x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Forlan should feel the love of Milan

Criticised by the Atletico coach, the usually affable Uruguay striker will be hoping for a warm welcome at Inter.

Diego Forlan has got along with everyone but it has not been so with Quique Sanchez Flores at Atleti.
Diego Forlan has got along with everyone but it has not been so with Quique Sanchez Flores at Atleti.

"Muy complicado" is how one of Diego Forlan's former coaches at Atletico Madrid described the striker, walking away from the question. "Very complicated" just doesn't fit with Forlan's public image.

He is usually seen as the player who always has a smile, the man who remembers his friends, and has the right outlook on life.

He had kept contact with the disabled branch of the Manchester United supporters' club long after leaving Old Trafford for Villarreal in 2005.

His famed profligacy at Old Trafford of just 10 goals in 62 games had reduced his value to almost nothing, which allowed Villarreal to give him a pay rise of £10,000 (Dh58,600) per week when they signed him in 2005.

Forlan justified Villarreal's faith in the policy of catching still youthful falling stars. He was Spain's top scorer and winner of the European golden boot in his first season. Forlan's glorious partnership with Juan Roman Riquelme at Villarreal illustrated that he was more of a team player than a self-centred striker like Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Despite competition from Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain - plus a clutch of top strikers around Europe - Forlan repeated the feat four years later with 32 league goals.

By that time he had moved to Atletico Madrid in a 2007 transfer worth €21 million (Dh106.5m). Atletico fans had feared that no one could replace Fernando Torres.

Forlan proved a more-than-acceptable alternative.

The Uruguayan, whose father had played in two World Cup finals for his country, netted fewer goals the following season, 2009/10, but 2010 was unquestionably his best year in football. Seven European goals, including an extra-time winner against Fulham in the final, helped Atletico win the Europa League.

Atletico also won the Uefa Super Cup, and Forlan's year got better as he picked up the Golden Ball for being the best player at last summer's World Cup finals; his five goals helped Uruguay exceed expectations and reach the semi-finals. Forlan also became Uruguay's most-capped player.

Forlan got along famously with Sir Alex Ferguson, but his relationship with Quique Sanchez-Flores would undermine a 2010/11 season which promised much for Atletico but delivered nothing. At the start of the season, Forlan said: "We've got a good side, the best I've played in Spain."

By the end he was being linked with a move away from Madrid. Just 10 goals last season left him well behind his 27-goal striker partner Kun Aguero. At age 32, was Forlan no longer a top-level striker?

Inter Milan believed he still is, and signed him to replace Samuel Eto'o before the close of the transfer window, but a war of words continues between Forlan and Atletico, with Forlan criticising Sanchez-Flores' techniques.

Flores, who is no longer in charge at Atletico, hit back this week and said: "I have always been exacting with footballers. I always ask for the best performance, attitude and availability form my players. Perhaps Forlan had not found himself in this situation before."

It was a dig at Forlan's attitude and professionalism which does not tally with the wider perception of the player. Strikers thrive on the confidence that they are loved; hopefully Forlan will find Milan more welcoming than his last season in Madrid.




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