José Manuel Moreno
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Born: Thursday 3 August 1916, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Died: Saturday 26 August 1978, Merlo, Argentina (aged 62)
Position: Inside Forward
Part of the River Plate team that dominated Argentinian football for much of the 1940s, José Manuel Moreno recovered from the disappointment of being rejected by Boca Juniors as a youngster to become one of the most feared players in South American football. As well as his successes in Argentina, he also won league titles in Mexico, Chile and Colombia to become the first player in the world to earn championship medals in four different countries.
Born in Buenos Aires on 3 August 1916, Moreno grew up playing football in the streets around Boca Juniors' stadium. His dreams of playing for the club seemed set to come true when they offered him a trial, but despite scoring two goals in that trial they turned him down, feeling that he was not quite good enough. His father got him a job with sports magazine El Gráfico and for a time he tried to become a professional boxer, but soon got a second chance in football.
When he was 18, Moreno was offered the chance to sign for Boca's great rivals River Plate. Seizing the opportunity to make Boca regret their decision, as he had vowed he would, he signed and made his debut for River on a tour of Brazil in 1934. Most frequently playing as an inside forward, Moreno was gifted with superb technique and was often allowed a free role to express himself on the pitch. He was equally comfortable using either foot and had exceptional dribbling and heading ability.
He scored on his league debut at the start of the 1935 season and won his first league title in 1936, being called into the national team for the first time for a 1-0 win over Uruguay during that summer. In the 1937 season, Moreno scored 32 goals in just 31 games as River retained the title. Although there would then be a wait of four years for the next title, he remained one of the most consistent players in the league. His skills on the ball were matched by his ability on the dancefloor, for which he was renowned in the clubs of Buenos Aires and which he considered to be the best possible training for football.
Moreno was denied the opportunity to play in the World Cup when Argentina withdrew from the qualifying competition for the 1938 tournament in France. but did appear in the South American Championship in Chile in 1941. He scored three goals as Argentina took the title, including both in a vital 2-1 win over Peru. One year later, Argentina tried to defend their title in Uruguay. Moreno scored seven in six games, including five of his team's 12 against Ecuador, to finish as the tournament's joint leading scorer. However, a narrow 1-0 defeat to the hosts left Argentina in second place.
River claimed two more league titles in 1941 and 1942 and Moreno attracted the attention of clubs from all across Latin America. In 1944, with FIFA unable to enforce player registrations so strictly during the Second World War, he made the decision to leave Argentina and join Club España in Mexico. España became champions in 1944-45 and Moreno's style of play earned him the nickname 'El Charro', from the term for a traditional Mexican horseman.
Still under contract to River Plate, he returned after the war and played alongside a young Alfredo Di Stéfano whose goals took the club to yet another league title in 1947. During that second Moreno was hit on the head by a stone thrown from the crowd in a match at Tigre but refused treatment, not wanting to give the spectators the satisfaction of thinking they had hurt him. 1947 also brought a third appearance in the South American Championship and a second success, as he contributed three goals and was named player of the tournament in Argentina's triumph in Ecuador. Of his total of 19 goals in 30 games for Argentina, 13 were scored in the South American Championship.
In 1949 Moreno moved on again, to Universidad Católica in Chile, where in his only season with the club he helped them to win the league. Now well into his 30s, his career took on something of a wandering path as he changed clubs every year. Moreno finally got to play for Boca Juniors in 1950, nearly 20 years after they had rejected him, but stayed for just one season before moving back to Universidad Católica and then on to Defensor in Uruguay in 1952.
After one final return to Argentina for a season with Ferro Carril Oeste, it would be in Colombia that Moreno chose to end his playing career. He joined Independiente Medellín as player-coach and led the team to league titles in 1955 and 1957, completing his unprecedented record of titles in four countries. After retiring, he managed the Argentinian national team for five games in 1959, before retracing as a coach many of the steps from his playing career.
Moreno coached former clubs Universidad Católica and Boca Juniors, as well as a later return to Independiente Medellín where he made a handful of emergency appearances as a player, the last when he was 44 years old. His final appearance was in a friendly against Boca, where despite a 5-2 defeat he scored both of Independiente's goals. He later also coached Colo Colo in Chile and Huracán and All Boys back in Argentina.
After the end of his coaching career Moreno, who was married to an actress, appeared in several films. He retired to the town of Merlo and even coached local team Deportivo Merlo for a short time, before his death from liver disease shortly after his 62nd birthday in August 1978. Merlo's home stadium is now named in his honour, and such was his standing in Argentinian football that when Diego Maradona was named his country's greatest ever player by the Argentinian FA, he spoke of a sense of embarrassment at being ranking above a player like Moreno.
References (all accessed 21 February 2012):
- Published on Tuesday, 21 February 2012 12:48