|Delgado celebrating his goal at Anfield, |
which came on his full debut for Southampton
almost a whole year after he joined the club.
Delgado who was born in Chota, Ecuador on December 23 1974 had made his professional debut for Espoli in 1991, he also played for Barcelona Sporting Club and El Nacional in his homeland before moving to Mexico in 1998, he had a short stint with Cruz Azul before joining Necaxa where he played between 1998 and 2001.
Delgado struggled for fitness and had to wait until the13th of January 2002 to make his debut for the club coming on as a substitute in a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United. He had to wait until November 2002 until he got his first chance to start a game, in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield in which he scored one of his two goals for the club.
Delgado was never given a regular place in the first team, starting only two league games for the club in nearly 3 years. He played a total of 15 games for the club in all competitions, mostly as a substitute, scoring 2 goals. Delgado openly blamed manager Gordon Strachan for his lack of playing opportunities, saying that Strachan had a personal problem with him.
Strachan's comments give some credence to this interpretation, he publicly dismissed Delgado at a press conference, saying "I've got more important things to think about. I've got a yoghurt to finish by today, the expiry date is today. That can be my priority rather than Agustin Delgado." Delgado is not the only foreign player to have claim that Strachan has personal issues with his players, recently French Middlesbrough midfielder Didier Digard claimed that he was frozen out of the squad by Strachan who blamed the foreigners for the club's plight and filled the team with familiar but inferior Scottish players.
On the other hand Delgado did himself no favours with the club by aggravating an ankle injury by playing through the pain to star for Ecuador in their first World Cup in 2002, in which he scored his nations first ever World Cup goal. He also went AWOL in South America several times during his time at the club. When Delgado eventually walked out of Southampton for the last time, it was not without more harsh words from Strachan and threats from Southampton that they would prevent him playing for any other club until his Southampton contract had expired.
During his time in England 'Tin established the Agustín Delgado foundation which has provided education, healthcare and sports facilities for poor children in Ecuador for the last eight years.
Delgado briefly returned to Ecuador to play for Aucas in 2004 where he reacquainted himself with regular first team football before going back to Mexico where he was part of the Pumas squad that won the Mexican league in 2005.
On 4 June 2005 he scored his 27th goal for Ecuador in a 2-0 win against Argentina, surpassing Eduardo Hurtado's previous record of 26 to become the all time highest goalscorer for his country.
Later that year he returned to Ecuador to play for Barcelona Sporting Club of Guayaquil where he formed a strike partnership with another iconic Ecuadorian player; Crystal Palace flop Iván Kaviedes. It was not a successful time for 'Tin Delgado, he didn't score as many goals as expected and Barcelona continued their long wait for another league title.
|'Tin Delgado scores against Poland in the 2006 World Cup.|
In 2006 he joined LDU Quito, where he was involved in a mass brawl in a game against his former club Barcelona which resulted in him being given a one year suspension from the game. The suspension was eventually lifted after protesters in his home province blocked the Pan-American highway and the ruling was overturned after a congressional hearing. Delgado apologised for his actions and publicly vowed to forswear violence as a consequence.
In 2007 he helped Liga de Quito to win the Ecuadorian league championship and in 2008 he was part of the squad that became the first Ecuadorian side to win the Copa Libertadores, although he did not play in the extraordinary final against Fluminense. He was described by Liga fans as the perfect super substitute.
|Delgado playing for LDU Quito back in Ecuador.|
Delgado's time on the south coast can be seen from two different perspectives, Southampton fans will fondly remember his only league goal, the decisive one in a 3-2 win against Arsenal and some die hard fans will remember his goal against Liverpool at Anfield in the League Cup too. Maybe he could be given the benefit of the doubt as a player, the case could be made that he was never given the game time to properly adjust to English football.
Alternatively he could be seen as a player that gave his international career much more attention than the fortunes of the club that was paying his wages, for whom he barely started a game, fell out with his manager and went AWOL after international duty too many times.
Whatever is said about him, he had a lot of success before he arrived at Southampton, and he experienced more success after he left the club, he is a record breaking player for his country, an iconic player to Ecuadorian football fans and nobody could complain about the fact that he has spent his time and money on helping underprivileged children over the last 8 years.
Part of the What ever happened to? series.