What ever happened to? Esteban Fuertes

"Bichi" Fuertes during his
short stint in the Premier League.
In 1999 Derby County purchased Argentine striker Esteban "Bichi" Fuertes from Colón de Santa Fe for £2.3 million, the transfer took over 3 months to complete due to the complexities of the immigration system. Fuertes rewarded the patience of the fans and manager Jim Smith by scoring the only goal in a 1-0 win against Everton on his home debut.

Fuertes' Derby career came to an abrupt end in November 1999 at Heathrow airport. Fuertes was returning with his Derby County team mates from a training camp in Portugal when he was refused entry back into the UK and put on a flight back to Argentina. The official reason given was that the Italian passport that he had used to bypass the strict rules for non-EU immigrants had been forged or tampered with.

Derby County initially loaned the player back to Colón, where he had an excellent Clausura tournament, eventually finishing as the top scorer with 17 goals in 18 games, the first Colón player ever to finish as top scorer in the Argentine league.

Derby eventually managed to sell the player to RC Lens of France and even turned a half million pound profit on the player in the £2.8 million transfer. Fuertes also played for Tenerife in Spain before returning to South America in 2002 to play for Argentine giants River Plate.

Fuertes has become an iconic player for Argentine side  Colón.
After a single season with River Plate he returned to Colón in 2003. He has become an iconic player for the club, breaking all kinds of records, he is their highest scorer, the player with the most appearances for the club, the highest scorer ever in the province of Santa Fe and on 20 May 2009 he became the oldest player ever to make his debut for the Argentina national side when he was picked by manager Diego Maradona to play in a friendly against Panama at the age of 36. 

Fuertes is so popular with Colón fans that he even has a song composed in his honour called "Bichi Gol" by Los Palmeras.

Fuertes has scored 123 goals for Colón and well over 200 in his career, he is still hammering in the goals and at the age of 37 he is showing no sign of stopping.

See also

Part of the What ever happened to? series.

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