Ramón Maddoni is a legend among talent scouts. Responsible for discovering more than 100 stars – including Juan Román Riquelme, Carlos Tevez and Fernando Redondo – the 77-year-old is still searching for the next fenomeno.
He likes to recite the list of his “finds” – a long string of names familiar to fans of the game the world over: Carlos Tevez, Juan Román Riquelme, Fernando Redondo and Esteban Cambiasso are among the more than 100 stars that he has discovered and set on the path of international stardom.
Shouts go up as someone scores a goal on the concrete court. The scout smiles, and stops his reverie to point something out about one of the young players. “You saw that other guy, the little blonde fella? He’s got something. But we have to explain to him how to stand back and play faster.”
Maddoni proudly describes his club as “a seedbed that never runs out. But still, even the most gifted have to learn.”
With thick-framed reading glasses that emphasise his eyes, his gray hair combed straight back, Maddoni has been an ever present figure on the sidelines of the Parque and Boca Juniors childrens’ division teams for the past 24 years. He says he was hired in person by the club’s then-president, Mauricio Macri, now the nation’s president.
Parque is his home, where he is greeted each day like one of the football Gods he has created. Arms reach out to enfold him in a brotherly hug every step of the way into the club complex.
He pauses on the side of the concrete court, where the little long-haired boy with the orange shirt dribbles past three other boys in green shirts and thumps the ball into the net.
Maddoni admits he gets a kick out of watching how the raw talent he discovers can eventually be sold for stratospheric transfer fees.
“I saw [former Barcelona and Villareal star Juan Román] Riquelme at the age of eight. I went to Fuerte Apache for Tevez. The transfer cost 20,000 pesos (US$900)!”
Former Manchester United and Juventus star Tevez has cost a total of US$97 million in transfer fees in his career, and a oneyear stint with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua reportedly made him the world’s highestpaid player on a reported weekly salary of US$899,000.