What ever happened to? Nicolás Medina

A rare sight, Medina in Sunderland colours.
In 2000 Sunderland signed a 19 year old player for £3.5 million from Argentinos Juniors, a club renowned for producing quality players like Diego Maradona, Sergio Batista, Claudio Borghi, Fernando Redondo and Juan Román Riquelme.

The player soon worked his way into the Sunderland first team, eventually making 177 appearances for the club and scoring 23 goals. This player was of course Julio Arca and his signing was such a success that Peter Reid could not resist splashing out another £3.5 million on another Argentinos Juniors player the following summer describing the latest signing as "the complete midfield player".

The second player was Nicolás Medina, who had starred alongside Arca in the Argentina U-21 team that had just won the 2001 FIFA World Youth Championship. Medina did not find himself thrown into the first team like Arca had been, in fact he hadn't even made his debut for the black cats by December 2002 when he received a surprise call up to a Argentina national team training camp.

Peter Reid had never given any satisfactory reason for why such an expensive signing was not getting the slightest chance to play for the club, and his successor, Howard Wilkinson was no better, giving the bizarre explanation that "The evidence suggests that Nicolas hasn't got it because the previous manager didn't pick him".

Medina had made only a single appearance for the club, in a FA Cup tie against Bolton Wanderers. By the summer of 2003, the management had lost faith with the player and he was farmed out on loan to Spanish 2nd division side CD Leganés for the 2003-04 season at the end of which Leganés were relegated to the regionalised 3rd division.

Medina was then called up by Argentina manager Marcelo Bielsa for the 2004 Summer Olympics, where he played in 3 of Argentina's games alongside players such as Javier Mascherano, Carlos Tevez, Javier Saviola, and Andrés D'Allesandro. Argentina beat Paraguay 1-0 in the final and Medina collected his Olympic Gold medal to go in his collection alongside his World U-21 medal.

Later that summer he was included in the Argentina squad for the Copa América 2004 along with recent Birmingham City reject Luciano Figueroa. Medina didn't play for the team during the tournament, but he didn't have long to wait until his full international debut.

On 4 September 2004 Medina was called up to the Argentina national team where he played in a 3-1 win over Peru in Lima. Highlighting an absurd situation where a player could supposedly be good enough to play for the Argentina national team, yet so bad that he failed to get a single league game for Sunderland in 3 seasons, despite the fact that they had spent the majority of that time embroiled in relegation dogfights. This single appearance for the Argentina national team was undoubtedly the high water mark of his career.

Medina did actually play
for other teams, yet I couldn't
find a single picture of him actually playing,
not least because there is another player
called Nicolás Medina from Chile
who is familiar with the concept
of actually playing club football.
Sunderland finally got him off their books, releasing him on a free transfer to Real Murcia of the Spanish 2nd division, and in so doing made him the most expensive signing not to have played a single league game for the club.

After one season with Murcia he returned to Argentina, where joined Primera División side Rosario Central in 2005. He only made 3 first team appearances for Central before joining Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata in 2006. Gimnasia loaned him out to a succession of clubs including Nueva Chicago where he only made a single appearance, and Talleres de Córdoba of the Argentine 2nd division. In 2007 he rejoined Gimnasia where he only played in 7 of their games during the entire 2007-08 season.

In 2009 he joined Chilean side O'Higgins, but failed to settle there, returning to Argentina in 2010 to play for 2nd division side Tiro Federal. In the summer of 2010 he was released by Tiro Federal and is now a 28 year old free agent. 

Medina will not be remembered for his playing abilities by Sunderland fans, except those die hard supporters that saw him play in that FA Cup game or turned out to watch the reserves between 2001 and 2003. He is remembered as a remarkable waste of money and a player who utterly failed to live up to expectations.

Looking back through the Argentina squad lists for the 2001 U-21 World Cup and the Olympic squad of 2004 there are understandably several players who's careers never reached the heights achieved by Tevez, Mascherano and Saviola, yet none have experienced a career nosedive as spectacular as that of Nicolás Medina.

Part of the What ever happened to? series.


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