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Renewing an old friendship with Juve marksman - 01/10/2002

Renewing an old friendship with Juve marksman
One of the best South American's
   Newcastle United
 Leagues & Cups:
   Champions League

Tonight I hope to renew an old acquaintance with a player I have known for 12 years, but it will be better for Newcastle if he does not make it as far as the Stadio Delle Alpi pitch. I am talking about the Chilean striker Marcelo Salas, who is surely one of the best players to emerge from South America in recent years and a man who is keen to kickstart his career after a serious injury threatened his career.

These days Marcelo finds himself in the strange position as fourth choice striker at Juventus with Alessandro Del Piero, Marco Di Vaio and David Trezeguet ahead of him in Marcello Lippi's plans. To me that demonstrates the incredible strength in depth they have at Juve right now because Salas is, and always has been, an expert marksman. I first came up against him when we were two 14-year-olds making our way in international youth football and we have enjoyed many battles since. In those days I was strictly a right back and I never looked forward to Peru's matches against Chile because I knew that Salas - and Newcastle's Clarence Acuña - would always give me a rough time. Even as a teenager Marcelo had a reputation for scoring goals and his record at every level in the international game is phenomenal. He is a fantastic player. He has not been so prolific in the Champions League but I'm sure he will find the target if and when he returns to the current Juve side.

I am not one for omens but I do have the upper hand over Salas when it comes to our contests in club football. We both clashed in the big Buenos Aires derby between Boca Juniors and River Plate in the mid-1990s and it was the one and only time we have competed on opposing teams away from the international arena. Boca, my team, won and I can't remember Marcelo causing us too many problems. That is very unlike him though and he will be desperate to take his chance if he comes off the bench this evening. I'll be happy to shake his hand but I hope I am the player offering commiserations.

The Newcastle Journal

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