From the once highly revered Diego Forlan and the near faultless Enzo Francescoli, to the staunch figure of Edinson Cavani and the resoundingly destructive force that is Barcelona’s Luis Suarez – Uruguay have always proven somewhat blessed within their nation’s famed attacking department, through good times and bad.
Yet prior to the likes of Suarez and Cavani tearing it up for Uruguay with dreams of international glory set firmly in their sights, fans of La Celeste would routinely place their goalscoring hopes upon another deadly centre-forward, a certain former Internazionale favourite with bags of boundless potential residing soundly under his belt.
His name was Alvaro Recoba – and whilst the formally celebrated South American striker hardly lived up to his billing as the next big star worthy of setting the Italian game alight – something about this quick-footed attacking frontman remains thoroughly fixated within our wider footballing consciousness.
Recoba may have proven a largely frustrating personality at times. His ability to perform with consistency and frequent reliability has regularly been called into doubt. But when it comes to analysing the great Uruguayan striker and his initial impact within the Italian top-flight, few questions could ever be directed at his all-round goalscoring ability and the sheer confidence he displayed in front of goal. The man could be a real machine when he wanted to…
For the record, Alvaro Recoba certainly remains fondly remembered among the hordes of Uruguayan football fans who were there to see him play. Followers of the Nerazzurri would also likely hold the former South American frontman in the highest regard, even if he arguably failed to live up to his full potential whilst operating down at the San Siro.
But in the eyes of most casual football supporters – who have since forgotten all about Recoba in light of the proceeding achievements of subsequent Uruguayan strikers – perhaps this is a player who has since seen his once glamorous reputation dwindle ever so slightly with the advent of the modern era.
When looking back at Recoba’s goals and lengthy string of match-winning highlights during his time in Italy, the striker’s undoubted ability inside the final third becomes exceptionally clear. Simply put, the once widely admired Uruguayan certainly knew how to find the back on the net with a real sense of grandeur and style about his overall game.
Although the South American hitman was initially forced to operate alongside each of Ivan Zamorano, Youri Djorkaeff and Ronaldo whilst going about his business in the heart of Milan, a fresh-faced Alvaro Recoba really took to life among Serie A upon his initial introduction within the Italian game. He seemed passionate and spirited, ready to endear himself towards the Internazionale faithful with limitless potential.
Whilst much of his early career at Inter Milan proved slow and somewhat unrewarding, Recoba finally got his chance to shine whilst operating under each of Marcello Lippi and Marco Tardelli. The Uruguayan frontman could prove emphatic for the Italian giants when things were going his way – scoring goal, after goal, after goal, without once looking back to see if his fellow strike-partners in the famous blue & black could match his fine form down at the San Siro.
The wide and varied nature of Recoba’s goalscoring output is what took many Serie A onlookers by surprise, however. The former Uruguayan Primera Division striker would prove truly resourceful when played through in one-on-one situations. He could finish resoundingly well from anywhere just outside the opposition’s penalty box, whilst his tendency to score elegant free-kicks and polished set-pieces must also be credited with the utmost praise.
But whilst the Uruguayan’s achievements in Italy have since been well applauded – thanks partially to the impact of the notorious Calciopoli scandal upon Inter’s most threatening title contenders – many believe Recoba could have, and probably should have achieved so much more during his stint among Serie A.
To some, the daring South American represented little more than an overhyped entity who remained severely overpaid in light of his glaring lack of reliability on a week-to-week basis. His detractors saw him as an undoubtedly talented asset, yet someone who at the same time – couldn’t be depended on wholeheartedly when his fans really needed him.
Of course injuries and mounting health scares had their role to play within Alvaro Recoba’s top-flight criticism, but the striker’s overall dedication to the cause would be thrown into question far too often to be taken lightly. He was described as lazy, as someone who only wanted to turn on the style when it suited him. Recoba’s long-standing status within the Italian top-flight would be forever tarnished on the back of this one rather salient opinion alone.
“Alvaro Recoba was a bit like Inter – always surprising. He was at times lazy, but could also do things nobody had seen before.”
Former Inter President, Massimo Moratti
On occasion, Recoba would prove truly fantastic to watch – making light work of opposing defenders via his excellent dribbling dexterity and remarkably gifted left-foot. Yet just because the famed South American could produce world class efforts of a sound world class standard, sadly for all those Uruguayan fans who championed his name throughout his entire time at Inter – it didn’t necessarily make him into a world class player.
The striker needed to display a little more fight and determination to be celebrated as such. He may have lit up the Italian top flight with his wonderful showmanship and deadly eye for goal, but it was his stark lack of application and puzzling mentality which ultimately ruined his once shining reputation as one of the most exciting South American strikers to stake his claim in Italy.
When it comes to describing the tale of one Alvaro Recoba, the phrase ‘unfulfilled potential’ can’t help but feel particularly apt. In the end, this is merely a story of what could have been for the talented Uruguayan frontman…