Coupled with arch-rivals Universidad de Chile’s 3-0 Clásico Universitario triumph over Universidad Católica earlier that same day, Los Albos opened up a seven point gap.
Even after the first few rounds of the 2013/2014 Clausura Colo Colo looked champions-in-waiting. Under the youthful management of Héctor Tapia, himself a former Colo Colo player, the team are well on course to end their five-year trophy drought. A bigger article will follow on El Cacique looking at the way Tapia has transformed the team and the reasons behind their excellent form, having won 10 And drawn two of their first 12 games.
However, one of the key aspects of the turnaround has been the club’s shrewd transfer dealings after copious wasted transfer windows. One of the benefits of being arguably the biggest and most popular club in Chile is that more players who venture to Europe or elsewhere in the Americas are Colo Colo fans and have ‘dreamt’ of playing for El Popular.
Los Albos added three key players to three key positions to make up the spine of the squad and help them on their way to that much-vaunted 30th title.
El Cacique have not done too well buying players who have starred for so called ‘lesser’ sides in recent transfer windows, but in the 29-year-old centre back they have pulled off a shrewd purchase.
He moved between clubs in his native Argentina regularly before settling in Chile with Ñublense and then O’Higgins where he played a key role in the Rancagua club’s first ever top-flight title. O’Higgins, under Eduardo Berizzo, attack wisely but their strength lies in their defence. And Barroso formed a what seemed impenetrable partnership with the veteran Argentine Mariano Uglessich. Only 13 goals were conceded in 18 games on their way to lifting the trophy at the Estadio Nacional in December.
He has continued where he left off at the Estadio Monumental. Behind O’Higgins’ ridiculous defensive record of having only given up six goals in 12 games, Colo Colo have the joint-second best defence with 13 goals conceded in the same number of games. Although it is fair to say El Popular are more expansive than Berizzo’s side.
Throughout world football you note central defenders for one or two key strengths: their reading of the game, their aerial ability, their pace in a high line, their solidity in a deep line or their ability on the ball.
However, with Barroso there is no real quality which stands out above another. Words such as dependable and solid suit him best. He does not lose many aerial battles and he is very rarely caught out of position, leaving his fellow defenders and goalkeeper Justo Villar exposed.
The effect Barroso’s presence has had can be seen in his partner Christian Vilches. This was a player who had some horror shows in the white top. Although he was not helped by rarely having a settled partner beside him as the team, under previous management, fluctuated between three and four-man defences. Earlier this week he had a press conference when Emiliano Vecchio walked past and, well, ‘recommended’ Jorge Sampaoli call him up.
When Barroso joined Colo Colo he said he “came here to be a champion”, and barely five months into his time in Santiago he is about to have his wish granted.
In recent transfer windows, following the success of Universidad de Chile and the national side which drew more attention to the domestic league, a number of high quality talents left for pastures new. The most recent being Charles Aránguiz and Nicolas Castillo to Internacional of Brazil and Club Brugge of Belgium respectively. The signing of Valdés meant there was a bit of star dust coming back into the league – the signing not only a boost for Colo Colo but the league as well.
Valdés had only been involved sporadically with Parma this season, but last season he was an important figure for I Giallobu, playing 29 times in Serie A – 28 of which were starts. But after only starting five times for Parma prior to his move to Macul, Valdés wasted no time in ridding himself of any lingering rust and dictating the play with his precise and intelligent passing.
More of a number 10 in Italy, Valdés’ influence has been used in a deeper role for Colo Colo. He is often the link between defence and attack. He has the physical and mobile Esteban Pavez beside him to allow him to get on the ball set the team’s tempo – akin to the role Marcelo Díaz played for La U, although with not as much defensive responsibility.
He is adept at combining with team mates, passing long and short and, despite being 33, driving forward with the ball, using his ingenuity and low centre of gravity to protect the ball.
He has admitted that he has not been at his best recently, but even still he is a joy to watch. And he has brought the best out of Emiliano Vecchio. There is someone capable of supporting the mercurial playmaker and getting him in possession of the ball in dangerous areas with quick forward passes.
He can provide assists but is more often found making the pass before an assists – as seen at the weekend for Felipe Flores’ opener against O’Higgins. Valdés also offers a goal threat from deep with three goals from 10 starts, including a brace against Unión Española, one of which was a ferocious hit from the edge of the area.
You’ll be hard pressed to find a better performer so far this season.
The icing on the cake for most Colo Colo fans. Tapia was eager for a striker and, as always, there were numerous players linked to fill the role, including Fabian Orellana, but it was the prodigal son who would return for his second spell at the club.
Having been part of the team which won the last title in 2009 and after leaving under a cloud he was welcomed back with open arms by fans who wished he had never left for Mexican side Atlante.
The effect he had on the atmosphere at the club was immediate. Shirts bearing his name flew off the shelves, while more than 34,000 attended his first game – a 1-1 draw with Antofagasta. The club’s previous home fixture against Audax Italiano 11 days previously attracted under 18,500.
He may not have notched against the Pumas but it didn’t take him long to get off the mark, scoring against Deportes Iquique in the following game before hitting a triplete against Huachipato as Los Albos scored five in consecutive games. And there has been no letting up with 10 goals in 10 games making him the Clausura’s second top goalscorer.
At 33, Paredes does not rely on lightning speed or his agility in the air. He is a perceptive and resourceful striker. It is his intelligence in and around the box which marks him out. But to label him a mere goal scorer would be doing the Chilean internationalist a grave injustice. He is the lone striker and he involves himself in most attacks. His movement is that of a player who has played at a high level for more than a decade. He can drop off the front line, collect the ball into feet and link-up with the wide forwards, Vecchio and Valdes.
But he comes alive in the box and he is helped by a sublime first touch which allows him to set himself for a shot before the defender can settle into a position which would make it difficult for the hitman to score. He peels off strikers, brings the ball under instant control using the softest of touches and then, more often than not, finds the back of the net.
When faced with structured opponents his skill can create the required space to fire in a shot or play in a team mate. The shuffle of hips and feints are his trademarks when standing up a defender.
Along with Barroso and Valdés he has added know-how, and such is the prestige in which he is held he immediately took the captain’s armband with club captain Luis Mena often on the bench in his advancing years.
All we can do now is wait for the inevitable to happen and Colo Colo to lift their 30th league title.