Carlos Valderrama (footballer)

Carlos Alberto Valderrama Palacio (born september 2, 1961 in Santa Marta, Colombia) is a former Colombian footballer. He was instantly recognisable for the mass of blond, permed hair that he habitually sported. Between 1985 and 1998 he represented Colombia in 111 full internationals, making him the most capped player in the country's history. He is generally regarded as Colombia's finest ever player.

Nicknamed El Pibe ("The kid"), Valderrama was a unique footballer in a changing game that increasingly relied on physical strength, speed and athleticism; his astonishing close control and astute passing skills more than making up for a lack of pace and physical presence. In some ways he was a throwback to a bygone era; never flustered and rarely breaking into a run he nonetheless managed to dictate entire matches with his sharp footballing brain and ability to control the ball instantly and effortlessly and dispatch it to a teammate before opposing players could close him down. Valderrama captained Colombia during the 1990, 1994, and 1998 World Cups, before announcing his international retirement after the 1998 competition having received 111 caps and scored 11 times.


He won the Colombian championship with Atlético Junior in 1993 and 1995. One example of excellent field vision was in the 1990 World Cup in Italy. In the game against Germany, Valderrama passed the ball to Freddy Rincon who was open for a pass. Rincon then scored through the legs of German goalkeeper Bodo Illgner. This goal tied the match at 1-1 and sent Colombia to the second round of the World Cup for the first time in its history and the only team Germany could not beat on their way to the championship.

He began his career at Unión Magdalena of the Colombian First Division in 1981. He also played for Millonarios and Deportivo Cali before joining Montpellier of the French First Division in 1988. to play for Independiente Medellín and Atlético Junior from 1993-96 before going to the US in 1996 to play for the Tampa Bay Mutiny (1996-97, 2000-01), Miami Fusion (1998-99), and Colorado Rapids (2001-02). In Major League Soccer, Valderrama scored relatively few goals (16) for a midfielder, but is the league's all-time leader in assists (114). In 2005, he was named to the MLS All-Time Best XI. He was also named one of the top players of the 20th century by Pelé in 1999.

Retirement as player

In February 2004, Valderrama ended his 22-year career in a tribute match at the Metropolitan stadium of Barranquilla, with some of the most important football players of South America, such as Diego Maradona, Enzo Francescoli and José Luis Chilavert.

Valderama has since become assistant manager of Atlético Junior. On November 1 2007, Valderrama accused a referee of corruption by waving cash in the face of Oscar Julian Ruiz when the official awarded a penalty to América de Cali. Atlético lost the match 3-1, which ended the club's hopes of playoff qualification.

Personal life

He is married and has three children. Valderrama was the only Colombian to feature in FIFA's 125 Top Living Football Players list in March 2004.

Professional honours

  • South American Footballer of the Year (1987, 1993)
  • French Cup winner (1990)
  • Colombian Championship winner with Junior Barranquilla (1993, 1995)
  • MLS Supporters' Shield (1996)
  • MLS Player of the Year (1996)
  • MLS All-time leader in assists
  • MLS All-star game MVP
  • Member of the FIFA Century Club

Other recognition

Valderrama appeared on the cover of Nintendo 64 and Konami game International Superstar Soccer '98, as well as in the PlayStation conversion. In the N64 game, the player based on him is the only one whose name is not similar to the real-life counterpart; instead, he is called "El Pibe". He was also in the computer game "Backyard Soccer 2001".

In 2006 a 22-foot tall bronze statue of Valderrama was placed by the Eduardo Santos stadium in his hometown Santa Marta, created by Colombian artist Amilkar Ariza.


|- |1981||rowspan="3"|Unión Magdalena|||||||||||||| |- |1982|||||||||||||| |- |1983|||||||||||||| |- |1984||Millonarios|||||||||||||| |- |1985||rowspan="3"|Deportivo Cali|||||||||||||| |- |1986|||||||||||||| |- |1987|||||||||||||| |- |1988-89||rowspan="3"|Montpellier||rowspan="3"|Division 1||24||1|||||||| |- |1989-90||18||1|||||||| |- |1990-91||35||2|||||||| |- |1990-91||Real Valladolid||La Liga||17||1|||||||| |- |1992||Independiente Medellín|||||||||||||| |- |1993||rowspan="3"|Atlético Junior||||35||4|||||||| |- |1994||||18||1|||||||| |- |1995||||29||0|||||||| |- |1996||rowspan="2"|Tampa Bay Mutiny||rowspan="2"|Major League Soccer||23||4|||||||| |- |1997||20||3|||||||| |- |1998||rowspan="2"|Miami Fusion||rowspan="2"|Major League Soccer||18||2|||||||| |- |1999||4||1|||||||| |- |1999||rowspan="3"|Tampa Bay Mutiny||rowspan="3"|Major League Soccer||27||3|||||||| |- |2000||32||1|||||||| |- |2001||12||1|||||||| |- |2001||rowspan="3"|Colorado Rapids||rowspan="3"|Major League Soccer||12||0|||||||| |- |2002||27||1|||||||| |- |2003||0||0||||||||||||||||||77||4||||||||17||1||||||||175||16|||||||||||||||||| |}


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