In recent times, Argentina has become a country known for producing top class strikers and midfielders, but there has been a scarcity of great defenders. Roberto Ayala has certainly been the exception.
After starting his career at Ferro Oeste, Ayala enjoyed a great career in Europe, playing mainly for AC Milan and Valencia. While there he won a total of three league titles, a UEFA Cup, and a UEFA Super Cup.
After 15 years away from home, El Raton, as he is known in Argentina, terminated his contract with Real Zaragoza. In January 2010, Ayala, now 36 left the place where he had been captain to return to the Primera A.
A number of big clubs were after his signature, but surprisingly it was Racing Club of Avellaneda who won the lottery, allowing the fans to dream of glory after so many years of losing.
The Ayala that arrived, however, was not the one people remembered from his time with the Argentinian National Team. In his debut, Racing lost 4-2 to Arsenal, with Ayala playing one of the worst games of his career. As the season went along, things did not get much better and Ayala was primarily used a substitute, starting just seven of the 19 games in the Clausura.
While the Apertura has been a very successful campaign for Racing thus far, Ayala has mainly been a spectator. But on Friday night, he made his second start of the tournament, playing the full 90 minutes and helping La Academia keep a clean sheet in a 2-0 victory.
It was a vintage Ayala performance, as he organized at the back and won almost everything in the air. Although mainly used as a sub, El Raton is a reference point for the young players in the team. Regardless, he is unhappy with his lack of playing time.
At the end of December, his contract expires, and although he is finally beginning to show his old form, there is a chance Ayala could move on to find continuity. But the question is, where?
The other big clubs are all well stocked in defense, while his first club, Ferro, is in the second division and it is unlikely the ex-Milan man will want to play in the lower leagues.
It may be that Ayala continues at Racing, even if first team action is not coming as much as he would like. He is making progress as he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the game in Argentina after so many years in Spain, and who is to say he couldn’t make the starting position his own? His history argues he definitely could.