Throughout the years, several South American midfielders have gone on to thrive in Europe, and while Esteban Cambiasso grew to become one of the best in his position, it was not always so easy for him.
While Cambiasso started his career with Argentinos Juniors in 1995, he eventually moved to Real Madrid with his brother Nicolas Cambiasso in 1996, where he featured for the club’s second-team.
He did not get any chances in the first-team, leading to him moving back to Argentina, joining Independiente, where he established himself as a key player in the team, even being called up to Argentina’s senior national team for the first time in 2000.
His performances enticed Argentina giants Boca Juniors to sign him up, and he spent a year with them, as they won the 2002 Clausura Torneo in the Argentine Primera Division.
Eventually, Real Madrid opted to give him another chance and with some experience under his belt, he spent two seasons with the Spanish club, forming part of the sides that won La Liga in 2002/03, the Supercopa de Espana in 2003 and also the UEFA Super Cup and Intercontinental Cup in 2002.
However, similar to what Arjen Robben claimed, the politics at Real Madrid was a big issue, with Cambiasso telling Spanish news outlet Marca that “Already in the first team, the politics of the moment meant that most of the side was made up of academy players and galacticos, and I wasn’t either of those.”
“There was no continuity for my characteristics, and I drew more attention being absent from the starting line-up than being present.”
Cambiasso was let go in 2004, and he was quickly snapped up by Inter on a free transfer, and he featured regularly in midfield alongside fellow Argentine Juan Sebastian Veron, becoming one of the Serie A’s standout players as Inter won the Coppa Italia.
This would prove to be the start of a fantastic legacy at the Italian club.
Cambiasso formed part of an Inter squad that was heavily based on Argentines, with Javier Zanetti captaining the side, and the likes of Walter Samuel, Veron, Julio Cruz and others in the team.
He stamped his authority in the team, becoming one of the players that was simply impossible to drop, as Inter went on to dominate domestically, winning five Serie A titles, four more Coppa Italia titles after the one in 2004/05, and also four Supercoppa Italiana titles.
However, possibly his greatest moment came in 2009/10, when a team managed by Jose Mourinho became the first Italian side to win the continental treble, and only the sixth club in Europe to do so, as they won the Serie A, Coppa Italia and the UEFA Champions League in historic fashion.
Cambiasso played in 47 games in all competitions that season, even playing the full 90 minutes of all of the Champions League knockout games, as a midfield of Cambiasso, Zanetti and a flourishing Wesley Sneijder showcased its quality.
Speaking of the treble-winning season at Inter, Cambiasso said “I was better at Inter in many ways. Knowing that my back was covered with someone like Samuel, I felt confident. To be with Zanetti, who understood me just by looking at me…”
“(We were) a team that relied heavily on itself, from the first to the last minute. In any circumstance, especially if it was unfavourable.”
He also stated that “There were many nationalities in that team, many had been discarded from other clubs, but we were all very close. In Europe we wanted to take a leap and we had a very ambitious coach.”
“We felt invincible even if we were not.”
Cambiasso and fellow teammate Zanetti were controversially not called up to the Argentina squad for the 2010 World Cup by Diego Maradona, and while he was recalled afterwards by the new coach Sergio Batista, Cambiasso eventually retired from international duties in 2011.
The Argentine stayed at Inter until 2014, and when his contract expired, he made a surprise move to Premier League newcomers Leicester City, joining on a one-year deal.
While he impressed in the Premier League, as Leicester narrowly escaped relegation and he was named as the club’s Player of the Year, he eventually rejected a contract extension and decided to leave the club.
Cambiasso then opted to join Olympiacos on a two-year deal, and his experience at the heart of midfield helped them win the Greek Super League in his two seasons there.
Two months after his contract expired, Cambiasso announced his retirement from football, and in 2020 he was named in the Inter Milan Hall of Fame.
What is your best memory of Cambiasso?
Let us know on our socials!