There are a lot of footballers whose arrogance exceeds their football ability, making them universally disliked. But when the quality is there, football fans love them. They will often do something that will wow the fans and be hated by the opposition, but it will most certainly never be forgotten. Cuauhtemoc Blanco is one of those players who made sure his name would never be unknown, for reasons both on and off the pitch.
Blanco spent the largest part of his career in America, Mexico’s most successful club based in the capital. He made his professional debut for the team in 1992, when he was 19 years old. He was brought to America thanks to the club’s scout Angel Gonzalez who saw him score two goals in the cup final for his local team. When he first came to America, Blanco was played as a central defender, something he didn’t enjoy – he even thought about quitting. But he continued playing, and it paid off once he was moved to the deep-lying forward role that made him famous.
He left America for Chicago Fire in 2007. During those 15 years at America, he spent some time on loan in other Mexican clubs (Necaxa, Veracruz) and in Spain’s Real Valladolid, but managed to make 333 appearances for the club, scoring 125 goals. He also won the Mexican Primera Division title in 2005 and CONCACAF Champions’ Cup the following year. He spent three years in the MLS, becoming the second best paid player in the league, after David Beckham.
He made his debut for the Mexican national team in 1995 and went on to play for them for the next 20 years, securing a total of 120 appearances. He is third on the list of top goalscorers for the country with 39 goals, behind only Chicharito Hernandez and Jared Borgetti.
Mexico won the Confederations Cup in 1999, with Blanco being their best player – he tied with Ronaldinho and Marzouq Al-Otaibi as the best goalscorer with six goals. He also shares the all-time top goalscorer spot with Ronaldinho, with both having scored nine goals in the competition.
He was part of the squad that won the Gold Cup in 1996 and 1998. He played for Mexico in three World Cups – France 1998, South Korea-Japan 2002 and South Africa 2010 and became the first Mexican player to score at least one goal in three World Cups. Although he announced his retirement in 2008, he continued playing and only officially retired in 2014, after a 3:0 win against Israel. He played his last professional match on 21 April of this year in the Copa MX final for Puebla FC and won.
He spent most of his career playing as a deep-lying forward (the “number 10”). He was lauded for his passing ability and vision. He would often make unconventional passes – for example, he would let the ball bounce off his back in such a way that it would end up in his teammate’s possession. He also had a great eye for goals – he won the Golden Boot in winter 1998 (the invierno part of the season) with 16 goals. He is also considered one of the best penalty-takers of all time, having missed just two out of the 58 he took.
Blanco had great dribbling abilities, and was not afraid to maneuver his way out of trouble using his skills. His most famous dribble, the Cuauhteminha, or the “Blanco hop”, as some call it, is something that he turned into his trademark move. He would usually do it when he was closed down by two or more players. The Mexican would put the ball between his feet, pick it up with the inner side of the boots and steer it away from opposition players with a hop, thus getting out of danger.
Blanco was brought up in poverty, and learned his trade in the local fields with his friends. There is a story about Blanco not being able to afford the bus ticket together with German Villa, his teammate and lifelong friend. They would go to the bus driver and ask if he would let them earn the money for the ticket by singing on the bus. Sometimes, they did so well that they earned a little extra with which they could buy food afterwards. His ambition when he started playing football professionally was to earn enough money and then retire. At the start of his career in America, he played matches at the local marketplace so that he could earn more money, despite risking injuries. Once he achieved his goal of earning enough money, his love for the game made him play on.
Cuauhtemoc Blanco is also known for the many controversies he took part in (with him usually being the one to provoke them). In matches where he had a point to prove (and that happened all too often) he would use his goal celebrations to express his feelings and taunt the opposition. The most famous one, perhaps, was ‘the perrito’ (‘little dog’ in Spanish), where he impersonated a dog after scoring a penalty. Before he scored the goal, he told the goalkeeper: “Pray to God that I don´t score a goal because I´m going to leave a stain on you.”
He was also not afraid to express his feelings publicly, which would often have him end up with a fine. Here are some of his best:
• “I just want you guys to tell him (Chivas defender Noe Zarate) that I am the best player in Mexico. It is that simple. I don’t like to talk, I will humiliate them on the pitch, like I humiliated Hector Lopez, I will do it in the Clasico.”
• “I have known Rafael (Marquez) for a long time and he does not have that capacity to talk to the players. He talks on the pitch but he is lacking something more, you know, some balls. He needs to be more ruthless in the locker room.”
• To lineswoman Virginia Tovar, he yelled “Go back to washing dishes bi*ch.”
• “David Oteo? He is a nobody that carried the suitcases for Suarez and Campos,” said Blanco of the former defender.
• “I dragged him around like what he is, a cat. I left him like a dog, I like showing what I am on the pitch and not talking about it.”, Blanco said about Hector Lopez with whom he had a rivalry.
• “I hope that the selection comes back home with the cup in their hands or something might happen to La Volpe and his family.”, said he about Mexico’s coach Ricardo La Volpe, who didn’t take Blanco on World Cup 2006.
He also leads a very lustful personal life, usually ending up in controversy in which he cheats on his celebrity girlfriend with his celebrity lover.
Despite all the controversy, 42-year-old Blanco, two months after finishing his football career, ran to be the mayor of Cuernavaca with the Social Democrat Party in June this year and won.