For every Ryan Giggs or a Lionel Messi, who are capable of dribbling past defenders at will and are the poster boys for football fans the world over, there is always someone else, who is just as brilliant, but is barely known outside of the country where they ply their trade.
One such player is the brilliantly nicknamed El Burrito, an Argentine footballer who had the world at his feet but never quite got off the ground.
On 13 July 2013, Ortega brought his 22-year footballing career to an end after winning seven titles while playing for River and also representing Argentina 87 times, whilst playing in three World Cups.
Ariel Ortega - or more commonly known as El Burrito, “the little donkey” - was an attacking midfielder who was revered in his hometown but never quite got the attention his talents merited on the global stage.
Ortega started his career with River Plate in 1991 and was touted as the next Diego Maradona thanks to his penchant for scoring sublime goals with consummate ease. He is still fondly adored by the River Plate faithful for his innate ability to chip the goalkeeper and score a goal from anywhere on the pitch.
After a great start to his career, he headed for Europe and joined Valencia in 1996, where he was relegated in his first full season with the club.
After suffering humiliation in his club career, Ortega went on to represent Argentina in the 1998 World Cup, wearing the coveted No. 10 jersey and playing as the team’s chief playmaker.
And just while everything was seemingly getting better, his career took a turn for the worse, when he was sent off for head-butting Edwin van der Sar in the quarter-finals of the World Cup.
In the aftermath of the World Cup, what followed was an immediate transfer to Italy, to play for Sampdoria and Parma for a year each, before he was forced to return to River Plate again in 2000.
After that, Ortega never quite got going again and was in the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2003, whilst playing for Fenerbahçe, he was banned for four months after failing to return from international duty.
Ortega’s temperament and reputation for drinking too much and training too little adversely affected the fondness with which he is remembered to this day.
And after a 22-year playing career in which he played for some of the best clubs in Argentina, Spain and Italy, he finally hung up his footballing boots and retired officially with a match in his honour at the Monumental stadium in Nuñez, consisting of his former team-mates and his counterparts from Newell’s 2004.
In the process, bringing the curtain down on the career of one of Argentina’s best dribblers and dead-ball specialists - albeit one who never quite hit the heights of his predecessor Maradona or his successor, Lionel Messi.
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