In January 2003 Southampton F.C. signed a 23 year old Argentine striker on loan from Vélez Sársfield with the option to buy. Federico Arias had plenty of experience having played over 80 competitive games between his hometown club Rosario Central and Vélez Sársfield mainly in the Argentine Primera Division but also 12 appearances in the Copa Libertadores for Central.
The Southampton team were full of praise for Arias, manager Gordon Strachan said "he looks a useful player and is very quick and hopefully he will make us stronger" while chief scout terry Cooper said "He has two excellent feet. I watched him three times and could not tell which was his best. He is a great crosser of the ball, too. His nickname is the Torpedo and it is easy to see why - he is explosive over 20 metres. The Argentinians I have seen usually have good technique on the ball but not many have this kind of pace."
It may have been wise for Southampton fans to be wary of such enthusiasm about new South American signings given the situation with the Ecuadorian pair Agustín Delgado and Cleber Chalá. Cynics amongst the Saints faithful were proven right fairly soon. Within six months of joining Southanpton and without ever taking to the field in a competitive game for them, Arias was back in Argentina. He continued to play for Vélez Sársfield until 2005, but was used sparsely only making 19 appearances for the club over the space of the entire two and a half years he was with them. He was part of the Vélez Sársfield squad that won the Argentine Primera Division in Clausura 2005, but played in few of the games.
It was clear from his lack of game time that Arias was no longer part of Vélez Sársfield's long term plans and later in 2005 he joined Quilmes. After a poor season in which Quilmes finished in 17th place and Arias only made six appearances he joined Argentine 2nd division side Belgrano de Córdoba in 2006, who then finished 2nd in the Clausura tournament earning them the chance to play in a promotion/relegation playoff against Olimpo de Bahía Blanca. Arias featured in the playoff games which were both won 2-1 by Belgrano earning them promotion to the Primera División.
Unfortunately for Arias, he never got the chance to return to the Primera División, as he was offloaded to Peruvian side side Sporting Cristal as part of Belgrano's extensive rebuilding process aimed at securing survival in the top flight.
Sporting Cristal had a poor Clausura, falling back from their 2nd place finish the previous season to end up in mid table. Arias only contributed 2 league goals in the campaign, not nearly enough to justify his wages so he was offloaded to another Peruvian side; Coronel Bolognesi at the beginning of 2007. Arias had a worse time at his new club, they finished bottom of the table in Apertura 2007 and Arias did not score a single goal for them.
During the European summer transfer window Arias put his Italian passport to good use by joining Italian Serie C1/B side Martina Franca. For the first time in several years he managed to complete a full season with a club, however at the end of the season he was not kept on.
Arias returned to South America to join Melipilla of the Chilean Primera Division but in September 2008 his contract was terminated by mutual agreement mainly because he had failed to score a single goal for the club. At the end of the season Melipilla were relegated, but by then he was long gone.
Arias next showed up back in the Argentine 2nd division playing for a small team in his home town called Tiro Federal in 2009. He did not stay with them for long, they tried to offload him onto Australian side Newcastle Jets in July 2009, but despite positive first impressions they didn't sign him on a permanent basis.
In August 2009 his career took him to his 7th different country when he joined Yaracuyanos FC of the Venezuelan 2nd division where he played until December 2009. In March 2010 he signed for Aldosivi back in the Argentine 2nd division alongside another international journeyman footballer familiar to many English football fans; one time "new Maradona", ex-Middlesbrough player Carlos Marinelli.
According to one of the most reliable sources of Argentine football statistics he now plays in the regionalised 3rd division for Los Andes, but on closer inspection it turns out to be a completely different Federico Arias, who was born in 1988 and would only have been 10 years old when our Federico Arias made his professional debut for Rosario Central on 21 November 1998 in a 2-3 home defeat to Boca Juniors.
So what can I say? If the Argentine football statisticians don't even know what happened to him and have resorted to just making it up, I'm at a loss. The only answer to the question of what happened to Federico Arias is that after many years as an international journeyman footballer he completely disappeared into obscurity.
Part of the What ever happened to? series.