't helped my image. Football is not a difficult game on the field but has become tough off it. There is too much pressure and emphasis placed on each incident. Now television scrutinises everything a player does."

Not a regular scorer - Montero hasn't netted in the League for six years - but he hit the headlines with his header in the Champions' League win over Porto. He knows that while forwards will always grab the column inches, his own contribution is recognised. "He is a difficult player to replace," says Lippi. "Montero is a special character and a very good footballer who we need to stay clear of injuries." The Montevideo-born star realises 2002 is a great chance to set the record straight. A Scudetto and the Champions' League before a debut on the World stage may silence his critics if not the referees.

This article is entitled "The good, the bad & Montero", taken from Football Italia, issue 2, February 2002.

Related links:
» Football Italia
» Football Italia magazine section