A large part of the Argentine football universe will always associate his name with kicks, arguments, anger and cards. However, the race Paul Perez, which in these hours has been extended -at least- until next December after the renewal of his contract, deserves a more exhaustive and less partisan review. Perhaps then it will be clear to the general public that the midfielder has been and continues to be a first-rate footballer (apart from the limits his physique imposes on him today), that he has built an indissoluble bond with the Newell’s fans and that he was a multiple champion with Boca.
After the retirements of Maximiliano Rodríguez and Ignacio Scocco in December last year, Pérez is the last of the three musketeers who made up the last champion team of Newell’s: the one led by Gerardo Martino and winner of the 2013 Final Tournament. since then, injuries have dogged him and he’s unable to play 90 minutes (he hasn’t completed any of the 23 games he’s played this year), but he’s still the most insightful player in the team that Gabriel Heinze has hired and a point of reference for your mates.
The latter condition can be explained by a long journey with the Rossoneri jersey that began in the training divisions and which had its first goal in the First Division on 2 December 2006, when he made his debut in a 2-2 draw with Godoy Cruz. for the penultimate date of that year’s Opening Tournament. On that day, Nery Pumpido included him as a starter in a team that had gone 10 appearances without a win and were second bottom in the table.
In that first cycle it was difficult for him to establish himself and find continuity. That’s why he left for Ecuador in 2009 to play for Emelec, but he didn’t even settle there. He then chose to take a step back: he was transferred in 2010 to Unión, which was a member of First B Nacional. He was a figure of the group directed by Frank Darío Kudelka, who came second in that contest and got the promotion.
With that accolade and more flying time, he’s back at the club he calls home. He earned a starting spot under Javier Torrente’s short tenure, kept it under Diego Cagna, and acquired a starring role in Martino’s side that was not only national champion but also reached the semi-finals of the 2013 Copa Libertadores (lost on penalties to Atlético Mineiro, eventual champions).
So he chose to leave again, as he had done a few years earlier for Ecuador. This time he went to Spain to play in Malaga. In those days the Philadelphia Union of American Major League Soccer was also looking for him. Beyond the economic progress that this transfer has allowed him, the sporting balance has been far from optimal because neither the German Bernd Schuster nor Javi Gracia, his successor, have taken too much account of it.
Then the possibility arose of returning to his homeland to play for Boca. “He IS a sleeping giant who must wake up. Playing for Boca is synonymous with fighting for the championship and this is a challenge that I accepted,” he told Clarín after signing his bail, on loan for 18 months, on December 29, 2014. At the time, the xeneizedirected by Rodolfo Arruabarrena, it hadn’t obtained a title for more than two years.
In his four years at Boca, Pérez was national champion four times: he won the 2015 competition, those of the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, and the 2015 Argentine Cup. He was important in the Arruabarrena team, to the point that the club decided to buy his pass in September 2015, in the first option which provided for the transfer agreed with Málaga (he paid one million dollars). And it was a key piece for Guillermo Barros Schelotto. In total, he played 119 matches, scored 14 goals and wore the captain’s ribbon 17 times.
That fine performance earned him his first call-up to the national team at the age of 32: it was in October 2017, when Jorge Sampaoli called him up for the matches against Peru and Ecuador for the 2018 Russia Qualifiers. Don’t add minutes to those duels. Instead, he did so in March 2018, when he came on for Ever Banega in the second half of what ended up being a 6-1 win against Spain in Madrid. It was his only experience with the albiceleste jacket.
Despite his performance, the memory that some Xeneize fans have of him is not entirely pleasant. In those years of great visibility, the midfielder earned a reputation for being rude and intemperate: he was booked 57 times and sent off another four. Three of them, for double yellow; the fourth (and most remembered), in a Superclásico against River at La Bombonera due to a kick in the abdomen by Colombian Eder Álvarez Balanta when only 11 minutes had been played. In his first two stints at Newell’s, he had seen red light only once in 135 games.
Not only in the parties was his verbiage exposed. In May 2017, the midfielder was kicked out of training by Gustavo Barros Schelotto (he was responsible for the job) after he kicked Tomás Fernández during a football test against a youth team. “It was normal football. He made me out to be a grumpy old man, because the kid broke it and I could never stop him. There have been multiple infractions, as in every practice, and in all of them we have apologised. But in that last one I was tired, I drowned and that happened ”, he justified himself.
Almost a year later, in April 2018, he was once again in the eye of the storm. Rosario’s man had been one of those targeted by fans after the defeat by River in the Argentine Super Cup final. Three weeks after that setback, he scored the decisive goal in time in a 2-1 win over Talleres at La Bombonera and in the exultation he fired into the lower crowd. “Fuck, fuck, his mother’s shell,” he yelled.
“It was one of my worst games, and we were coming from the days of giving us sticks and sticks. That’s why I ended up exploding. But what I did is not justified. My insult was shameful” he acknowledged. And he clarified: “I was angry with one fan, not with everyone. He had already insulted me at half-time and in goal, after difficult weeks, I exploded.
Another match against River will mark the end of his story at Boca: the unforgettable 2018 Copa Libertadores final. He was one of the players injured by the attack on the bus before the frustrated match at the Monumental (he had to be taken by ambulance to the sanatorium of Otamendi for a wound to the left eye). And he bore much of the brunt of the defeat in Madrid. That was his last game at the club.
In January 2019 he moved to Independiente, who had already sought him out in mid-2016 (Barros Schelotto had asked him to stay). The coach of Red It was Ariel Holan, with whom he had acted in public counterpoint the previous year, after DT questioned whether Boca, already champions, would do their best in a match against Huracán, with which the team of Avellaneda was in contention for a place in the Coppa Sudamericana standings. “Anyone who was a footballer knows that we always go out to win. Maybe in hockey they don’t feel it. Those people have to shut their mouths,” the player had snapped at him.
Pérez and Holan signed the peace. But the coach did not last long in his position. He was replaced by Sebastián Beccacece, with whom the midfielder had a good relationship. That didn’t stop the long-haired coach from deciding to drop him from the squad two weeks after a tantrum from Rosario in the Libertadores de América dressing room during half-time of a match for Lanús. That fever led him to scold several colleagues and break a blackboard.
“Pablo is a very nice nut and sometimes he doesn’t control his impulses. I have an amazing relationship with him; of affection But he was wrong and I have to lower a line and indicate the values to the squad ”, explained the dt.
After those two penalties, Pérez played again, even though his period was running out of time. “Obviously I will be retiring from Newell’s. It was the club that gave me the opportunity to grow, to be a professional footballer; He educated me in many ways. I hope to be able to return to give some of that back. It will happen at some point,” he enthused in October 2019.
In February 2020, he was released by Independiente, which did not suit him very much. “With the previous coach (Beccacece) he had had a problem and there was wear and tear. He hurt himself a bit, but he understood that the team had done better in the last match, playing in a way that he hadn’t played, and he understood that he didn’t fit into the scheme of the new technical director (Lucas Pusineri) ”, he said justified Vice President Pablo Moyano.
That sour outing was the step before his return to Newell’s after six years. “Hello champion. We’ve been waiting for you”, reads the message that the club published on its social media accounts on February 6, 2020 to welcome him. As the number eight was used by Braian Rivero, he chose number 26 for his shirt, the same number he had worn in his first First Division match in 2006. Of course: before his debut he had to meet a ban date which he had to for being sent off in his last match in Independiente against Boca.
Back home, he joined the group of references that then made up the leper colony: Maximum Rodriguez, Nacho Scocco, Fernando Belluschi, Mauro Formica. Since they left, it has remained the undisputed symbol. In recent months he has come to terms with injuries that prevented him from playing 90 minutes straight and sidelined him for several games. Despite these hardships, he continued to show touches of his class. As in a match against Godoy Cruz, last August, in which he scored an anthology goal.
He also showed off his temper, so no one would forget who he is. In a closed-door classic with Central in May last year, she stomped and hit a drone flying over the Gigante de Arroyito playing field with a rogue flag. After that episode, the Carpincho Games company developed an online game called Pobla Peres versus Drone Invadersin which the Newell’s midfielder had to destroy the drones with balls trying to avoid the yellow cards that fell from the device.
Soon after another classic, which Central won 1-0 with a goal from youngster Alejo Véliz last July, Pérez said he was considering hanging up his boots. “If I had won, I swear I would retire in December. Now that I’ve lost, I’ll continue. I felt good physically. I thought I’d come with just enough and the truth is that I felt very good “he said after that setback.
However, since then he has suffered a sprained knee and has had to go through a very painful moment: the death of his father on 22 September. He reappeared in the 1-0 win against Unión in Santa Fe: “Playing has done me good to ease my anguish a little,” he said.
Retirement seemed close, again. But he has finally made the decision to sign in the last few hours and will have the pleasure of playing internationally, qualifying for the Copa Sudamericana.