Returning Players: Roque Santa Cruz

Welcome to Last Word on Football’s ‘Returning Players’ series. In this edition, we take a look at Roque Santa Cruz.

Roque Santa Cruz turned out for Blackburn Rovers from 2007 to 2009 and made a return to the club on a six-month loan spell in 2011.

Returning Players – Roque Santa Cruz

First Spell at Blackburn Rovers

Roque Santa Cruz arrived at Ewood Park with pedigree. His 54 goals in 238 appearances for German giants Bayern Münich saw Blackburn Rovers pay £3.5 million for his services. The Paraguayan striker arrived with the prestige of being a Champions League winner. Also, he became a five-time Bundesliga champion and a four-time German Cup winner during eight trophy-laden seasons in Bavaria.

His first spell proved to be a hit with the Rovers supporters, who took to him instantly. He made an immediate impact on his debut – scoring just three minutes after coming off the bench to help his side to a 2-1 away win at Middlesbrough.

His first season was to be his most prolific in European football, with 19 goals alone during the 2007/08 Premier League season. His exploits would rank him fourth in the top goalscorers chart and helped Blackburn finish seventh. Santa Cruz’s reward was to be voted as the clubs’ Player of the Season. But the following season he couldn’t live up to expectation and scored just four goals. Much of this was due to transfer speculation which ultimately came to pass.

However, in the two seasons he played for the club, he scored a respectable 29 goals in 70 games.

Teams That Roque Santa Cruz Played for in Between

A six-month pursuit by Manchester City for Santa Cruz ended when City paid £17.5 million. His move reunited him with his former manager Mark Hughes. It was a move that looked a good fit on paper, yet his transfer failed to ignite and the Paraguayan netted just four times in his first season.

Meanwhile, he would only score once in the first half of the 2011/12 season. By this time, his manager was Roberto Mancini and the striker didn’t figure in his plans.

Return to Rovers for Roque Santa Cruz

As he was frozen out at Manchester City, it was Rovers who came calling for their former idol. And the striker jumped at the chance to return to a place he had that sparkling first season. Santa Cruz stated upon his return: “Blackburn have always treated me well and that’s the reason that it’s very easy for me to go back.

“I have built a friendship with all of the players and I saw a lot of the guys during my time with City. I’m very pleased that everything has worked this way.”

But his loan spell for the rest of the season only yielded ten appearances while he failed to score. Blackburn would finish the season in 15th position under the stewardship of Steve Kean, who replaced Sam Allardyce during the early part of the season. His spell in England very much petered out after a start that promised so much.

Santa Cruz Moves to Spain

For the next three seasons, Sants Cruz plied his trade over Spanish shores with Real Betis and Málaga. There, he would find his goalscoring boots once again with seven, 12 and 11 goals scored between 2011 and 2014. After a spell with Cruz Azul in Mexico, the striker made a return to Málaga for the 2015/16 season. But his below-par performances left him with only three goals to his name.

Olimpia Odyssey

In 2016, Santa Cruz made another return to a former club when he headed back to his homeland, and his first club of Club Olimpia. At 39-years-old he is still in fine form, having scored 74 goals in 173 games since his return.

In his first tenure, Santa Cruz netted 19 goals in 35 games for the Primera Division side before he moved to Munich.

Santa The Centurion

Roque Santa Cruz is one of Paraguay’s most famous exports. He is a fabled figure in his native country for his international achievements. His 112 caps for his country acknowledge that. Meanwhile, his 32 goals have helped his country to feats such as the 2011 Copa America final in Argentina, although he didn’t feature in the final as his country lost 3-0 to winners Uruguay.

Main Photo

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