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Life as a Professional

In 1992 at the age of 17 I signed professionally for Sporting Cristal, a big Lima club sponsored by Cristal Brewery. Of course, in joining a big club the competition for places was great and I made only six first team games in my first year. It was at this time that the coaches moved me from central defence to right back. My height had always handicapped me when I played in the centre, and moving to the right also enabled me to get forward more often, I enjoyed this and my game developed well.

Near to the end of the season, I received an offer from Deportivo Municipal. They also played in the first division, however they promised the chance of more regular first team football. I decided to take up their offer of a one year contract, a decision that I was not to regret.

As promised, I saw a lot of first team football and as a result was selected for my full International debut at the age of 18, a fantastic event and the fulfilment of a life-long ambition.

Although my time at Deportivo had been excellent, I knew that to make progress I had to move on - that is why I signed such a short contract with them. At the end of 1993, Sporting Cristal came back in for me. This was an opportunity to both measure my progress and develop further in a more competitive environment. Not only would competition for places be more intense, but Cristal also offered the chance for involvement in the Copa Libertadores (the South American Champions League). My hopes were realised, returning to Sporting Cristal proved to be a good decision. I was playing left-back and, unlike my first time at Cristal, I was a regular in the team.

In Peru our football season runs from February to December, we won the Peruvian Championship in 1994, 1995, and 1996, and played in the Copa Libertadores in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997. Up to 1996 we did OK, but in 1997 we made it all the way to the Final. This was a great achievement as we were playing against the best Argentinian and Brazilian sides. We lost 1-0 to Cruzeiros (from Brazil), but it is still a memory that will never be forgotten.

The Copa Libertadores also raised the profile of Sporting Cristal and obviously that also helped me. In 1997 and at the age of 22, Boca Juniors came in for me. My ambition had always been to play in Europe, but Boca are a massive club in their own rights, and it was impossible to turn down the opportunity to play with Maradona and Caniggia.

I found the football different to Peru, there was a definite step up in quality, and I also found that the pressure from fans and the media was also more intense. Luckily for me, I felt that I adapted well to the new challenges of Argentinian football.

Maradona left the club after about four or five months of my arrival. The season ended in disappointment, the manager was sacked half way through the season, and we only managed to come second in the league - a position that is unacceptable for Boca.

Signing my first European contract!
Maradona and Caniggia my Boca days

I had been happy with my performances, and had enjoyed and benefited from the experience of playing in Argentina. However, my ambition to play in Europe was still unfulfilled. The profile of the Premiership had risen during the mid '90's, and out of all of the leagues in the world, it was probably the place to be. My agent received interest from both Arsenal and Newcastle, and both these sides were very attractive for me.

Whilst Arsenal took their time in negotiations, Kenny Dalglish and Newcastle made a firm offer. My mind was made up, I had seen a great deal of Newcastle on TV as the profile of the club had increased substantially in South America when Tino Asprilla had moved to St.James Park. I knew that the fans were very passionate and the club had finished second in the Championship twice, and then played in the Champions League.

Signing my first European contract!
Signing for Newcastle at St.James Park

In 1998 I fulfilled my ambition to play in Europe and signed for Newcastle. My first impressions were good, life in general is very different to South America, but I was enjoying it. The Premiership grounds are fantastic, so many clubs have excellent stadiums, and of course, I'm playing for the best supporters in England. The major difference between England and South America is that the supporters let you live over here. When we had a bad result in Peru or Argentina, we couldn't leave our homes to relax. We could be abused and threatened if we were seen in public. In Newcastle we are free to go out and the people are much more understanding. I go to the bar and people will insist on buying me a drink, they say that they know I have money, but they want to buy me a drink anyway. I must win something for the fans, and I cannot be happy until we do so.

Two months after signing for Kenny Dalglish, he was replaced by Ruud Gullit (I talk some more about my managers in a different section of the site). The change didn't affect my game very much, we normally played 4-4-2, although sometimes switched to 5-3-2. The club wasn't performing as well as we'd wanted, although we did have the F.A. Cup, which ended in a poor defeat at Wembley.

When Gullit left the following season, his replacement lifted the spirit of the club. Bobby Robson got the club together again, we climbed from bottom of the league to mid-table and hoped that we'd improve again in the following season. This didn't happen, I blame bad luck as we suffered more than our fair share of injuries. It was reassuring to know that, given a full squad, we were capable of playing very well. We got up to the top six around Christmas and fell away again when we lost crucial players.

Nolberto playing the Congas!

The 2002/03 season went very well, we didn't win any trophies, but qualification for the Champions League was a massive reward. The Champions League experience was fantastic for the club and the fans, and the financial bonus enabled us to buy Jonathan Woodgate – a vital signing In my opinion. Last year we continued to improve and in finishing third we again qualify for Europe’s elite competition.

On a personal level, I'm very happy here and have to say that in my years at the club, things have never looked better for Newcastle. I have been linked with a number of clubs during my years at Newcastle, and I can’t stop the speculation, but I can say that I’ll always give my best to the club and look forward to winning some silverware at St. James Park.

Outside of football I like to relax with my family and my music. I get on well with all the players and my wife is friends with Nicos Dabizas' wife so we see quite a bit of each other.

I like all types of music but my favourite type is Salsa. I like to play a bit as well, I play the trumpet and hand drums (Congas).There's not too much live Salsa in Newcastle but there's one or two places that have Salsa nights during the week. I'm also friendly with Eddy and the guy's from 'APU', who play Peruvian music around the city. This is the group who sometimes play by the Monument in the centre of town. They're also football fans, so we both respect each other's work!

Nolberto and Claudia
A day at the coast, Whitley Bay some ten miles from Newcastle